An Interview With The Man Behind Project Swapfig

Project Swapfig

LEGO’s Collectible Minifigure series has been one of the the company’s most popular themes. But oftentimes it is very difficult to find just the one figure you want or the last figure you need to complete a series. Fortunately, there will soon be a solution to this problem that afflicts collectors world over. A London based web developer  and LEGO fan named Drew, who is better known as SilentMode in the LEGO community, will soon be launching Project Swapfig, a website where collectors and LEGO fans can come together to trade LEGO minifigures. Drew launched a KickStarter project to promote Project Swapfig as well as raise funds for the operation of the website. Drew recently spoke with Kollectobil about minifigure collecting and of course Project Swapfig:

What attracted you to minifigure collecting?

My first LEGO experiences were at school, and out of all the parts that were available I was only interested in minifigures: something so small yet detailed and articulated. A policeman with a decorated motorbike and a walkie-talkie was all it took to satisfy me! When I was finally able to buy my own LEGO, most of my money was spent on accumulating minifigures. I bought small sets from all the themes for variation; I remember buying minifigure-only sets as much as I could, and Paradisa sets for the female figures. My favourite theme when I was younger was Town, and I liked the idea of building my own town to go with my minifigure collection, so most of my own creations are things minifigures can interact with.

What was the moment that truly sparked you to pursue Project Swapfig?

I first got into the idea of trading minifigures with Series 3 of the Collectible Minifigures, but I found the trading process to be frustrating: not only is it heavily reliant on other people keeping their lists up-to-date, but it was often made difficult or discouraged by different sites’ rules.
When I’d heard about the existing trading site I definitely thought it was a step in the right direction, but its limitations became apparent very quickly. One particular instance, where I’d lost track of whom I’d sent to and received from, was the point where I gave up using the site – it made me think, “this is something that’s not only missing, it’s *fundamental*”.
Then I realised: as a web developer and a trader, I had ideas about what could be improved AND was able to do something about it. I didn’t think it was an option to wait for things to improve by themselves; if anything was going to happen I had to be the guy.

You have been working on Project Swapfig single-handedly since September, 2012. What has kept you motivated?

I was motivated by the idea of building something that I and other traders could use to make trading much easier, and that there isn’t anything else like it (that I know of) on the Web. I also wanted to introduce the concept of trading to other fans of LEGO, as well as people outside of the online community. My hope is that trading in general becomes more accepted as a social activity and as a way of connecting like-minded people. All of these aims would depend on Project Swapfig living up to expectations.

What specific feature of Project Swapfig are you the most excited about?

As well as the improved trading process, I’m particularly excited about usage statistics, which will be publicly viewable: things such as which figure is most in demand, the most commonly traded figures, and what the users have chosen as their favourite and least favourite of the Collectible Minifigures. These will be implemented after the initial launch.

Would you consider expanding to allow for the trading of LEGO parts and sets or non-LEGO figures?

The way the site has been built means that any kind of item – in theory – can be made available for trading. At the moment Project Swapfig is for minifigures, as the name suggests. Some people have expressed a desire to trade other items, such as polybag sets: while this is possible, it would pose a challenge due to the sheer number of individual items (and their variations!) that would have to be listed, as well as obtaining accompanying pictures.Although it was built for the LEGO community, Project Swapfig is unaffiliated with The LEGO Group, so non-LEGO figures may be a possibility if the demand is there.

To support Drew’s endeavor, check out Project Swapfig’s KickStarter project and official website. The KickStarter campaign will be active until April 16th, while the site itself is set to launch on May 1st.

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