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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dutch Revit Standards, English style

Haven't we covered this?

You might have heard about the Dutch Revit Standards. If not, here's a post that pretty much sums it up: http://blog.revitforum.org/2013/07/dutch-revit-standards-launched.html

So yes, we covered this already. However there is one problem: the DRS is in Dutch (go figure). And with that it has a very limited scope. 
So we've been contemplating on how to make it available in English. This is a big task, especially when you realise we have a LOT to do on the Dutch version (MEP, Family Guide, expand the Open Source IFC Exporter, talk to manufacturers about getting their content, and so on and so forth). Besides that, at this point nobody is paying my bills either. So there's the fact that I need to spend time on that too... 

Quick survey btw: anyone that would be willing to participate in crowdfunding this? If there are a lot of positive responses, there will be a follow-up post of my thoughts on this. If not, well then we'll just dabble along with the current plan.

Which is?


Since there is no funding, translations will be slow. But it's no fun in working on something again (I already created the entire thing in Dutch), without the ability to share. So I had a different idea: why not blog it?
I once devoured a long sequence of blogs on how to create a Revit project (sadly can't remember the blog name right now), which was a great help to me in discovering new tools and workflows. So why not create a (very very long) series of blogposts about the Dutch Revit Standards? And in doing so, completely translate the template, documentation, and such.

How does it work?


Here's the deal: I will try to post regular updates with translations of the DRS documentation. While doing so, I will be also simultaniously be translating the template and supporting files that come with it. However, this will be a lot of work, and don't expect me to post more then once every two weeks (that is: if I even manage to keep that pace up). 
So it will probably take me about a year to complete. In between I'll try to keep development with version 2.0 synced in the english version. Or at least set it up in such a way that it can later be added...

Disclaimer


I said it before, and will say it again: it's voluntary work. So it might also be possible that this turns out to be one of my lesser continuous projects and it bleeds out after a few posts. In that case: you can't blame a man for trying can you?

Friday, September 6, 2013

September 28th 2013: History in the making

I've written about the inaugural RTC Europe event before. But since it's really getting close, I figured I'd draw your attention to this great event once more. Because things are really starting to heat up!

First of all, there's one class that makes this entire thing worth while. Even when you have to fly in from the other side of the world to be there.

The Day Families Became Self-aware


Now I don't know if it's just my vivid imagination, but this is something I would give my left arm for to see. Even though there's not much in the class description, this sounds like a truly revolutionary thing. Let's look at the broader context of past Revit developments shall we?

What if reporting parameters were the first glance at a whole new level of parametrics? Sort of a Proof of Concept to show that it is theoretically possible to have separate building components respond to changes outside their own definition?
What if Adaptive Components were the beta stage of testing? While reporting parameters were very limited in functionality and useability, AC's are fully capable of creating a geometry based on a wide variety of external influences.
What if sh*t is about to get real and we will be seeing the final stage of this development: Families that are not only geometrically influenced by their surroundings but also have the capability to change other properties based on their host, surrounding elements or other stuff I can't even think of right now?

Off course I could be way off. It's late and it could just be my imagination. But wouldn't it be cool to have a duct valve automatically inherit fire resisting properties of the wall it's mounted in? Or a door that recognizes it's host to be an Exterior wall and automatically turn on "self-closing". This functionality, should it be added, would truly be a game-changer. It would basically diminish coordination time for this type of "rules". 

And would pretty much make up for the somewhat disappointing lack of big improvements since AC's and Conceptual Massing.

Why not wait and see?

Why am I wondering about this? I mean, I'll be there right? 
Well, not exactly. Even though I have begged and pleaded until my knees bled, I'm still one of very few persons in the entire world that actually doesn't have a choice. I won't be there. 

I'll be in the other room teaching my own class.

Which is also what keeps me up at night. I mean, I have to compete with freakin Skynet to get some people into my class. So, I did what any sane person would do when confronted with a situation where they're about to get crushed: I got someone bigger and badder to help out...

The Day IFC Became Parametric


Yup, that's right. I said it. 

And I'm not talking about some cheezy workaround. I'm talking full-blown Custom Data Roundtripping Parametric. The real deal. The holy grail of Open BIM: complete independence of authoring software (anybody else seeing the irony here?)
I'm actually going to show off other people's work and hope it's awesomeness in some way reflects on me. Whilst all I did was ask for help and send the occasional up-lifting supportive email about how great things are getting along and how cool the result will be. Which reminds me: if anyone has a smiley cheering with pom poms, I'd like a copy of that.

So who are those giants doing all the hard work? 


July 1st there was a very special release of the Sourceforge Autodesk Open Source IFC Exporter. For the first time ever, a third party developer, Tom Pesman, contributed to this exporter, based on a functionality request I made when developing the Dutch Revit Standards. On or shortly after September 28th, another 3rd party developer will add functionality to this Open Source project:

No less then the guys from Witas, a belgian firm, also mostly responsible for incorporating MEP into the Dutch Revit Standards, are stepping up and doing what they do best: bring us awesome tools that unleash the full potential of Revit. 
For this particular project they decided to deliver the code needed for fully adjustable parametric capabilities: the ability to create custom PSets and fill them with custom parameters. That means having the ability to export just that information to IFC, where you want it and how you want it.

Data loss? Another myth busted.

But that's not all. 

I mean, it's Matt Jezyk we're up against. Bringing Skynet...
If you say IFC development, you automatically say GeometryGym. Jon Mirtschin, founder and IFC Guru, did his magic on the export and import of parametric IFC's. He created a Proof of Concept that will show the ability to create Revit geometry, export it while holding the data, changing the resulting IFC and re-importing the changed file. While keeping parametric constraints so that we can edit the re-imported geometry in Revit.

Not possible you say? Think again... And come see for yourself. 
The best part: even though Jon's awesomeness takes him years beyond the capabilities of the native Revit functionality, he too agreed to hand over his code to the Open Source project. And IMHO that's about as collaborative as one can get.

IFC not capable of holding parametric constraints? Busted.

Where will you be on September 28th?


If you want to know what the next step is in the Revit evolution, go see Matt to check out what The Factory is cooking.
If you want to see the closing piece in the IFC MythBusters Saga, find me.

Either way, it's going to be Epic. Do you really want to not be in Delft?

Oh, one last thing...


If you do attend my class, hold back on the questions. Time permitted, I have some other awesome stuff to show you, based on that other (often forgotten) Open Source dataformat: gbXML... Since it's not really realeted to IFC it has to be outside of the regular class framework. But it will most definately blow your mind!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dutch Revit Standards launched

July 1st, the Dutch Revit Standards, v1.0 has been published by the Dutch Revit Users Group. You can download them from here: www.revitgg.nl/index.php/download.

What are the Dutch Revit Standards (DRS)?


The DRS are a set of basic agreements for firms working with Revit, much like the ANZRS (Australian New Zealand Revit Standards) and the AEC (UK) BIM Standard for Autodesk Revit and NBS (UK) National BIM Library.
But in several important ways they are also different.

First let's look at the components the DRS share with other standards:
1. Naming conventions. For all major and minor aspects of Revit naming conventions have been set up, varying from the naming of project files to parameters, object styles, line types and so on.
2. Shared Parameters. A list of Shared Parameters is created for all disciplines.
3. Documented and free. The DRS are fully documented and free of charge. Created under a Creative Commons License a fair use for all interested is granted, with the exception of commercial reselling of the DRS.



But there are also areas where the DRS is unique in it's kind:
1. Incorporation of other standards. When creating the DRS the Dutch RUG specifically looked at other available standards and re-used elements of those standards whenever possible. We did so because for two reasons:
a. Because we feel it's unneccessary to reproduce work already done by very smart and capable others.
b. When all these international standards fit together, we work better together.

2. Incorporation of IFC. The DRS is the first Revit standards that fully incorporates IFC in it's workflow. People using the DRS no longer have to go through the painfully slow and difficult process of creating the necessary mapping from Revit to IFC. This has even resulted in the fact that our mapping tables are currently under examiniation by Autodesk to incorporate in the next Revit version. And further more, the Dutch RUG is the first outside party to contribute to the Autodesk Open Source IFC Exporter: we created the code that makes is possible to map custom Revit parameters to IFC parameters upon export.

3. Fully working template. Some other standards come with a basic template, some don't. None of them come with a template fully utilised to work from. For our users we created a basic template that has everything: system families defined, schedules, views, view templates, view filters, titleblocks and so on. The only thing left to do for new users is transfer their company standards.

4. Incorporporation of ALL disciplines. The current version just incorporates Architecture and Structure. At the moment we are working very hard to add MEP, which will probably be done by the end of this year. And at the moment, the first conversations about adding Facility Management requirements are on their way.

In short: the DRS is a fully working an utilised Revit standard, capable of working with IFC and by all disciplines in the AEC business. Any company downloading it can and will be working with it within a week.

The Dutch RUG is currently working on an English translation of the DRS and it's documentation, however, since the entire development until now has been voluntary, we are also looking at ways to get further development, including translations, funded. Until this is done it is very hard to give a specific timeframe for future developments or the translation process.

The DRS is created by Martijn de Riet for the Dutch Revit User Group.
More info on the Dutch Revit User Group: www.revitgg.nl
To download the DRS: www.revitgg.nl/index.php/download
More info on the author: www.mdr-advies.nl
To contact the Dutch RUG: info@revitgg.nl
To contact the author: info@mdr-advies.nl

Have fun!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Material Library weirdness

Ok, this must be one of the lesser known bugs in Revit. Due to it's specific nature and the fact that it only happens in a specific workflow...
But it drove me nuts for a few months, and I couldn't find any documentation on it. So here it goes...

Let's say you're starting a new company template. Or national standard for that matter. You're going all the way, which means you start a new template and select None as the default template. That means building a Material Library from scratch too. So you go at it. And some more... And then some... And when you are starting to lose it, dream about naming conventions and see hatch patterns floating around when you close your tired and weary eyes..., well you're about half way through.
It took me a full 8 days to get the Material Library to where it's at. But now it is freakin' bada$$.

Ok, not the point. Let's carry on...

Once done, I figured I should get some feedback so I sent it out to a few people. And I started a project based on my shiny new (new, not finished) Template. All went well, until I wanted to create a new Material based on Assets that I predefined in the adsklib-file but hadn't put in an actual Material. For instance: In the template, I created a bunch of different Physical Assets for concrete and structural steel to match different types. But I didn't put them in a Material because that's lunacy. In an average project, you have two or three different concrete types. I have 9 different Physical Assets. Besides, I don't want the architect messing around with that. So I created generic concrete materials WITHOUT the Physical Asset. Once a structural engineer defines which type of concrete goes where, the right one can be added to that specific Material.

So, I wanted to add a Physical Asset to my generic concrete material. It was a Floor, so I went down the usual road: Edit Type > Edit Structure > Select proper layer > Open Material Editor > Add Physical Asset. To my surprise (and horror): no Physical Assets present in my adsklib file... About the same time, I got an email from the guys to whom I sent out the Material Library. They couldn't open it up either...

Was my beautiful library FUBAR'ed before I got the chance to use it??? But that would be weird, cause when I was able to breathe again, I opened my template and there they were. All of them. In perfect shape. I could easily create an extra floor type, duplicate the generic concrete material and add the desired Physical Asset to it. Just not in my project, only in the template.

So I started looking online, but no joy. No mention of such problems what soever. I then contacted a Dutch reseller and sent them the same file. They could open it up perfectly well. He even sent me a video doing it.
I noticed he added and opened the Material Library through Manage > Additional Settings > Material Assets. And all the Assets are there, not a problem.
Also, he wasn't in a project based on my template. Just opened some random Revit project and added the library there.

This got me thinking:
1. Is it the template? Are we not supposed to create a Material Library from a Template Files? Or is it the workflow? Do you need to add a custom Material Library through Manage > Additional Settings > Material Assets to make it work?
2. What happens if I remove the Material Library from the template, and add it while in a project?

The answer to question one is: I don't know. We'll come to the "why don't you know?" later.
Question number 2 is interesting. Because this is the fix. If you unload the material library from the template, save it, close Revit, reopen, create a project from your template and add the Material Library there: not a problem. It's all there.

Now getting back to answer number one: it stays there. The above workflow is a definitive solution to the problem. Once loaded into the project you can reload the Material Library in your template. Then and when you create a new project from that template there won't be a problem. It's like the entire problem never existed.

Which makes investigating this somewhat problematic. Once fixed, you cannot recreate the problem. Unless you create a new blank template, with new custom Material Library with new Materials.
If you do that, and don't find any Materials in your project, well you now know how to fix it...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank you!

Well, it's official now. After a major twitter/weblog/forum/email uproar Autodesk issued a statement saying this whole thing all was a tiny little mixup. You can find the formal notice here.
Which off course is awesome!

And with this blog we would, again, express our deepest gratitude to all the wonderful responses we got in the last 24 hours. Some numbers:
The hashtag #legallyrevit literally got hundreds of supporting tweets,
the thread where we explained the situation has been viewed 6400 times in the last 24 hours and received 140 responses,
the previous blog where we made our cry for help was viewed over 600 times (that usually takes a few weeks)...
Off course I don't know how many people responded on our call to email the Autodesk customer support, but I'm guessing those numbers too will be overwhelming.

All in all your support was heartwarming!

But I still wonder: before we were targetted, some other sites were too. Websites with the same signature as hours, like www.openrevitstandards.com. They were just unfortunate not to have 17.500 people supporting them and raising their voices.

Make no mistake: even as we speak of this great success, others have not received their notice relinguishing them of the threat of a lawsuit.

What happens to those websites?
Are we satisfied with this one victory? Or do we want a lasting change in the way Autodesk perceives their customers right to help each other out?

To Autodesk:
Call off the pursuit of others just like us. And give back the domains people already "voluntarily" handed over. Pretty please? It shouldn't matter that we have the power of the masses and they don't. What should matter is whether a community is helping each other out, without any form of  commercial interest.
I suggest you have your lawyers use two drafts for infringement notices. Reserve the one we got for commercial sites. Draft a new one, which can be very short, for those like us. Something like this maybe:

Hi guys,

Been looking at your website. Love what you did with the place. It's people like you that feed our thousands of employees by spreading the word of our great software solutions. For that we want to express our heartfelt gratitude! You make us realise that in fact we are all part of one big happy family.
However, there is one tiny little thing: would you be kind enough to put some Trademark disclaimers up here? Just to satisfy our legal department, it's a formality we ask of all people who devote their free time to help us making our products better...

Thanks for all the efforts and keep up the good work!

Sincerely,


It's just a thought really. I'm sure if we got this kind of letter, the disclaimers would be up there faster then you can say "initial interest confusion".

One last thing:
Just to be certain, let's all keep an eye #legallyrevit hashtag. Just to be sure...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Legally Revit?


A few months ago I was shocked to learn that the website www.openrevitstandards.com was shut down due to legal actions taken by Autodesk.
Autodesk claimed that the website was infringing their Trademark due to the use of the word Revit in the domain name. Although the owner tried to reason with the Autodesk lawyers, it was of no use: they had to take the site down and surrender the domain name to Autodesk. The website www.openrevitstandards.com is currently redirected to the Autodesk corporate website.

February 13th of this year Autodesk "Customer Care" hit a new low. Revitforum.org, founded and funded by Autodesk customers to provide each other with knowledge, tips and tricks and other insights and dedicated to solving day-to-day problems these paying customers, received a letter claiming Trademark infringement.

That's right: our 17.559 members (as of today) are accused of participating in criminal actions. Even though they put it nicely, we are being acquised of breaking the law...
Let that sink in for a while. Now think about that most likely a vast majority of these 17.559 people have an actual license. Let's say 80% of them has spent around $6.000,- obtaining that license. Which means Autodesk just called a staggering 105 MILLION dollars worth of client revenue more or less a criminal...

Now believe it or not: this post is not meant to start a riot. So I'll leave that subject for what it is (for now), and move on to the important stuff.
This blog is written for two distinct purposes:

1. Informing our members.

Revitforum.org has been founded on the belief that our members are our community.
Their efforts in building this great place from the ground up have to be protected. Their knowledge needs to be preserved in an open and respectful manor.
Therefor we see no other option than to make the actions taken by Autodesk to bring this site down public. We want our members, plus all of you out there who just browse the forums, to know what is going on. We want to ensure you that we will do whatever it takes to preserve this community. Even if it means getting bullied by a multinational with a rather twisted idea of "Customer Care". If necessary we will move the forum to another domain name.

But for now we responded to their letter with a writing of our own. Basically, that says a couple of things:
1. There can not be any Trademark infringement since we do not use (part of) the Revit trademark in any commercial way. We do not provide any commercial service or product. So how can we be harming Autodesk's business then?
2. They claim we invoke something called "initial interest confusion", which basically means we lure people away from the Autodesk website using similar Keywords and metadata-tags for search engines.
We don't. I checked. There is NOT ONE keyword in the Autodesk main page similar to Revitforum.org. Wanna know why? Autodesk does not even have the keyword "Revit" or anything alike in their Keyword list.
3. Our members are by vast majority Autodesk clients (because, well we are a USER forum). O right, and we harbor no less then 37 Autodesk employees. What chances are there these people will get "confused" about what we do vs what Autodesk does?
4. According to US law we can use or refer to Autodesk trademarks as long as:
- We provide a service that cannot be identified without that trademark (productXforum.org does not ring a bell for that many people)
- We only use as much of the mark as necessary. (we only use the word Revit, not AutodeskRevit, not a symbol or sign)
- We don't do anything to suggest sponsorship or endorsement by Autodesk (HELLOOOO!, we keep an annual donation rally to pay for our hosting bill)
5. We cited several lawsuits where a COMMERCIAL use of a trademark was permitted because the user committed to the above rules. We do to, and we're not even having any commercial activity or gain. So shouldn't the logical conclusion be that we are not doing anything wrong?
6. According to ICANN, the organisation controlling domain names and IP-numbers which happens to be endorsed by the US Government, there are three circumstances in which a trademark may be legitimately used without infringement (btw: it's an OR-statement. Visit Autodesk Wikihelp, look for an article called "Revit Formulas for day to day use" to find out what that means):
- when you previously engaged in the same activities without any consequenses. Which we have been doing for two years now. Now, Autodesk could claim they knew nothing about it... But then maybe we shouldn't have 37 employees as a member. Or regular referrals on wikihelp. Or be mentioned in Autodesk twitter messages. Or in Autodesk corporate blogs. Or... well, you get the point.
- When you are commonly known by your domain name. Without being too cocky, I think we can safely say that Revitforum.org has become a solid "brand" in the Revit world (not in the least thanks to all those endorsements from Autodesk)
- When you make a legitimate non-commercial use of the domain name... Need I say more?

btw: in the interest of being open and honest to our members, we posted both the original letter from Autodesk and our response here.

2. Finding support.

We did our research to our best knowledge. Drafted a letter to respond using our biggest words. But we are geeks. Not lawyers. And, since we're a non-profit member-funded community, we cant afford a bunch of expensive lawyers. So if Autodesk sues us, even though they are clearly wrong, we will have to vacate our domain. All we can do is hope Autodesk will come to it's senses.
However, the case of www.openrevitstandards.com does not fill us with confidence. They were in the same spot. And Autodesk just bullied them out of their domain name.
If necessary, we will pack up and leave. We can't afford to go to court. But we don't want to.
We believe we have every right to keep our domain name. To not have to find another home for our community. To not be chased of like some stray dog by the very company whose products we all use and love (and sometimes hate) on a day-to-day basis.

So consider this our cry for help. Help from the entire Autodesk user base out there. We need your support. This is not a call for outrage or to start a digital witch hunt. We simply want you to repost, retweet, Like, Dig, or whatever it is you want to do to show your support (as long as it doesnt involve virtual lynchmobs).

If you want to express your concerns to Autodesk directly, please use one of the following options:
By email: Autodesk Public Relations, feel free to cc a message to revitforum.org
Twitter: @autodeskAEC, @autodeskcare, @AutodeskRevit using the hashtag #LegallyRevit
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AutodeskRevit
On Revitforum: Revitforum.org domain dispute
Or just respond to this blog. We will try to collect all of your responses and hand them over to Autodesk.

Thank you

Saturday, December 22, 2012

To all (European) Reviteers: Clear your schedule: RTC Europe is coming to town!!!

As of this week registration opened for the very first RTC Europe which will be held in the beautiful city of Delft, the Netherlands. To get the obvious questions out of the way first:

- Language will be all english.
- Yes, Delft has coffeeshops too (and some of them actually serve coffee)
- Yes, as a foreigner you can still access those (laws forbidding that were recently overturned)
- No, I do not think it's very polite (or appreciated) to get stoned out of your mind and have the munchies during classes...

Now that we have this dealt with, let's focuss on the more important stuff.
Us Europeans aren't really used to having high-end conferences like these. When I went to AU this year I had to defend myself quite a lot for making those expenses. I usually responded by asking which education the other party followed this year, and how well they would rate it.

The RTC Committee invited fifty of the worlds most recognised Revit experts to enter submissions for classes and sessions. Approx 1/4 of those (the best of the best) will teach at RTC. Starting at experienced level, upping to real Guru-sh#t.

If there even is a "regular" course anywhere in Europe that you can take all year around, offering this kind of expertise: let me know. I'll put it in my budget for next year. And gladly travel halfway across europe for.
But over here in Holland, you can get a starters course (AOTC, which suuuuuucks) and a follow-up. The follow up suuucks (slightly less) too if you have any real-life experience and is 800,- for 2-3 days. 

So basically this is the deal to layout for the powers-that-be:
- This is the first time EVER there is an opportunity in the entire European continent to actually learn from the best and brightest in the world for your primary tool.

- It's only slightly more expensive then a regular no-good-to-anyone Revit course. It's only 1400,- for 2 days conference and including 3 nights of hotel accomodation. Seeing as you almost always pay around 100,- for a night hotel accomodation it's really only just 1100,- for a two day conference.

- Best part: it's only one workday lost. The conference is on friday and saturday. Fly from anywhere in Europe thursday evening and you'll be in Delft around 10pm. That means that the extra expenses in registration fee are partly covvered by you studying in your free time...

- There will be some awesome classes with even better tutors! Here is a brief extremely personal summary of the line-up:

  1. David Conant will be teaching on the API,
  2. Kelly Cone will have two classes (FYI: this is the guy at Beck keeping Aaron "Twiceroadsfool" Maller in line which HAS to mean something...),
  3. RFO's own Julien Benoit is teaching a class about the use of BIM beyond design,
  4. Matt Jezyk will be unveiling super top secret stuff about self aware families
  5. And the list goes on here.
I will be teaching a class there about Revit and IFC Interoperability and have been invited to join a panel discussion on building National Standards. Unfortunately for Matt my class is scheduled against his, so I want to apologise in advance to him for the embarassingly low amount of people attending his class...
(just kidding, totally sick of that one. To whom ever is making the schedule: pretty pretty pretty pleeeeaaaase change this. I even registered to his class, just to be on the safe side in case the schedule does get tossed)

Anyway, the point being: this is going to be the best learning experience you have ever been to, completely overheating your puny brains! Space is limited to 200 registrations, so I would very much encourage you to act fast! Sign up NOW!!