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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,


  1. Wow William, you really thought I had the best class (that you attended at least) CP333-1??... Thanks! I just wish I had a 90 minute class so that I wouldn't have had to leave so much out. Maybe next year I guess!

    On a side note: You should submit a class next year on "Computational Design for REAL WORLD Projects Using Revit"... I think you could really raise the bar on the subject for the industry...

    Don Rudder


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