Thursday, May 28, 2009

Factory Speak

Per Inside The Factory:

"Another related topic is the request to reinstate a "Classic UI". We are evaluating this and the only thing I can tell you at this point is it would be a very large effort with many limitations.

We're not really evaluating this. And even if we did, do you have any idea how large the effort would be? Imagine something large. Now double it. Now try to pick it up. Told you. Not to mention that it's covered with limitations, so if you do touch it - well, if I were you I'd wash my hands right away. You need specifics? Well, unfortunately we can't tell you what those limitations are because it'd require a Super Secret SEC Decoder Ring. Put it this way - it's impossible to make a new button in the Classic UI and a button in the New UI do the same thing. Why? Because we can't write code when our fingers are in our ears and we're singing, "LALALALALALALALALALALAAAAAAAAaaaaa...".

"To be honest there are a lot fewer requests for the old UI than discussions here would indicate, but the rationale is well understood to better support a transition."

When I said, "To be honest", you instinctively trusted me. Subtle, no? Anyway - in spite of all your experience there's not really that many of you. You're just making disproportionally more noise. Here's the deal: we need to get Revit out to the masses. But the masses have short attention spans. They love shiny. And big. And
YouTube. So we need a UI that is more shiny, big and distracting than YouTube. Otherwise the masses won't get any work done or pay their subscription notices on time. Yes - we do happen to manage multiple UI strategies for some other products. But those products have competitors in the marketplace with really passionate users. And if you think Revit users are cult-like, you can't begin to imagine what SolidWorks users are like. Put it this way: Revit users are like mid-western-Lutherans compared to a bunch of end-of-an-Appalachian-dirt-road-rattlesnake-handling-poison-drinking-tongue-speaking-Pentecostals. So we really don't want to upset the Inventor users. And since Revit really doesn't have a meaningful competitor we can pretty much serve dinner and you pretty much have to eat it (or go to bed hungry). Hey - someone get that dang SEC guy outta here!

"Biggest issue here is that we would have to support both the new and old UI at the same time which is roughly twice as much work or half as many new enhancements. Pretty much why it was deprecated in the first place."

Twice as much work! Do you have any idea how much time was spent supporting the old UI? Infinity! So if we have to support two UIs we'll have to do Infinity^2 more work! Do you have any idea how hard that is?! Anyway, it's now obvious you don't understand how this game gets played. If you keep pestering us for the old UI, then we'll threaten to extract a price. How much? Well, let's put it this way: by having to manage two UIs, we'll insinuate that we'll only be able to get to around half of all the cool toys we've been begging everyone to let us do. So just to clarify - you'll eventually get all the cool toys...but it'll take twice as long...minus Infinity^2. Basically somewhere below Site Tools. And we'll be grumpy when we finally get around to it.

"Really just trying to deliver as many new enhancements as possible. We can't go back in time so need to decide what the best path forward is.

Managing two UI's is impossible for the Revit team because to do so actually requires time travel. Yes - in fact we already do happen have one time machine. But obviously it's already being used by the AutoCAD team for managing their two UIs. And so far they'll only share it with the Inventor team.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Customize This

GUI customization to make something exceptional is not the same thing as customization to make something functional. This dichotomy has been illustrated (intentionally or otherwise) by numerous user postings of their recently customized UI's. People are pulling off tabs, filling up the QAT with frequently used commands, and using even more short cuts.

All of this activity indicates that users are effectively trying to create a persistently exposed toolset in order to overcome the underlying philosophy of a Ribbon which subjectively and contextually exposes and hides functionality.

People who are trying to build things (even when they build them in the computer) usually don’t want their tools constantly moving around. This is an important distinction that is not about the pros/cons of a customizable UI. My contention is that a well designed GUI isn't a step backward when it can be customized, but when it must be customized.

It's enough of a challenge for one life spent in rigorous pursuit of elegant design. Must we also face the additional challenge of having to rigorously design a UI being used to rigorously design? Specific to Revit, a new UI that is more familiar to AutoCAD users could lower adoption barriers so that those users can create details.

But what if it hobbles the users that need to create buildings?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Your Regularly Scheduled Programming Will Not Be Seen Tonight...

I was informed today by ADSK that my proposed sessions should not be a part of AU 2009 and someone else should manage Building Design Power Track. This is fully understood considering my strong personal opinions regarding Revit development and the 2010 UI. But it is really unfortunate considering my elegant work-around for rail joins. ;)

Autodesk has the extraordinary good fortune of having a passionate, articulate and dedicated customer base. I believe their customers yearn to buy software from a company that understands, appreciates and responds to their customer's investment. But for any company to remain successful, they must strenuously maintain balance between the sharp minds of deep thinking subject matter experts and the sharp elbows of politically savvy corporate bureaucrats. And if present management can not maintain this balance then it will likely be a priority of the next to restore it.

Between Revit Technology and Autodesk, I spent the better part of 7+ years convincing, training and mentoring people and teams to move away from a well-established, but tired, dead end of a process. I am very patient to a point. But I do not claim to have the time or patience to slowly stir Autodesk into action. Not when planning new functionality requires a 2 year lead time. Not when the last year was spent developing a new UI that many reasoned opinions believe is functionally inferior. The architectural community have invested too long and too much to see the unique (and I believe even historic) opportunity that is Revit be squandered through corporate lethargy.

I am at my deepest core an Agent of Change. It served Revit well. It served Autodesk well. I sincerely hope that it has served the Architectural Community well. I do not portend to be a reasonable man.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

-George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rise of the Phoenix

In June of 2008, roofers accidentally started a fire on the backlot of NBC Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA. The resulting blaze gutted acres of sets and sound stages from numerous well known motion pictures. Just about all that remained standing that I recognized was the scorched facade of the clock tower from "Back to the Future". The rest was piles of twisted, charred debris.

About a week later I spoke with Jack G. Taylor Jr. Jack has been an Art Director on numerous award winning films and has worked with some of the finest directors in Hollywood (more info on Jack can be found here). Back in 2007, I was honored to present a session with him at Autodesk University entitled "Revit Architecture for Film and Stage". Jack deeply cares about his industry and believes that the use of BIM (and in particular Revit) can have a positive impact if well implemented by thought leaders that understand his profession.

Through our discussion, I learned that Jack and other industry veterans were being brought together to redesign the backlot; aka, Project Phoenix. And he wanted to know if we could discuss how they could approach the project using Revit. And it wouldn't be an all Revit project - because they needed to work quickly and with people that had decades of experience honing traditional design and industry methods.

The project would also be extremely complex. Encompassing more than 12 blocks (around 5 acres), each block would represent numerous architectural styles. Documentation would be an exacting assemblage of both traditional and digital techniques. For example, a detail callout in Revit might reference a full-size, beautifully hand-drawn Ionic column capital which would be scanned from a drawing that was so old and fragile that it was almost too delicate to touch.

Less than a year later, construction is now well underway (hopefully I'll post some images in the next few days) and the results are fantastic.

If you're interested in voting for the session it's here. Jack and I will be presenting the session together:
The Rise of the Phonix: The Design and Construction of NBC Universal Studios Backlot with Autodesk Revit.

I really hadn't considered presenting at AU this year. But Jack's manner and enthusiasm easily won me over. And seeing the photos of the re-construction rekindled an appreciation for architectural style, proportion and attention to detail that is so often missing. Kind of makes you wonder what really is facade and what is truly lasting. Or as the saying goes, "Film is Forever".

Friday, May 1, 2009

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Everybody out of the pool! Submissions for Autodesk University 2009 have closed. Over 2300 session have been submitted, with "Architecture and Building Design" leading the way with over 23% of the proposals submitted.

Revit Architecture represents the greatest number of submitted sessions. Proposals for Revit Architecture are nearly 15% out of all the product proposals for AU 2009! The next highest product proposal was AutoCAD which has just over 11% of total submissions.

I've proposed two sessions. The first session is for intermediate users with a basic understanding of Revit and is entitled, "Insanely Great Stairs and Railings with Autodesk Revit".

While there's much that remains to be improved (ahem...rail joins...) there's a lot of amazing possibilities with what's in the box, provided you think a little outside it. The reason is that trying to get elegant design to spring forth complete from a spreadsheet is a battle of ever diminishing returns. A spreadsheet can get you close, but it always seems the details and exceptions to those calculated rules often require direct manipulation by a extremely focused design team. That's what this class is going to be all about.

Here's one extraordinary example that I'd like to use in the session. It's the glass spiral staircase from the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in NYC.

So please don't hesitate to email me photos of stairs and railings that you come across over the next couple of months. I'll use these interesting and challenging real-world examples to create the stairs and railings in Revit. And if I use your photo I'll be sure to give you credit and thanks. Please keep in mind that the session content - stairs, railings, renderings, etc. will be available to download after AU. This way everyone will be able to dissect the all of the Revit content at their own pace.

If you want to vote for this session, click the link below. Voting opens May 4th and will close May 8th.

Link: "Insanely Great Stairs and Railings with Autodesk Revit".