AU 2010: My top 5 lists

Most of you may remember the great movie High Fidelity, starring John Cusack, Jack Black and Catherine Zeta Jones back in 2000. The main character, Rob, would analyze every situation through listing the “top 5 items” of a category. With Autodesk University just finished, here’s my summary of an intense week with ups and downs:

AU 2010: Top 5 High points

1. Discovering the power of mobile communication: You have probably read my previous post, where I explained my glad surprise in regards to sharing information, tips, complaints… “Social Media”, blogging, twitting (or tweeting?!?) is clearly the result of giving every person walking around the chance to shout their thoughts. And in a positive vicious circle we communicate what is the latest advance in communication tools, and it all gets connected. I should conclude with “RT if u agree” ;)

2. Presence of BIM: It’s probably yesterday’s news that I am a strong believer in the BIM revolution and an evangelist of its principles. Seeing many classes on BIM theory, implementation, programs, interoperability was a great! I felt I was on the right side of the road (I felt compelled to “customize” the “I love AutoCAD” badge I was given for it to read “I love Revit”).

3. Meeting people, putting a face to the name, networking, discussing with more users… This is not new to this year, not even new to AU. Still it was a highlight of the event, and I enjoyed every time it happened. Informal meetings in the “AEC Lounge” or even walking in a random class following a crowd were great.

4. The HOK BIM Summit. Technically this was not part of AU, but the possibility of gathering 40 people from 15 different offices was amazing. We had a series of presentations by our management and a showcase of the best projects in the company. A privilege and a pleasure.

5.  The classes on Revit API. I use Revit a lot, and I am often researching deep into its functions. As a consequence the classes that explained tips and tricks in general, or deeper into one or another functionality, in general failed to surprise me. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were master classes on technique and skill, and I love the fact that there is an effort to teach the use of the program and an interest to learn it. In fact, I was one of them! But on the other side, there is a dark door at the end of the Revit corridor leads to a secret garden. The API is a way to allow external programs to interact with the geometry in Revit… and I am looking forward to write some of those programs! Expect news on this front – it’s entering my “Under NDA” domain!!!

AU 2010: Top 5 Low points (or Bottom 5 points?)

In general I am happy with this year’s AU experience. The following points are what I would improve for next ones:

1. AU Virtual interface. Cheesy and a bit over-pretentious, heavy to load and maybe not too intuitive, it become a barrier for people trying to get the Virtual classes live. The interface in English was impossible to overcome by the attendees of the Spanish or Portuguese classes that didn’t know English. Buffering issues when accessing, and a major server problem for the early sessions were the biggest challenge of this year. If you missed the classes, here’s a link to see them on demand:

AU Virtual 2010 - Classes on Demand

2. Technology Stage discussion. It replaced last year’s Design Slam? Or even tried to? The dimming lights, the poor sound quality and a closed discussion between 5 people sitting on stage were quite hard to follow, and most people left early. Having a few people playing with software would have been much more fun. Or the short Pecha-Kucha presentations. Or a stand-up comedian. Or just a DJ (last year’s attendees know what I mean…)


3. The class timing. Lynn Allen said that nowadays 1 hour feels longer. Some very dynamic classes filled the hour leaving an “I want more” sensation… the 2 hour classes with a break in between were sometimes too long to follow, or clashing different sessions I wanted to attend. The strategy of “let’s do a 10 minute break” was great to keep the attention and get the class going, but after almost 2.5 hours I needed a longer break and was late for the next class. I remember 90 minutes was about right for most cases…

4. The distance between Product Release and the Conference. I was told that back in the days product release was just before AU. And it makes a lot of sense that you’d go to AU to find out about the new products. This AU was around 8 months after the release of products, so most people have been playing with them long enough. Two exceptions I know of (and as far as I know were very celebrated) are Project Vasari, that was officially launched 2 weeks before the conference, and Sketchbook Mobile for android. Vasari I knew about, but I was glad to see people taking notes about it, and was topic to argue at different levels. SBM I heard of during a class, and 2 minutes later I had it installed and was playing with it. It adds so much value to be there and hear the latest news first hand. I suppose it’s easier to move AU than to move product launch… either option would be great.

5. Not getting my classes chosen. I hope that next year I can stand in front of the class and spread the word. It is tiring and demanding, but I’d love to do it. At least now I have the AUV experience backing me up, I just have to submit a good topic to talk about and get you to vote the class.

AU 2010: My top 5 classes

1. Leveraging the Tail End of the BIM Life Cycle with APIs, by Don Rudder. Great balance between hard code and practical tips, with a very useful demo: a web-based building management tool with bi-directional data exchange to Revit.

2. Fuzzy Math Essentials for Revit Family Builders. Not many things I didn’t know, but very nicely presented. The handout is a must-read 42-page packed with formulas, tips, techniques… It clashed with the AEC keynote, yet many big Revit names were in the room, which says a lot!

3. A Brave New Mobile World by Christopher Cheung. This is the class I entered following some Autodesk people who promised a great delivery. It described the history of the drawing/design tools concluding in the announcement of the latest in sketching on a mobile phone. Fantastic! Unfortunately the class page doesn’t have a handout or a slideshow recording it :(

4. BIM and IPD for Project Leaders. Held by HOK leaders (James Vandezande and Lee Miller), it was an enjoyable description of BIM implementation. I was impressed with their presentation skills, and some of the material they presented!

5. My own class on BIM at HOK. Please excuse a little self-winding here, but I really enjoyed delivering it and received some good feedback. If you dare to practice some Spanish, it’s available on-demand!

I heard fantastic comments on the classes by the usual suspects (Phil Read, Paul Aubin, Robert Manna, David Fano, David Baldacchino, David Light, Steve Stafford…) of which I am not surprised! Now I am slowly downloading all the material to learn from them, and I encourage you to do the same.

I now invite you to leave comments, as your AU experience may and most likely has been different to mine, and I’d love to hear about it!

Kind regards,


The era of communication

I am going to start this post with a few easy quotes: "The 21st century is all about communication", "We live in a global world", "The world has shrunk because of ease of communication".

For many years I've heard these phases and effectively not only believed in them but also enjoyed the meaning of them. From the good old brick mobile phones, allowing to keep talking (or shouting repeatedly "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!???") while on the move, to the sophisticated cloud computing technology, unleashing collaborative addition of "unlimited" computing power regardless of geographic location, there have been many shades and variations of the way we exchange information.

And Information is another concept that has become key to modern life: access to information, freedom of information, building information... anything makes the cut under the "information" label.

As I've been promising for weeks now, today I have done my AU Virtual classes. And with them, these couple of days out in the Autodesk University conference have given me a mind-blowing reality check on this "communications" world: I fully charged my recently-upgraded (after complaining since I bought it as I said in this previous post) and carried it around despite having turned the Data roaming off. Then I met Brok, from the HOK St. Louis office. We exchanged nods and thumbs up about our android phones... and then I said "but an android phone has its wings clipped without data connection...". Brok then turned his phone into an Access Point, and next thing I knew I was online again. I was overwhelmed with the noble gesture of a fellow HOKer I had only met 10 minutes earlier, and decided it was a good thing to publicly show my appreciation. Taking advantage of my new great connection, I twitted using my @UnderNDA account. Following the most fashionable trend, I then started looking for those #AU2010 tags, following the names I recognized, retwitted the messages I found interesting, replied to the ones I had an opinion on. Soon I realized I was not alone, I got replies, mentions, retweets... loads of them!

In case you haven't been to a conference were over 5000 of the geekiest people you can imagine get over excited by being constantly bombarded with ground-breaking news, tendencies, live demonstrations and insider previews, imagine one of those "mad scientists" of a black and white sci-fi movie of the 60's that is about to discover the "secret formula to see the future"... pulling out of the pocket a small device that will allow him to make contact with any other creature in the outer space that could understand his theory...
Not far from that, these 5000 "experts in graphic and drawing software" (aka BIM, CAD, 3D and Engineering technology GEEKS) -and by no mean I will try to avoid falling in this description-, were pulling out all sort of weapons, from mobile phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks... to broadcast the action to the others, within the community, regardless of where they were!

And it is so effective! I found out where the classes were, what was about to start, who was attending... A lot of information, constantly updated, at the tip of your fingers...
Needless to say... I do sound like one of them!

I am quite surprised, though, of the stories behind the communication: I am dodging time difference between Las Vegas (were the AU conference is held) and home at London being able to use Skype at any time... just to prove my point, I have called my wife using the following "communication" path:
My phone running Skype > Broke Access Point > Brok's Internet access > Skype out to a VoIP virtual "local number in Buenos Aires" that I have for my family to call me > VoIP - their servers are based in US > Local number in London, my wife's office > my home phone, as due to the tube strike she had transferred her office number and was working remotely.

That's 7 jumps around the world, data flying up and down the globe that translated in no more than a couple of seconds of "please wait while your call is being transferred".

Another communication story that made me think, Anna Winston, a real reporter from UK's BD (as opposed to us amateur "news spreaders") twitted an apology "to followers who aren't architects\tech geeks and have no idea what I'm talking about"... It was a great eye-opener: she proved to understand the reach of communication, she acknowledged that you are not firing a message to outer space but to real people that are waiting for the message to arrive. I am still a geek enjoying the technology showcase and spreading my excitement, and in turn feeling the excitement in those posts like "wore my yoda jedi socks so hopefully the force was with me... only time will tell" (thanks @davewlight for such capture of inspiration!).

Lastly, I'd like to mention what happens when communication fails... this morning a server was down, and the broadcast of the Virtual classes didn't happen. Disappointed, I saw many hours taken away from other projects (and readers from older posts know what I mean) crumbling under the "why are these videos not showing?" "How do we access the classes?" or "There is no content... what is happening?". People were trying to communicate, and it wasn't happening despite having left the HOK party early last night to be in the broadcast centre at 4:45am and the beyond-human efforts of Nick, the Event Manager, fighting to get around 15 of us at least to a chat room where we could apologize to the audience and explain what the fault was, hoping to get the problem solved in time for the following class.

The good news is that for those who couldn't access the classes they have been made available through the Autodesk University Class Catalog:
And for my immense peace of mind, the last session had around 6 people making questions, and two guys in particular that engaged in discussion, made very interesting questions about BIM and Revit, and showed a warm appreciation of the content of the class, which made me very, very happy. Thanks Raul and Oscar :D

Now I'll wrap up this extense post because I just got an email on my phone saying that the hok gang is gathering for dinner. (I am working my skills to embed videos and better pics instead of all this text)
Stay around for some interesting posts on the amazing stuff being shown at AU2010!!!

Keep in touch, follow me on twitter (@UnderNDA) and enjoy the communication!
Kind regards,