2010-12-01

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:
http://au.autodesk.com/?nd=auv2010_class_catalog&und=517
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,
William.

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