Jan 15, 2011

Five Years

It's hard to believe, but it's been five years since I logged onto Blogger and created The NXT Step. The first two months (Jan and Feb 2005) were nothing but speculation, interviews with Soren Lund and Steven Hassenplug, and lots of videos that were being put up all over the place. The MDP (Mindstorms Developer Program) call had been put out and those of us who had applied were eagerly awaiting a response...

A bit of backstory - I started the blog as a way to keep track of news items, videos, and photos about the NXT because I'd been contacted by a publisher about writing a book for kids that would teach building and programming - my experiences with the RCX were extremely limited (I bought one in 1998 and played around with it) so I wasn't sure what to make of the request to write a book. But I kept at the blog because it was easier to add links and notes and stuff there than write it up in a notebook. But really I was beginning to question whether I'd be able to write the requested book and was seriously considering moving on.

In March, my wife and I ended up taking a cruise for our 1 year anniversary. She could tell I was a bit nervous about the lack of Internet/email so she agreed to let me pay a daily fee to use the ship's computers to check my messages... and wouldn't you know it? The MDP announcement came that same week and I was able to check my email to find I'd been selected. But after reading and signing the NDA, I quickly realized that I'd probably have to stop blogging! I wasn't going to be able to talk about my experiences as a beta tester so I thought about just letting the blog go - at the time I think I had maybe 4 or 5 regulars posting comments and such. Yes... 4 or 5.

But a few questions to LEGO and I realized I could still post stuff that was in the public domain - videos that were still being released, photos, etc... so I kept at it, thinking that I'd still try to give writing the book a chance while playing with the beta kit. (True story - the parts all the MDPers received came in one big clear bag tied in a knot! The bag was easily larger than a gallon of milk... maybe almost two... and it was a bit overwhelming to pull it out of the box and see all those zillions of little pieces mixed together.)

Jump forward a bit now - and the blog is starting to get some good comments and discussions going on, but the NXT hasn't yet been released. May 1, 2006 was an important date as LEGO had agreed that we could start sharing more details about the NXT-G software and our own designs, but even before that date plenty of folks had been able to get their hands on the NXT and play around with it as LEGO demo'd it as the WorldFest in Atlanta in April... word was spreading.

I honestly have no recollection when I began to invite folks to join the blog - I don't even remember the order. I know Brian Davis and Matthias and Martyn were a few of the very first (sorry guys, can't remember the order), and then the gates opened and more and more contributors began to join up... by the time the NXT was released in late 2006, we had about 10 or so contributors putting up posts, videos, photos, and more - at one point I can remember maybe 5 to 10 posts per day!

Over the past five years, the blog has grown - more contributors, more readers, and more topics. We added a forum along the way (thanks, David Levy) and even wrote a few collaborative books (The Idea Book and NXT One Kit Wonders) that each had 8 or more NXT contributors' names on the covers. Contributors have written their own books (Fay - Matthias - Damien - Laurens - Daniele - ???). And would you believe it that there are still contributors who I haven't yet met in person??? The strange world of blogging...

Over the past five years, I've enjoyed being part of this blog... and I look forward to many more years. The posts have slowed down as the product has matured - contributors have moved on to other projects - and the NXT seems to have stabilized in terms of excitement level (I hate to say that, but it's kinda true).

But the blog continues. We still want to be the main source of information and news on the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, so we continue to invite our readers to send us their photos, videos, and write-ups on their designs and experiences with the NXT. There's an entire group out there that is just learning about the NXT - it's all NEW to them! And thankfully this blog has five years of archives for them to sift through to see what others have done (or are doing) with their robot kits.

Thank you - readers and contributors - for helping make The NXT Step what it is... an unofficial source of inspiration for all things NXT. I can't wait to see what 2011 brings!

Jim
Atlanta, GA

6 comments:

Clinton said...

Congratulations, Jim, and to all the other bloggers and readers who've made this a success! The NXT STEP is my number one source of Mindstorms information, and I've really appreciated the all the books I've gotten my hands on that have benefited from the blog.

Laurens Valk said...

Happy Birthday NXT Step!

Thanks Jim for creating the blog! Without it I probably wouldn't have been able to do what I'm doing.

I remember how excited I was when 3 or 4 years ago one of my designs was posted to the blog. A bit later I was even happier after Jim's invitation to join the blog. I'm still glad to be part of the team.

Laurens

Brian Davis said...

Thank you Jim for creating, and sticking with, this blog. It has been a wonderful resource for some, a wonderful outlet for others, and always a polite, interesting, and exciting place to read and post! Thank you.

You may have had no idea what you started... and who knows what will come NeXT?

Dexter Industries said...

Congratulations and thanks Jim! This is such an awesome blog and an essential resource for the community. Congratulations!

Christopher R. Smith (Littlehorn) said...

This is a great blog with awesome contributors and fantastic readers. All of us have had a tremendous amount of fun with this subject and the fact is...MINDSTORMS will extend far beyond everyone's expectations. It has brought us together and challenges our minds to grow stronger. I feel the education we gain with the help of MINDSTORMS is creating a better future for us and our world. This blog helps push the envelope. The NXT Step has been an important part of the equation that has proven to keep us excited and given Mindstormers a place to learn far more than we would on our own. Its been a fun ride! Let's keep going!

Chris

Christopher R. Smith (Littlehorn) said...

I would like to point out that the last 13+ years of MINDSTORMS has opened my eyes to the possibilities. The best part for me is that I have witnessed people all over the world becoming friends and working together... This blog is proof. The NXT Step has united contributors from at least 10 different countries with readers from everywhere else!

The order isn't important...but historically the contributor list began with Jim in this boat all alone. He set out bait and fished Brian and myself aboard. Jim then snatched Matthias and Martyn from the deep blue. His net really began to fill from that point.

There's a neat history book here.

Chris

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