Want help sharing your story and connecting with readers? Sign up for my weekly newsletter for my best tips and advice.

How to Serve an Online Community: The Legacy of Daniel Jezek

There is so much talk about businesses creating and serving “communities” on the web. Inherent in this is their social media strategy, how they are adjusting marketing tactics to become “community” tactics. This is a topic I have been addressing again and again recently: how to differentiate what it means to serve a community vs selling to a market.

Dan Blank Today, I want to give you a profound example of what it means to serve a community online; What it means to help a community grow and connect; What it means to enable commerce in a way that enables and builds; What it means to serve, and not to own.

Daniel Jezek died suddenly last month at the age of 33. This was a shock to the community he served. For more than a decade, he created new ways for the community to connect with each other via the web. He created an online marketplace consisting of more than a hundred million items available for sale at any given moment. He helped a community a grow – serving the needs of both adults and children. His work crossed international lines, with members from around the world actively engaging with each other.

What is it that Daniel Jezek created? It was a website called BrickLink.com that served the LEGO community. Now, I’ve written about LEGO in the recent past, and have to admit, LEGO has been a hobby of mine throughout my life. Yes, I probably own way more LEGO toys than your children do.

But luckily, I’m not alone, and Daniel Jezek’s website helped to validate this hobby. More than 51 million people have visited the website he created.

What was BrickLink? It serves several functions:

  • It was an online marketplace where you could buy or sell individual LEGO bricks and sets. If you needed 40 of a particular piece for something you were building, you could find it on BrickLink.
  • It allowed businesses to be born, as sellers on BrickLink
  • It had an incredible reference catalog – giving each item a number and establishing a common cataloging system for the thousands and thousands of LEGO parts.
  • It also cataloged the many LEGO sets that have existed over decades past. Want to know what parts were in a set from 1977? You could find out on BrickLink.
  • Memberships and forum – you could join BrickLink, establish a reputation and chat with other LEGO fans from all around the world.

With BrickLink, Daniel connected the LEGO community, and he helped it grow in ways no one else did – by giving them a resource to buy and sell pieces, and a way to have it all make sense.

What is interesting about BrickLink is that it didn’t need an especially beautiful website. It largely looked the same since it launched 10 years ago. It also didn’t really seem to integrate any modern social media elements. Just basic website functionality.

But do you want to know what it REALLY meant? Read some of the notes of condolence when the BrickLink community learned of Daniel’s passing. These messages are the best lesson I can think of in terms of what it means to serve a community online. A selection:

BrickLink has been part of my families life for as long as my children can remember, it feels like one of the family (as did Dan). You will be greatly missed and your hard work and legacy will live on through this website for many years to come.
- Roo

Dan’s talent created an amazing website but this place is so much more than just a website, it’s a global community working together to support a hobby, more a lifestyle for some, genius. This is an achievement that Dan’s family and friends can be truly proud of and I believe this community will strive to keep it going in a way that will honour his great work for many years to come.
- Robert

I’m at a loss for words. BL has been my second home for much of my adult life.
- tEoS

It’s moments like these that are always time to give pause, and to respect what others before have accomplished and made possible for everyone that comes after. The site has helped to connect many across the globe, uniting us as one big family. The site he bore has not only united AFOLs looking to exchange parts, but helped some to pay their bills during trying economic times, helped some create cottage style business success, and even others full blown commercial enterprises employing countless number of people. Dan touched many more lives than he could ever be aware of, and right now we all grieve for his family, and hope that the tremendous amount of support that has and will continue to spill forth from this community he created will provide his family some solace during this trying time.
- BrickShop206

The man was responsible for altering a hobby. In my eyes, this website has turned
a toy into an art medium. The other sites are the art galleries.
-Remy

What Dan created is pure genius,and something truly remarkable. This site has made an impact on my LEGO hobby, and the LEGO community. He did something not a lot of people do now-a-days; he left a legacy behind, something that can be used for years to come.
NBFire_Rescue89

BrickLink altered the course of my life. My children have grown up with it.
-Melanie

I never knew Dan personally, and only had the briefest of contacts with him through Bricklink, yet this young man has had such a profound impact on my life. I spent many years working all hours for unappreciative bosses in sales management roles. After being made redundant at the end of 2001 I found Bricklink and the rest is history. Words cannot express my appreciation for Dan’s insight and achievement. The real thanks must come from my 2 children who have had their dad working at home for the last 9 years. Thank you Dan for letting this father actually be there for his children.
- Slim

My sincere condolences to his family and friends. May your pain be alleviated by your pride in knowing that Dan leaves behind a legacy which will continue to positively affect countless people for many years to come.
- Foster

Bricklink has probably been the #1 reason I’ve continued in this hobby, without it I would never have come as far as I have. Thank you Dan, you will be missed.
- Tony

It is my hope and prayer that Dan’s family take comfort in the knowledge that he has created something great in his young life and that future happy memories can and will come from this creation.
- Jean

I can never truly express the joy and happiness that Dan has allowed me to experience in this LEGO community he created.
-Brad

Many sellers here including myself would never have had the opportunity to run a Lego business without the aid of Bricklink. Also, for the many collectors out there, this is the best site by far to buy anything Lego related.
- Brett

Bricklink is a masterpiece and I have made very good friends through this site. How many people can say they have done this in life? what an amazing legacy. A short life yes but what an amazing one.
- Jane

We were deeply saddened to learn of Dan’s death and would like to express our sincere sympathy to you and your family on behalf of the team here at BrickTrainShop. Your son was highly respected by the entire Lego community. He was regarded as a visionary leader by everyone. Dan’s contributions to this company during his 15 years of dedicated and selfless service were many and varied. He brought lego businesses small and large together from across the globe. Believe me, his contributions to this company will not be forgotten. Please accept our heartfelt condolences at this difficult time and we ask you to please pass these sentiments on to the family. Dan was a remarkable man. I am well aware of the difference he made in our lives and many others. Many will miss him. With sincere sympathy,
- BrickTrainShop

I, for one, can honestly say that if it weren’t for Dan’s ingenious idea of BrickLink that so many things in my life would not be where they are today. He’s touched the lives of SO MANY of us, that his passing is monumental to us all, even if it is minor in the thoughts of HOW he touched us all individually. He will be missed, more than I think most of us can say. He’s truly one of those people that with one idea created a nation of ideas, and all of us have benefited in amazing ways from it. So many friendships have been forged because of his creation of BrickLink. I hope his family will know just how much he will be missed by those that never personally knew him.
- Tracy

Rest in peace Dan, you will live in every LEGO that passes through here.
- Agent_0937

What you created here is a living testament to your mark on the world, and I only hope that I can leave a fraction of that kind of legacy when I depart.
- SKot

Thanks for all you did for us, Dan. You will be missed! I just love how it has kept evolving as needed with input from the community. I have visited the site almost daily since I created my account 4+ years ago to look up a part or a set or a minifigure and sometimes (although not a lot recently) to come here to the forum and be a stick in the mud or a light in the dark or just lurk and glean the info as it flowed by. No matter what my goal, I have relied on Bricklink to help me decide how to procure my Lego needs. Thank you so much! You will not be forgotten.
- Andrew

I did not know Dan personally but this site is like my 2nd home and for that I thank him. He leaves behind an amazing legacy.
- Joe

this young man, in the short years given to him, created something that has provided pleasure, amusement, income, and community to so many. What a tragedy. Thank you for what you have given us. It is the best memorial anyone could hope to have.
- Gylman

Strange to read when people die who you never met but had such an impact on your life. Have a good night, and lets all keep Dan’s memory alive here.
- Lutz

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan’s family. I hope they know how much of a positive impact his creation has had to an entire hobby and “his” community. I’m sure they will see just how many lives he has touched and how appreciative we all are for his hard work over the years. No matter what, Dan’s spirit will continue to live on here with his site and all
of us.
- MikeS and Family.

I will never forget the day I found BrickBay. I will never forget the countless doors it has opened for me. And Ill never forget the man behind it all.
Thank You Dan.
- Quick_Brick

Thank you Dan for this beautiful site and community you created for us.
- Matija Grguric

If you feel you are establishing or serving an online community in your market, you may want to ask yourself – are you serving them in a way that would elicit this type of feedback and emotion?

What Daniel created will live on. Other admins will be the caretaker, but what he created will continue to serve, continue to grow, continue to help new people.

-Dan
973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank | dan@danblank.com

Related posts:

Get Read: Find Readers and Build Your Author Platform

  • Angie Fiedler Sutton

    While I appreciate that this guy obviously was a force in that community, I was hoping this was more suggestions on how to get those kind of reactions. I've tried several different things to get feedback and interaction from the online community I help manage, from contests to outright asking how we can get better interaction, and none of them seems to help.

    • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

      Angie,
      I understand. It is partly a balance – and partly luck. The service Daniel created filled a critical need. But it was also the way he worked with people and evolved it. He didn't create the community, he didn't manage it, he SERVED it.

      Happy to chat via email: dan@danblank.com
      Thanks.
      -Dan