How I got banned from the BrickLink Forum: A melodrama of interest to few.

7:25PM ET, 21 March 2020

I upload a link in the forum to a page on this site clips-wk.php. Typical no-frills post to an info page. Here, if it hasn’t been taken down.

6:21PM ET, 21 March 2020

Cory Popsicle asks on the forum why I have links pointing from this page to BrickOwl and not to BrickLink Here, if it hasn’t been taken down.

9:36PM ET, 21 March 2020

Admin Russell says on the forum "That is a very good and important question." Here, if it hasn’t been taken down.

9:37PM ET, 21 March 2020

I respond to Cory Popsicle: "With all due respect, it's none of your business." Here, if it hasn’t been taken down. And, you know, what decisions I make regarding this web site isn't any of Cory Popsicle's business.

Then the shit hits the fan. I get the email from Admin Russell.

Email from Admin_Russell at Bricklink, 10:10PM ET, 21 March 2020

Mark, it very much IS our business what you link to in the Forum. Why are those links going to Brick Owl instead of BrickLink?

If you really want to choose the other side, go ahead. But we would rather have you over here as a contributor and as part of the community leadership to help move things in the right direction.

I understand you are upset with the current direction and leadership of the site, but things really are changing. It just takes time. The LEGO Group does not often acquire other companies and they are trying very hard to handle the transition in the most gracious, honorable and patient way.

I hate to have to do this, but I have suspended your Forum posting privileges until you can reassure me you aren't trying to undermine our efforts.


Shoot first, ask questions later. Note that my response earlier was to Cory Popsicle, not to Admin Russell. I didn't have any response to Admin Russell. Not that it's his business either, but I'm sure linking to the w-k clips page I'm sure was not in violation of any forum rules.

So, now without recourse to respond publicly, but with noticeable traffic coming to the site, I post the email above and the following response on this site.

11:53PM ET, 21 March 2020

Dear Russell,

This is my web site, not your web site.

These links have been here for quite some time, and have lived quietly and happily. But suddenly they are an issue to you?

To the best of my knowledge, I have violated no rules of the BrickLink web site. I have linked from BrickLink to my site. My site does not sell anything. My site does link to other sites. This is how most web sites work. Let's all note that BrickLink links to many other web sites which link to other web sites which do sell things.

There was a time when my web site linked to BrickLink. That was done voluntarily. You are now apparently insisting that I must involuntarily link to BrickLink instead of BrickOwl.

As of your letter, I'm going to be "penalized" until I link to BrickLink. Okay. That's coercion, isn't it?

I'd like to know how, exactly, I am undermining your efforts? I'd like to know how I'm undermining anybody's anything. I've provided BrickLink with thousands of images and many suggestions for improvement, and provide support reference on this site for things of interest to the AFOL community.

As to "choosing the other side"...if you're not aware, there are many other BrickLink members who are also BrickOwl members. Many of us contribute to both sites. Also to other sites. I'm not choosing "the other side". Cheese Louise. The AFOL community doesn't exclusively revolve around you and BrickLink. BrickOwl didn't ban me from their site when my site linked to BrickLink.

I am not upset with the current direction of BrickLink. That is completely an assumption on your part. If you want to know what I think of BrickLink, why don't you just ask? I'll tell you. Oh, I don't have any problem with Lego "acquiring" BrickLink, either.

Frankly, the only problem I have with anybody is with you. And I didn't have a problem with you, either, until a little while ago when you pulled this banning stunt. I have to conclude that this action is a personal decision on your part, this banning of me from the forum. Fine. I'm happy to join the many fine members who have been banned by you for reasons of your own rather than for reasons of violating the rules of the BrickLink forum.

Finally, I'll point out that BrickLink links to Rebrickable, which links to BrickOwl. So while it's fine for BrickLink to link to a site that links to BrickOwl, I'm being banned for doing exactly the same thing. Therefore, I'm going to call you out as a hypocrite.

Let's see where the community opinion forms on this one. Am I the one undermining BrickLink, or are you the one undermining BrickLink? I'm pretty sure this banning wasn't sent down from Corporate in Billund.


Postscript, 12pm ET, 22 March 2020

I will not be acquiescing to the "ransom demand" of linking my content to BrickLink in return for the privilege of having my forum posting privileges returned. And I am unlikely to return as a contributor, given that returning as a contributor is subject to conditions of what one single Lego employee, acting alone, sees as appropriate behavior.

To the Lego Group: is this what you had in mind when you acquired BrickLink? Is this how you expect your employees to "strengthen engagement" with the AFOL community?

Update: 5:35PM ET, 22 March 2020

From the BrickLink Forum:

In General, bje writes:

Why do you want to alienate members who voluntarily contribute their time, money and effort to make this site better in a manner not even your paid catalogue assistants or whatever they are called can do? Simple – you let ego get in the way of sound reasoning.

Ransom Russell responds:

I have no desire to alienate such members. I have expressed my desire a number of times that mfav would return to producing part photos of exceptional quality for the site. But he is frustrated with the current leadership (which I am a part of) so unless that changes, or there is a noticeable change in focus, he is not likely to start helping out.

• • •

I have no desire to alienate such members.

Yet you do it regularly, and in condescending fashion.

I have expressed my desire a number of times that mfav would return to producing part photos of exceptional quality for the site.

Yes, this is true. If I only change my site to prefer BrickLink, I will then be allowed to work for BrickLink without compensation for the benefit of BrickLink. I know that sounds like an awesome deal for me, and there's nothing I'd like to do more than to work for a billion-dollar corporation for no pay and the bonus benefit of being misrepresented on their web site by an employee. That's sarcasm. In case someone can't figure that out.

But he is frustrated with the current leadership...

This is the second time in as many days that this has been stated by Ransom Russell. Truth is Ransom Russell has no idea what my feeling towards current leadership is. This is made up. I have not made any statements on the matter. For the record, I'm still in a wait-and-see mode relative to what happens with the BrickLink.

...leadership (which I am a part of)

I'm glad that was explained. Now I know what leadership looks like.

so unless that changes, or there is a noticeable change in focus, he is not likely to start helping out.

I don't think BrickLink wants help. BrickLink wants to do what BrickLink wants to do. Russell wants me to do what Russell wants me to do: make pictures for BrickLink, that and shut up. Threatening and intimidating people into conforming to some prescribed behavior and working without recompense for the benefit of the master is the definition of slavery.

P.S.: Banning members from contributing is not a good way to get them to do stuff for you for free.

Apparently it is okay for BrickLink staff to link to this site from the BrickLink forum, but not okay for the site author to link to this site to link to this site from the BrickLink forum. Evidence:

screen grab of randyf's post

And again: Note in this thread, two other forum members link to the same page. To my knowledge, they are not banned.

screen grab of randyf's post

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that if Russell had asked why on the private channel before banning, I'd have told him: BrickOwl is stable and BrickLink still throws too many random page errors. It's getting better at BrickLink, but anybody who's spent time on that site knows it has problems. And that's really the extent of the situation with outlinking. It's not an evil plot. Or a benign plot. Or any plot. It's a choice to have links from my site work properly. That is all.

The real question now is will I become as infamous on the BrickLink forum as Foster? I guess. Or something.