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Friday, September 14, 2012

How to tell your husband you're going to AU

After my previous post I got a question on twitter by LanaGMEP:

"@mdradvies: funny post but men know those tricks. What about the women needing to go to #AU2012?"

Well, as a husband, I know that it's not that complicated: a large pizza and two sixpacks of beer for each day you're gone plus a premium sports channel package on tv should keep him rather oblivious to the fact that you're not around...

How to tell your wife that you're going to Autodesk University?

It's that time of the year again... Al of us BIMnerds praying to the BIMgods to please please please let us be able to go to Autodesk University. This year, my prayers got answered. I'm going...My very first visit to the US and to a conference of this magnitude. I'm so psyched I can hardly sleep. Which reminds me I need to ask my wife if she can make me a countdown calender just like the ones she makes for our kids before big events (birthdays, holidays, santa claus, that sort of thing). You know, the ones that let you cross of a square every morning when you get up.
But enough about that. My wife and I have been together 7 years now and not once did we not start the night in the same bed (I get kicked to the couch sometimes if one of our kids has a bad dream and needs to sleep with mom... Like that's not traumatising for me!). So how do you tell her that you'll be hanging out in the gambling capital of the world, unsupervised, for almost a week, leaving her alone with our four kids?
Maybe you're one of those lucky guys who can just lay down the law: Woman, I'm going to Autodesk University. Now get me a beer!
But, as we all know, these are just fairytales. Try that and she'll probably just clean you out during the divorce. So you need a different approach. I can tell you this: it boils down to a long-term plan of attack, miticulous planning, and spending some serious money. Here's how I did it:

1. Recon
AU always is in the end of november. So what's the first big day before that? You know, her birthday, the day you two met or, in my case, your wedding day? And what's the big day before that? (her birthday). For me, her birthday was the time to place the first strike. Our wedding day, today, is the endgame. Now here's the deal: the few big days before the day you place your first strike, you need to LOWER the standards. You know, "forget" mothers day. Buy your valentines day flowers 5 days early and don't water them so they kinda fall apart if she takes the cellophane off. That sort of thing.  Maybe get her a new toaster for Christmas or something, be creative! (not too much though, or you don't have to ask her anything anymore)

2. First strike
At first strike, you get her a beautiful dress. Not something you pick up at Walmart! If you're serious about going to AU then PAY UP. Sweep her off her feet. Shouldn't be too hard considering the presents you usually give her... If you have no idea what she likes you
a. Are a moron.
b. Can ask her friends to help you out.
After this, she will realise you still love her. And you're not a complete idiot. And that she ows you, because after the last few (delibirate) disasters she just bought you a pair of socks for your birthday.

3. Plan the endgame
I chose our 5th wedding anniversary as the endgame. So my plan is to make my wife feel like cinderella all over again.
- Same wedding car and driver as 5 years ago: check
- Same wedding bouquet as 5 years ago: check
- Same restaurant and menu as last time: check
- Her mother-in-law safely on holiday in France: check (granted, you don't have much influence on this one, but for Gods sake: don't tell them about your plans!)
- Babysitter: check
- Stashed your wedding suit at your parents' house: check
- Crushed her hopes of going out together by faking a big client meeting which will keep you away from home untill say 9pm: check (I know, it's harsh. But you can't have them running around making their own plans)
- Find out how you can use Teamviewer to access your home pc from your tablet so you can start playing your wedding song by the time you drive up to the house: check
- Get champagne, 2 glasses and make sure you can drink some champaign at the place you took your wedding pictures: check

4. Endgame
This is it... Don't get nervous, just breathe... and breathe...
It's all about planning really, so start early. I am writing this sitting at my parents house waiting for my ride to pick me up. I have to wait 90 more minutes or so (which is why I thought I'd share this with you). If everything goes as planned, this is how it's going to play out:
I roll up to the house at 16:30. If all goes well my wife is standing before the front window trying to figure out why our tv just switched from Tom & Jerry to playing our wedding song. My guess is she'll call me. But if not, there's no way she's going to miss me. Off course I take her by surprise so she has exactly 30min to get dressed (O dear, what to wear? Well, how about the the dress I gave you for your birthday... Pieces falling together now?) before we're off. About the same time, our babysitter arrives to take over dinner for the kids. We go to drink some champaign by the castle we took our wedding pictures, we drive to the restaurant which is dead center of our town. We got married in a Citroen DS Traction Avant, the Wedding Car amongst wedding cars (no, not some cheap-ass white limo!). I even have the same driver as 5 years ago.
So we're pulling up to our restaurant in this classic car where she will be welcomed with all the egards possible, just like five years ago. Can it get more princessy? That's what I thought. We wine and dine with the same menu we did back then, and then we go home. After all this, just as she starts to fall asleep in my arms, happier and more in love then she's been in years, and willing to forgive me for every stupid thing I do the next few years, I will whisper gently in her ear:

"honey, I'm going to AU this year..."

See you all there!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Revit LT: The best that ever happened to AEC

To all people that have been bashing LT since it was announced but in particular Revit Fact Check:
Dude(s), I have nothing but respect for you. Seriously. The following might make it seem otherwise, but I really do. I know your vocabulary, and I'm not offended by it. Just as I know that you can handle my honest thoughts on the subject. It's nothing personal and it doesn't affect my high regards for your outstanding work. You just need a reality check, this LT-thing is not for you

EDIT 9-9-2012
The following might give the false impression that Revit LT is suitable for ALL firms just exploring BIM. It's not. There IS functionality missing that might be vital for your company. For the ability to create your designs in Revit LT. Before plunging in, take a very careful look at your work and the modelling capabilities of Revit LT. Then, and only then, you can make an informed descision as to whether this tool suites you. 
This also means that the objections RFC (and many others) raise are true. In my very humble opinion they are not vital. Not by a longshot. All can be worked around, and most are objections that don't concern those just taking their first steps on the path towards BIM. But your mileage may vary...
EDIT 9-9-2012

A few days ago Revit LT hit the market. Which, off course, caused an immense uproar among the current "powerusers". From what I read on Twitter and in various blogs, most people find it a bad idea from Autodesk.
I must admit: I my first response was initially the same. Then I started reading other people's responses. One that stood out was the Revit Fact Check blog...

I usually love the Revit Fact Check blog. The eloquent way the author uses a distinguished vocabulary to state an argument is... nah, who am I kidding: he just makes me laugh! Up until now, I agreed with him on almost every point. However, I do have some major issues with the last post. It's about the new Autodesk product Revit LT. And from what I can make of it, the author has some doubts. But imvho he is way of base here.

So, Revit Fact Check, let's look at the facts. Which missing features do we really need:

1. Assemblies and Parts.
WTF??? We hardcore Revit users have been pondering Autodesk for 18 months about some crappy half-baked solution which has become remotely viable in 2013. Both Assemblies and Parts have major issues to be dealt with. Just weeks ago I got my ass kicked by both Revit AND some well-known Revit Masters trying to find a good use for Assemblies. (Aaron, the "you were right and I was wrong" blog is coming...). And now you're telling me it's an absolute necessity for the LT version? What kind of crap is that?

2. Stair by sketch
Afaik you can do just about any more or less regular stair with the tools that ARE available. Why not use those? And if you do come along a weird kind of stairs, there's ways around it. Use a Generic Model, set the correct Assembly Code and you're off. A workaround you say? Yessir, it is... So freakin' what? Let me tell you one thing: the most common stairs in Dutch "doghouses" are the dutch stairs. 2 quarters, with a CURVED stringer, that cannot be done with ANY Revit version. If Autodesk were to rip out a perfectly working stair tool, we could see eye to eye on this one. But just like with Parts & Assemblies, advanced users have been raising hell about the stairs tool for as long as it's been there, so what's the big deal?

3. Truss and reinforcement.
Dude, reinforcement isn't available in the full-blown RAC version either. So what's the big problem here? Is that a bad piece of BIM software too?
Trusses are... Boo freakin' woo... I have used Revit for dozens of residential projects and have very rarely used trusses. Which I, when they occurred, modelled as beams by the way.

4. Conceptual Massing and Adaptive Components
Ahhh, Conceptual Massing & Adaptive Components. With a rich history going back... ehhm 3 versions? How did we manage to live without them? Or did you just started doing "real" architecture after these came to life? Before that, I suppose the world was filled with little grey boxes. Zaha Hadid just adores Revit cause it can make any form she wants? Good thing the egyptians didn't have Revit LT or those pyramids could have never been built.
Granted, I would have been more excited if the Conceptual Massing would still be there. But I have managed to do without it for years. I can only assume others can too.

5. In-Place Modelling
The biggest cheer of them all for this one. This and this alone is worth mandating the LT version for people starting with Revit! Could someone get me a regular version WITHOUT In-Place Modelling? Hell, I would pay EXTRA for that. That would my life as a teacher so much easier. If I got a dollar for every time someone told me "why should I use the Family Editor? I can just create an in-place family and then there's no need for all those stupid difficult parameters...". Well, I could own several copies of LT.
So newbies: get out of your comfort zone and learn the freakin' Family Editor. How in the world are you planning on becoming a skilled Reviteer (or skilled anything for that matter) without having some serious frustrations and headaches? Please do tell! Cause I STILL get frustrated from time to time! And you know what? Everytime I get frustrated, I learn sh*t. I get better in my job. No pain, no gain...
In-Place Modelling is not necessary. Not ever. Sure, it can be handy, quicker, less annoying. But by definition it is not parametric, not reusable. It's a one-time only offer of weakness. It is to be used ONLY by skilled Reviteers who have a handle on the software, and they would have to have a damned good reason if it were up to me.

6. Photo-realistic rendering, decals.
I'll sweep this one up in one single short simple answer: the way they've always done it! Photoshop, Sketchup, who cares? It's a nice feature but are you REALLY telling me this is BIM? It's not, those are pretty pictures. All fun and games if you have the budgets, the expertise for it.
I for one never ever used full-blown rendering in Revit until my third year of Revit. Why not? Because I was too busy learning the stuff that mattered. You know, getting proper construction documents, building permits and all those nasty little time-guzzlers that stood between me and my pretty pictures. But I see where I went wrong now. After all, any contractor would rather have a nice rendering then a good set of drawings... Right?

7. Interference Check
Oh I see... Just having your "doghouse" in 3D with coordination views set up (by the use of view templates) isn't enough. You need to have some fancy tool to work it for you. Lucky for us "real" Revit users Interference Check has plenty ways of controlling the outcome, setting properties for which results are viable and which aren't, making selections on which items to check BEYOND the category, checking for things that SHOULD interfere but don't (you know Structural columns attached to Beams, that sort of thing). And thank god it knows that walls attached to roofs are just touching, not interfering.
Oh wait, it doesn't. Interference check is USELESS. It completely and utterly sucks if you want to go beyond anything then the most rawest form of model integrity checking. And if you do use it: it's just a false pretence that your model is ok. The model could still very well be a monumental bag of crap.
"Geez John, don't know what happened there. Sorry that beam doesn't interfere with that structural wall. Yup, it's 3ft short, I can see it now. Revit must have missed that. But I did find out we needed to move that plumbing pipe 1/4" so it wouldn't interfere with the beam. Lucky for us we can lengthen a steel beam just as easily as a plastic pipe".

8. Copy/Monitor, Worksharing, Copy/Paste from Linked Files, Customize the Visibility of Linked Models, Point Cloud.
Now we're getting somewhere. This should speed things up... Hang in there, I'm almost done!

You know, the first time I read the blog, it kind of made me laugh. As always. Then I read a completely non-related tweet from some starchitect which made my blood boil. And I read your blog again. Then it hit me: you're saying just the same!
The tweet was this:
"You shouldn’t be allowed to use the acronym BIM if you can’t collaborate!"
Can I sum your comments about this features up to just that? In that case I have one thing to say:


Are you freakin' insane? I suggest you get out of your chair, get into your big-ass corporate lease car and start driving. Just get out of that high-end business district you're in and start looking around. See the suburbs? Those simple houses? Small commercial buildings? All those "doghouses" and "strip-mall-chitecture" you're looking down upon?
They are ALL somebody's pride and glory. And most likely the architect who designed those is working as a single professional or in a firm with max 5 persons. And you know what? Most likely that architect has to work harder and longer then you can even imagine. They get paid fees that you wouldn't get out of bed for, they have been hit by the bad economy way harder then your company has been. They often have to struggle to survive even if the economy is thriving! So no, they cannot spend 5000,- on a tool. And no, they do not need nor want those fancy multi-disciplinary design teams. They do not have projects that require multiple people to work in a single file or have worksets to be able to manage the file size properly.

So who's bad for the AEC industry here? It's my not so humble opinion that comments like this stand in the way of BIM becoming the standard in the AEC industry. It's opinions like yours that make all those "wannabe AEC professionals" think that BIM is something for starchitects and multi-gazillion dollar projects only, and therefor not suited for them. That they have no interest nor profit to gain from BIM.

BIM is NOT about collaboration. It just supports better collaboration. But that's a side-effect. BIM is about making a better building. BIM is about adding the proper information to your design so that it can be built without errors. And if you happen to be the only one working on that building during the design than Revit LT is the tool for you. Especially when you're currently still working on Autocad.

Let me tell you a few stories on what goes on down in the trenches these days. First one is a client of mine. Does mostly residential work. With a strong focus on sustainability. PHPP certified and all. Looking to transition to BIM to make them more competitive.
An architect in a firm with 4 people working for him. Three years ago, he had 14 people working for him. His building is too big. His own salary cut in half. His overhead way too high. He has three months of salary for his staff left. He's busy right now, but has no idea what will happen in two months. If there's going to be a new project. If this will be in a week, a month or more then three months. More then three months means bankrupcy. Now tell me: should he invest 2 months of those backup salaries in buying Revit? Sit on his chair and then look at the piece you have written.
Do you think he gives a sh*t about Worksharing? Do you REALLY think that Revit LT wouldn't be a step in the right direction for a price that's worth the risk?

I started my business straight out of college. Doing "doghouses". I did so for 3-4 years. My total turnover the first year was 6.500,- ex VAT, before taxes. Second year: 18.000,-. Third year was the first year I came close to minimum wage: 45.000,-. Since then an average that I can live off. The ONLY reason I could start out while using Revit was because my reseller renewed my trial license over and over again until I scraped together the funds to buy it. It took me two years. And the help of my wife, who payed all of ours bills those first two years.
If they hadn't, I would have been stuck with Autocad LT. And maybe never even gotten the nerves to plunge into the deep and start with Revit.
Not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone has the guts or the vision to empower them to spend 1/3 of their annual turnover on a freakin' tool and hope for the best.
Do you believe in the butterfly effect? I do. Look at the forum. Look at what I gave back to the Revit community. I have multiple articles in my name. I have taught Revit to dozens of people and hundreds to follow. I am co-author of the current Dutch Revit Best Practises and head author of the soon to be published Dutch national master template. I WILL be teaching at RTC's and AU in the future (not right now but I'll keep on bugging them until they let me). In short: I live and breath BIM, advocating the use with every word that comes out of my mouth.
And I am a strong believer in the fact that Revit LT will give more people like me a chance. More people like me, but without the luck I had. People that would otherwise have been lost. People who can now come straight out of education with their heads and minds full of bright visions of how the AEC business can finally be transformed into a healthy one. How the f**k can that ever be a bad thing?

So it's my argument that Revit LT is by far the best thing Autodesk has ever done for the AEC business. And I applaud them for having the courage to take this crap and do what needs to be done. They have provided the masses with a true BIM authoring tool that is within reach of the not-so-fortunate. They have given people like me a fighting chance to grow and get ready for the future.


Martijn de Riet (aka Mark Twain)
AEC Nobody, proud owner and sole employee of MdR Advies