Sunday, July 8, 2012

RTC USA 2012

So, RTC has come and gone, and it was another great year at Stone Mountain...

If you want to roll back in time, you can check out my post from last year for old times sake. This year was no different. Again, the Aussies pulled out all the stops and had the best Revit conference on the continent. AU has it's advantages (sheer size, exposure, and a lot more Autodesk peeps) but you just can't understate how cool it is to be talking to 350 other expert Revit users. The level of the conversations and presentations is just so much higher as a result.

My class was a blast (for me). I'm still not sure that case studies are a good fit for RTC (almost anyone in the room could have done the same thing), but I think everyone who sat in picked up a few tidbits to take home. Speaking of, as promised in the handout the families I used on the Kimbell concrete model have been uploaded to the RTC site. If you don't want to wait, click here and download away.

Now, for my favorite moments from RTC USA 2012...

  • The band was epic! (No, not Steve Shell, the Packway Handle Band!) These guys were awesome! Zune marketplace here I come...

  • Of course, not all Revit users are geeks. Or, maybe, not all geeks look like geeks? Anyway, Jay was resplendent as always in his black rubber shirt, black jeans, and that a coat? I dunno, but it was awesome...

  • My favorite class this year went to Scott Brown who had some mind blowing detailed interiors work in Revit. Everything about this class was awesome, including the fact that there was easily an hour of material he didn't even get to because the first half of his presentation was so bad ass we questioned it into a full hour. I'm also thrilled that the "best fish story like gesture" award went to Scott this year (though the hands are backwards, oh well).

  • My second favorite class(es) were Marcello's crazy classes on massing. The guy modeled a freakin' elephant in Revit, and a junkie shooting up if the elephant wasn't enough. The man is crazy... crazy brilliant. Wish I had a picture... Then again, I stole Aaron's pictures for all the other ones so....yeah.
Allright, that's it for this year. It was awesome to meet / see everyone again this year, see you next year in Vancouver!

RTC North America 2013 here we come...

Monday, December 5, 2011



So long to AU 2011! I had a great time, took some great classes, and had the privilege of leading two myself. It was a good year all in all, though we were a man down this year. AU was not and never will be the same without my friend Scott Womack, who passed away in September. Scott was a passionate advocate of Revit, and was known for his strong opinions and convictions as well as an untiring willingness to help anyone find the right path. He left an indelible mark on the Revit community, and is sorely missed. So, raise a glass to Scott if you had the pleasure of knowing him.

I also have to thank Larry Kleinkemper for dragging my vest around with him for two days after I left it at an after hours event. You da man.

I learned some great tidbits. Beau Turner gave a demo of Clarity, their new Revit Server wrapper that actually makes it usable and manageable. Great job to his team! I also really enjoyed the Innovation Forums this year, and while the "cage match" might  have been a little too cheesy even for me, the other parts were intriguing and exciting. As usual, I am leaving exhausted, inspired, and dried out from the desert air.

AU wasn't without some hiccups though. The AU speaker site this year was, to quote Aaron, a bag of disaster. Uploads of speaking materials didn't work, or once they did users downloading files got 404 errors or file errors. Yuck! Anyway, since nothing up there appears to be accessible still, all my class materials are going to be linked (you guessed it) in this post...

AB5602 - Laser Scanning...

To my attendees, again I apologize for the difference between the class I taught and the description. That description was for a lab, and I was given a lecture that initially had identical content to three other scanning classes. I tried to do the best I could with the cards I was dealt! I totally understand and agree with much of your feedback about the class being basic - I only wish I had been allowed to update the title and description once it was clear what I would actually need to teach.

Here are all the links to the various class materials:

Handout & Scanning Brief
Sample Spec - coming soon -

AB5552U - Revit Futures : Collaboration...

I was thrilled with the outcome from this class. I want to thank Anthony Hauck, Scott Davis, Tobias Hauthorn, and Robert Aish for coming and representing Autodesk. I felt like it really made the class to have them there. The point of the class is to get them thinking about what we (as a community) really want, and some of the great conversation about continuous save in particular was just what I had hoped to have. Thanks to everyone who spoke up and shared their opinion! Naturally, the mind map I had (new software) got corrupted. I'm in process of re-building it and hope to have it up here in a few days. I'll update this post once I do. (The joys of constantly trying new tools...)

So long AU2011, here we come AU2012...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sparking your interest?

While Autodesk Labs is one of my favorite places to visit, sometimes they have a project that just makes me go: "Wha....?" Spark is one of those projects from my perspective. It certainly caught my interest when I read about it. The tag line is quite catchy:

"Project Spark is a technology preview of a simplified 3D building information modeling (BIM) solution. Using Project Spark, building professionals can create designs efficiently with real world building objects, produce more reliable documentation faster, and share files with consultants using Revit or AutoCAD based products."

Naturally, I downloaded it and spent a couple of days fiddling with it. Unfortunately, I was largely disappointed with the implementation of the idea. Spark is really a pared down version of Revit. While I appreciate the idea, taking Revit and removing some core functionality isn't a way to make a "simplified" 3D BIM solution. It is a way to make a less functional BIM solution. But, the devil is in the details.  So, what exactly did get removed?

That's the short list. I've got my analysis of each item below if you're interested, but the core problem I see is that the foundation of the project seems to be summed up by this equation: Revit - Features = Simplified, and Simplified = Better. The math geek in me doth protest. The problem with Revit generally isn't that it has too many features, it is that the features it has are too hard to learn and use consistently. If Autodesk really wants Spark to succeed they need to look at this differently: Revit - Inconsistency + Ease of Use + Ease of Training = Better. That's the key to making Spark really catch fire. Also, I question what  success is in this context. Creating a new software offering or providing a tested to make the Revit platform easier to use? Either way it is an interesting concept, although I certainly prefer the latter from an end user perspective.

  • No Worksharing – Makes perfect sense. I get removing this for a “simple” program and this does actually simplify things a bit. It works like sketchup, FormZ, Bonsai, Rhino, Etc...
  • No Photorealistic Rendering – I wouldn't call the rendering in Revit “complicated” by any means, so it seems odd this was removed. Rendering is a basic function of most competing “simple” BIM tools as well. Since all the rendering related information is still in the materials dialog to support textured viewing, I really don't see the payoff.
  • No View Filters – This is an overly complicated part of Revit, so I get removing it as is. However, the functionality represented in filters is absolutely necessary to get decent visual graphics out of Revit in an efficient manner. So, I really think the Labs team should spend some time “innovating” how that core functionality of selection sets and visual overrides are accomplished in a BIM environment. This would have a huge positive impact flowing back into Revit as well.
  • No Groups – What? Again, grouping is a core “feature” for modeling in almost any application. Sketchup has a corollary, FormZ and Bonsai have a corollary, Rhino has a corollary. They aren't that hard to use outside of having to enter the group edit mode. Again, this is an area that feels necessary and just needs a little tweaking to be simplified and still available.
  • No In-Place Families – who do I have to pay off to get this removed from Revit as well? Hehe. Happy to see this gone, we just need to be able to edit family content with the project context in the background. That's the only real benefit to In-Place Families.
  • No Massing – I sort of get this, and sort of don’t. Massing can be complex, and this isn't targeted as a conceptual design tool since that's Vasari’s realm. However, it leaves Spark without the ability to create so many basic forms that are just necessary in today’s design/construction environment. Opportunity wise, this is another area where innovations in Spark to support "complex" forms like slanted walls without needing massing would benefit the core platform.
  • No Analysis – I can see this as extraneous to those I see as the targeted end users of Spark, plus the analysis features are generally more easy to use than a lot of the core features are thanks to Vasari so they need less attention to make simpler.
  • No Trusses – Personally I think trusses are the most important structural element to have in any design or production software as they are the element least likely to be hidden behind ceilings and most likely to be incorporated into the design direction. However, the truss tool in Revit needs some work to make it more usable and is quite complicated at the moment so the factory is probably better off removing it. Long term, this would be a good thing to simplify and include.
  • No Shared Coordinates – I get that shared coordinates are complicated. However, by removing this Spark models are basically UNUSABLE in any downstream process. I want you to know that  because I think it is an inexcusable omission. This is one place where the Revit platform could really use some UX level thought in making multiple coordinate systems less confusing to the average user. It is an absolutely necessary evil to be able to define multiple coordinate systems so you guys ought to be Labbing it up in my book.
  • No Point Clouds – What? Why? Ok, it makes sense. But I love me some point clouds…
  • No Sunpath – Makes some sense along with the analysis, although this is arguably one of the easiest things to use in the whole platform.
  • No API - I don’t really understand the benefit to removing this other than it probably makes it simpler for the factory to work with. Unfortunately, it prevents us from using plugins that might make Spark even simpler than it already is..
  • No Parts / Assemblies – I kind of get this one, although as the confusion about parts/assemblies/groups/etc… gets worked out in the main platform I would expect to see either assemblies or groups in something like Spark.
  • No Design Options – Removing one of the most complicated and difficult features in the platform makes a lot of sense. With worksharing removed so it makes sense to run multiple sequential files from a workflow perspective anyway. However, I’d really like to see the factory take a look at this and make Design Options much much better long term. Spark may not be the project for it, perhaps Vasari is a better home for that project. One of those two projects ought to take a close look at the intent of DO and actually deliver upon it one of these days…
  • No Adaptive Components - This makes sense in the light of massing and general conceptual design features being removed across the board, although as more of the main platform transitions to adaptive components as core content and not just design-centric content I might begin to question this decision sooner than later. AC’s are arguably simpler to build and more flexible content wise.
  • Simplified Export – Makes sense in general, although again the no API thing means no exporting to things like NWC, and leaving IFC out is just inexcusable all over again. The implementation here once again really limits the use of anything created in Spark downstream.
  • Simplified Links – I shockingly have no issues with this, though perhaps the factory didn't go far enough. I mean, what is that CAD stuff for? That's SO 1990's.
  • Simplified Content – I'm not entirely sure what this references. I haven’t noticed a substantive difference yet outside of less categories being available. I’d love to know more if there are some changes I just haven’t noticed yet. I don't think removing categories should count as making the process of creating content "simplified", so I hope that something else is there.
  • Simplified Phasing – Again, I didn't notice anything on the surface that was in any way simpler. Phasing is already pretty simple as is. Again, I think phasing could use a UX eye to make better, but it isn’t a high priority compared to some other features.
  • Simplified Materials – Not really much simpler actually, it’s still pretty complex and since textured display is still supported the whole rendering backend which makes the materials dialog so complicated is still basically there. So, I question this being “simpler” outside of a missing tab and button or two that are outside of the core materials workflow anyway. There is a lot of opportunity here to make the materials dialog more like selecting a material in a material library in real life.
Long story short, I really like the idea of Spark I just don't think the path it is on right now is the right path. It seems like "limited" is a far better descriptor for Spark than "Simple" in the current incarnation. This doesn't change the need for a truly easy to use, interoperable, and inexpensive BIM solution. So, I'm hopeful that Autodesk can get on the right path to delivering such a solution. Otherwise I'm going to have to keep fighting the Sketchup battle for another 10 years. Sigh...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Future...

After all, that is the whole point of this blog right??? (Yes, it is.)

So, I had the privilege of flying up to Denver two weeks ago to present on technology and process trends in "our" industry for the next 10 years. Aside from running a little long, I felt the presentation went really well. It was my first time using a mind map as my presentation tool instead of just as a planning tool. So, I was a little nervous but more excited. It was nice to finally have a presentation topic again that lent itself to a less linear presentation technique... I thought I'd share the presentation map, and a few tidbits along with it on the blog.

So, the presentation itself is on Mindomo, which is a web hosted mind mapping tool that I prefer to some of the more "traditional" mind mappers out there. However, it has a ways to go to really be perfect (who doesn't?).
Here's the link if you want to follow along: DBIA Regional Presentation

So, at a glance, five topics:
  1. My own little soapbox about BIM, Integration, and Sustainability (Or "SustainaBIMegration" as I like to call it when my boss isn't around - sorry Peter!). 
  2. Some pertinent trends in the AEC world that relate to the real focus of the presentation (not an exhaustive list by any means!).
  3. Now - which is what it sounds like, things we are doing now in this industry that you'd better be on board with or risk falling behind.
  4. Soon - things that are three to five years out in my estimation, just held back a bit by technology or our slow to change industry.
  5. Not Soon Enough - things that are in the ten year time frame, but I wish would get here sooner.

What I love about these maps is that I can embed a TON of detail in them:

Here are the two into topics expanded one level deep. Each of those sub-topics have four or five notes under them, and some may even go deeper. The sky is the limit, and what is great is that you only have to go as deep as time (and the audience) permits. Plus, you can embed videos, audio, or hyperlinks into any one of these topics or sub-topics for a really rich presentation (even if you're not around to give it).

Here's the blow up of the 10 year discussion points:

Anyway, LOTS of information, though it can certainly get better! The last image is the full map:


Monday, October 3, 2011

To Cloud, or not to Cloud, that is the question...

if Shakespeare were alive today, perhaps he'd be asking that very question (to himself) about publishing and writing his works in the wonderful mess of data centers and switches we call the cloud. Despite being a technophile; I'm not a tweeter nor am I a rabid fan of the cloud. But why???
  • Ownership of content is still fishy. Depending on which cloud service you're working with, ownership of the materials you place on the cloud may or may not reside with the hosting service. So, if you write that sequel to Hamlet you've been thinking about (or not) then Google might just own your book. "Not Cool" says Willie S.
  • Access to content is also a little fuzzy in my book. To make an example a little closer to home, what happens when you've got 15 people across 4 offices working on one project and POOF there goes the cloud? If your host goes into bankruptcy how do you and your project team access the files you need to continue doing your job? What happens if they have a colossal failure at multiple data centers (for any reason) and you can't send out those CDs on a project with penalties for later submittals? Good luck convincing the owner that the cloud ate your homework.
Now, that said, the cloud offers some amazing potential. To throw a shout out at Autodesk, their new "Autodesk Cloud" and the features that come bundled with it make the first hint of a compelling reasons to have all our employees use the single sign on. (Bluestreak was not enough, sorry). Hosting DWFs on the cloud that can be accessed and marked up simultaneously on multiple platforms (from iPads to Win7 Tablets to my brick of a laptop) is a huge benefit. Cloud based rendering (ala project Neon) is also interesting, although Neon never got to the point where it provided compelling results for me. But, as it progresses further I can see where the "Unlimited Computing" the Carl Bass likes to talk about can come into play. Now, Autodesk Cloud still has some issues to deal with...

  • Everything is still managed through single file interactions, so sharing 725 DWF sheets with 14 people is a complete waste of time if they're packaged as individual files. Same thing for uploading new versions. Actually, they need a desktop sync system like or Dropbox.
  • Storage on the cloud is parsed out by user (???) instead of by firm/project/etc... I can't even finish uploading all 725 DWFs with my 3 Gigs of apportioned storage as a subscription user. They really need some solution for project level storage, as well as firm level storage; that is in addition to user level storage of course.
  • What about network licenses? We have roughly 55 Revit licenses at last check. We have roughly 75 full time Revit users. I'm not clear if we can only have 55 subscription sign ins with 3 gigs and the rest will have only 1 gig of storage, or if all of our employees can have 3 gigs.
  • How about viewing Revit files natively? I'm only exporting to DWF to get them on the cloud, I'd love to be able to upload the Revit file and be done with it.
  • DWFs are good for markups if they're separated. No one wants to mark up 725 sheets as one DWF. However, all the associative linking in DWFs across multiple sheets is lost when you export individual DWFs. It would sure be nice if the Cloud was smart enough to recognize links across multiple DWF files and let you still hop around between them without the restriction of one uber DWF set for the whole project. 

  • The cloud is great and all, but the apps really need to support local storage. If I don't want to use the cloud for some crazy reason like security requirements, I should still be able to use the design review app to view my own files by synching them to my iPad in iTunes.
  • And, to add to that, we should be able to specify our own "cloud" and pull files from it. If we have our own net-accessible file server, why can't I point to that and pull files down???
Issues aside, the Superintendents on the project I'm working on LOVE being able to access up to date DWFs on their iPads, including the 3D models. So, it's a big hit in that regard. A few tweaks and I think Autodesk could have something really useful on their hands. It is a great first try! Good job factory. Now, I just need to actually read that darn EULA...

My two cents on the cloud for today...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Revit Futures AU2011

AU is just around the corner, and I'm going to give this Revit Futures format another shot.

Last year we had some great feedback about categories, and some of that information made it up to the right people at Autodesk. The joys of NDAs prevent me from spilling the beans about what, when, where, why, and who - but the class and the people involved did result in some additional weigh behind the words.

So, with that in mind, I'm trying to pull some people from Autodesk into this year's discussion from the get-go. I've solicited some topics from our friends at the factory, and here are what I've come up with for possibilities for this year's class:
  • Modeling and Massing in Revit - what can't you model (or model easily) and what are the major workflow challenges you face modeling (designing) in Revit?
  • Energy Analysis in Revit - what are the primary analyses you feel need to be included in the platform (as opposed to in separate programs)?
  • Collaboration in Revit - how can the platform (including Revit Server) change to improve collaboration on projects?
  • User Productivity - BIM managers are constantly challenged to increase the productivity of the workforce they support, and Revit has gone leaps and bounds to improve productivity over CAD platforms. However, what major improvements can we make to the platform to increase productivity further?
I'm game for tackling any of these topics, although the last may take some narrowing down. If you've got an opinion on which we should do, post a comment. If there's a strong trend we'll go with that item. If it is a mixed bag, I'll do my best to pick one. Regardless, whomever from Autodesk brought up the subject has signed in blood to be present for the class (even if they don't remember it!). 

So with that, let it begin. Hope to see you all at AU again this year!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Revit Technology Conference NA2011

Well, RTC has come and gone, and what a whirlwind it was...

I have to say, this was the best Revit-related conference I've been to in years, maybe ever. The caliber of the other presenters was fantastic, and the caliber of the attendees was as well. It was a real who's who of Revit users, and I felt lucky to be in attendance, much less speaking!

I have to give some shout outs to my favorite presentations:

  • Lee Miller - As usual, a fantastic presentation, this time on urban planning in Revit. There were some absolutely stunning shots in this presentation both in terms of graphics and information. 
  • Jason Grant - JG pulled a one-two punch, first stunning the audience with a good jab in super families, where we learned there is good AND evil in the super families world; and then landed the uppercut for a TKO with the presentation graphics in Revit. Extra Kudos for being my favorite class and giving out the related content. Rock Star material here.
  • Aaron Maller - My compatriot in the workplace put together a great presentation late in the game to fill a slot vacated by another speaker. The presentation was on putting together a high quality template, not just the basic stuff you learn at AU and from Resellers. I literally saw one BIM manager smack their forehead when Aaron mentioned a little trick about embedding links in advance so you could pre-define filters and VG settings for links. Brilliant.
  • Jay Zallan - The best class I've seen to date on space programming in Revit, with some great tips on using masses in conjunction with locked room or area separation lines to really push what the program can do.

Unnamed Autodesk emplopyee who couldn't use just one iDevice
Every presentation I attended was excellent, and I can't say that about any other conference I've attended in years. Congratulations to the organizers and Aussies for a great first year, and I'm looking forward to the next - although I'll never forgive them for removing my one last excuse to get Beck to pay for a trip to Australia...

It was (THIS BIG)...
As for my presentation, I think it went well - although I'm not 100% sure how I ended up telling a fish story. It was probably also my last presentation of the SaRang project - First AU, then MARA, then a few RUGs, then Autodesk, and finally RTC. I think it has had its 15 minutes of fame. (Of course, now I have to do something new...yikes!). If you attended and want to access the materials, videos, etc... There's a solid 700MB of stuff on for you to mine to your heart's content: Conceptual Massing on a REAL Project

See you at next year's conference!