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Schedule it, baby (Just another Flux workflow)

As I was saying, we’re back.
We saw lots of cool stuff, in Vegas, and not all of them were of the kind you would expect to see in Vegas.
Some of them actually involved technology.

Of course one of the first things we did (or at least one of the first we tried to do) was visiting our friends at Flux. They had a booth in the exhibit hall.

As you know, I’m very fond of their concept. I wrote about it here and here, and one of our classes (this one) actually involved lots of Flux demonstrations in the main workflow. What I like about their idea is this brand new concept of interoperability, where the development of an open format for a whole model is hardly relevant anymore, as long as you are able to move data around. I do believe this is the future. Firmly.

Now, the Flux development team has many qualities: they are smart, friendly, based in charming San Francisco, always active in terms of communication and they just won’t stop developing stuff.
Along with the constant development of plug-ins, they have this thing called “the kitchen” and it’s home to many many side-products like:
– the Site Extractor you saw me talking about and its twin brother, Terra, that allows you to throw back your models into Google Earth;
– the Dashboard, to create infographics about data in your model so that they will be real-time connected with it;
– the VRviewer (I wasn’t able to check this one yet);
– the Flux Capacitor (gotta love the name) to travel back in time and restore previous versions of your data, and the Tracker, to connect your project activity with e-mail and Slack;
– the Sightline Analyzer, which helps you find the best view;
– the Quartz Workflow for material impact analysis;
– the Pathfinder, to find egress routes.
You also have some coordination tools such as Project Sync and File Uploader.

And then you have the Scheduler.

What it does is pretty simple: «Create, view, and edit Revit schedules on the web».
Now, I can already hear you objecting: “Why should I do that? I can do schedules in Revit”.
Right.
And wrong.
So wrong, on so many levels.
Just stick with me and, with a small but real-life example, I’ll show you why this tools is useful and why these kind of concepts really are game-changing for our industry.

If you don’t want to to that because you don’t like to read, what I recommend is:
1. Get your brain checked (a simple CT scan should do);
2. While you wait for the scan results, watch the video below. It’s a short demonstration of what the Scheduler can do.

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1. Let’s set the scene
Just imagine, if you can, that you are the BIM leading consultant of a collaborative process and almost everybody is working in Revit.
You have the architect, the interior designer, the structural engineer, the MEP guys are dragging their feet a bit but everybody is on board, with different levels of maturity.
Then, another figure appears on scene. He has a very narrow but crucial specialization: for instance he can be a consultant from the fire department, or somebody who works on sustainability.

What we usually say is that, in order not to loose money with your collaborative process, all the involved parties need to work in BIM. And if you have a crucial consultant who is not working in BIM yet, you should aim to having him implement BIM in his practice as well. This of course doesn’t apply when a small consultant, who might be working alone, steps into the project at a very late stage and will probably make a small contribution in terms of data.
Therefore, you have two basic options in front of you:
– he works in a traditional fashion, delivers traditional output and you take upon yourself to remodel his stuff or re-enter his data into your model, with lots of extra work and few responsibility issues not to be underestimated;
– you find an information exchange tool so that he doesn’t have to change that much the way he works but you’ll still be able to take his work and acquire it into your models.
Of course the second way is the one I prefer.
Of course the second way is feasible only if both parties are willing to compromise a bit.

Now, in order to set the scene, imagine you have a project. Let’s say a hotel.
In this hotel you have lots of plumbing fixtures, of course.
Your client is concerned about water waste and he would like to have a numeric simulation of how much water you save by using products from an environmentally aware supplier in comparison with a less concerned one. He calls a consultant to perform this comparison. So you throw a new shared parameter into your plumbing fixtures, you call it “Liters per Minute” (check under Flow, in the Plumbing group of parameters) and then… and then what? He doesn’t even know what Revit is.

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Axor Citterio E (5 lt/m)

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2. Do not Panic (and try Excel)
Everybody has a spreadsheet of some sort. Really. Everybody. And if they don’t have Excel, they do have access to Google Drive. And if they can’t access Google Drive they are probably in China and you might have bigger problems that this.
The person responsible of working out the right tools for this task is your BIM coordinator so, as usual, you’re going to have to rely on him.
Let’s imagine you decide to use Excel.

There are lots of plug-ins that will save you the boring roundabout of exporting a text file and then importing it into your spreadsheet. There’s “BIM Query” from CGS Revit Tools, which is quite smart and quite popular, and DBlink, quite popular too. Or you can use Dynamo and write whatever you want into your Excel spreadsheet.

dynamo_sendtoexcel

Of course the node shown above is barely enough to throw the elements names into Excel: you need to map all parameters you want to send to Excel.
Anyway, going out from Revit to Excel is relatively easy. That is not the problem.

3. Things gone horribly wrong
Ok, so we cleared the floor: you can perform data exchange using simply Excel and Dynamo, or you can buy plug-ins that allow you to export directly from Revit a semi-intelligent spreadsheet.
But you don’t wanna do that.

Why?

Well, when you import back your schedule, especially with a large amount of data, you are sort of flying blind.
Your consultant might have changed the wrong parameter. He might have merged cells because “now it looks more pretty”. And if you use Dynamo, you might be throwing an atomic bomb into your Revit model without even realizing it. Just as an experiment, I suggest you try to rename elements within a Revit model by feeding Dynamo with a list of non-unique strings. Have fun recovering it, afterwards.

What you need is a safe environment, an interface that:
– allows people to compile just the data they need (and this can be achieved by simply protecting rows into your spreadsheet, of course);
– allows you to actually check what they did before throwing it into Revit and, more importantly, decide whether you want to import their changes or not. Selectively.

Guess what? This is what the Flux Scheduler does.

5. Try the Scheduler
In order to try the Scheduler, you need to authorize its usage and sort of link it to your main Flux account.
This is easy enough: you press the big blue “CONTINUE” button. A small walkthrough in 3 slides will appear so again, if you don’t like reading, you can check that one out.

002_walkthrough_01 002_walkthrough_02 002_walkthrough_03

So, how would I replicate the previous workflow by using the Scheduler?
Well, first of all you need to send your data to Flux. And it’s preferable to do it directly with the plug-in for Revit, without Dynamo, so that the schedule will already be organized in a way that Flux is expecting.
In my fictional-not-so-fictional hotel, I decide to send to Flux all my Plumbing Fixtures. There is no plug-in for Revit 2017 yet, so you need to do this in 2016.

As usual in the Flux tab of your Revit project you log in, you press another big blue button, you choose “Send” and… well, you send.

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004_send

What do you send?
Well, we talked about it. You send all types of all families of all Plumbing Fixtures.
You select (or create) your project and key, and you send data into the Cloud.
This will create a permanent connection, allowing you to re-send your data anytime you need to do it, without mapping them again. This means that anytime I can press a button in the “Manage Flux Connections” lateral tab and synchronize again my model with data stored into the cloud.

 

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006_project-and-key

Now, when the Scheduler asks you questions about the Schedule you want to create, you can select your project and key.

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You will then be allowed to create a schedule as you would do in Revit (with a much nicer interface, I must say): you’ll be able to add type and instance parameters and reorder them.
Now, these parameters are editable.

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And what’s really marvellous about it is that you are not going to be the one to edit them.
You can add a collaborator to the schedule and he’ll be able to edit what parameters you decide, without even knowing how Revit looks like.

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010_editing

In working on the schedule, Flux is actually creating another key, and you’ll be able to receive it back into Revit.

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 No manual import required. No magrin for tragically corrupting errors (just minor errors on miscompiled data). Isn’t this nice?

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children


As Wikipedia recites, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a British-American-Belgian  dark fantasy adventure drama film.

This really seems to sum it all up: the movie has just too freakish much going on and yet it doesn’t seem to be enough. As we said for Alice in Wonderland, it just doesn’t have enough of what you would expect from Burton and yet it does have way too much of what you wouldn’t want from him.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept is amazing. Nothing new, since it has elements of lots of these novels for “young adults”: you have the campus for gifted children (Harry PotterPercy Jackson and X-men before that), you have the shape-shifting villain, you have time tangles, you have protectors and demi-gods, and a very special boy who doesn’t feel that special at first but then realizes he really really is the most special of them all.

Visually, the movie is a grand sarabande that seems to jump out from a nightmare by Francis Bacon and is highly enthralling. Eva Green is as beautiful as you can dream of (see Penny Dreadful without Vanessa’s fragility), and the war setting works perfectly for these kind of fantastic stories, as we already saw for Narnia: it creates an intimate immediate parallel between a conflct we know, and we consider to be immense, and yet another supernatural conflict upon which the human war seems to fade away, a pale shade in comparison to the forces that are struggling to take over.

Still, the movie oddly fails in chilling you. And it’s rather strange, considering you have people who devour the eyes of children in order to regain their humanity, and children who survive stuck in a time loop, segregated from the outer world, living the same day over and over again, and it’s unclear wherher it is to protect them from the world or the world from them. There was enough to go on and to create some really dark and really compelling fairy tale, as Burton used to be able to do. Unfortunately, that Burton seems to be long gone. With an urge to please and not to disturb, his latest works are Disney and this movie makes no exception.

You’ve got the body of a boy with no eyes upstairs, right. And another boy brings broken dolls to life with organs from animals. Miss Peregrine shoots the same monster every day with a cross bow and every night a bomb falls on the school killing everybody. This is where the movie is at its peak. Then, unfortunately, it fades away with a buffoonesque villain by Samuel L. Jackson, quite embarassing, and the main struggle seems to be comic relief for what was built before, in quite an anticlimatic way.

Fantastic Beasts (and Where to Find Them)

fantastic_beasts_001

I am not ashamed of saying that I was, and am, a Harry Potter fan. Not much a fan of the latest books, to be quite honest, but still I have always been a fan of that universe and I think J.K. Rowling delivered us some graceful pieces of writing when she was focused. If you don’t believe me, I’ll just save you the troubles of reading through the whole stuff and point you right to the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I still believe to be her masterpiece.

But I digress.
As usual.

The point here is that being a Harry Potter fan I do understand all the hype around Fantastic Beasts. It’s one more chance to take a pick through a universe we are fond of and whose exploration seemed to be lost after the Deathly Hallows. I do understand it. Truly.
The trouble is that, being a Harry Potter fan, I do own the book. And by book I mean the 41 pages booklet of funny and yet irrelevant list of fantastic creatures, supposedly written by Newt Scamander.
Having read that, I was rather skeptical when I heard that it was going to turn into a 4 movies set. That’s about 10 pages for each movie. You get my point. I feared that there simply wasn’t enough material in there to support a fully developed narrative.
Was I right?
Just bear with me and find out.

fantastic_beasts_002

 

Well, almost inevitably, the plot is thin.
There are some clever ideas in it, sure, like tapping into all that pre-Voldemort material briefly outlined during the Deathly Hallows. And here lies, as I see it, the very first problem: all that material didn’t fit into Harry Potter, as if Rowling helself just came up with something new towards the end of her old narrative and couldn’t resist in sqeezing it right through it. Which is pretty much what I think happened there.
Now you would imagine that, giving a blank canvas and the opportunity of actually telling that story, she would go back in being her focused true storyteller self. Then why isn’t this called The Rise of Grindelwald, or something? The truth is something I do not own, of course, but I do believe it to be a sad story and this story is about how little Rowling is and has been focused lately.
The story told in Fantastic Beasts seems to have the very same problems you could read into every Harry Potter novel from The Order of the Phoenix onwards. Or worst.

Ideas are good, and setting is great. The whole beauty of the movie seems to be about two concept keys: one of them is of course the grand displya of fantastic creatures; the other is the setting. New York during the late 20s, with charleston and glamour, contradictions and prohibition, can conquer anyone, with or without magic. Take the movie as it is, shift it towards in time and set it nowadays and what will be left of it? Very little, I’m afraid.

Then, aside from setting and ideas, Harry Potter had plot twists.
Not that many, I will grant that, but still you have some serious plot twists during the Harry Potter saga and what I like about them is that almost all of them were well constructed, not preposterous and actually made sense.
Do we have this in Fantastic Beasts?
Well, I’m afraid not.
Spoilers are in white, as usual, and you can read them by highlighting the text. My feed-reading friends choose not to see any formatting, so they can drop this right now.
Ready?
Ok, let’s go.
The only decent plot twist in Fantastic Beasts is that Scamander and Kowalski do not exchange briefcases the first time they jump into each other. Everything else is so obvious it’s rather insulting. Percival Graves is Gellert Grindelwald? Oh, you don’t say? The obscurus is actually Credence? Oh, I’m really shocked!
But that wouldn’t be so bad if it was the only insulting thing.

What I really really really did not enjoy was the way characters were built.
And it leaves me with the doubt of what Rowling would have done if she was given full control of the movies.
Because I know, characters from the Harry Potter novels were groctesque as well. See Umbridge, or Luna Lovegood, or Snape himself. The trouble with books is that while you are reading you can use your imagination to stress and underline what strikes you the most, so if a groctesque character does something particularly dramatic the comic factor instantly fades away leaving you with the impression of what cought your mind the most. On the other hand, movies have a greater power: as they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. Why is that a trouble? Because if you present a character with groctesque features in a movie, it’s more than likely that we will be unable to take him seriously no matter how heroic his deeds will be.
Was Snape groctesque? Well, yes. But he was Alan Fucking Rickman. Was Dumbledore a parody of Merlin? Well, yes. But he was Richard Fucking Harris. And I could go on and on with Bellatrix, Lupin and Voldemort himself.
In this movie, we are sort of lacking this kind of stature for characters. Even if Colin Farrell is trying, and doing a decent job at it, you have some really really bad pieces of acting.
I mean, after you get everything sorted out, and you see Gellert Grindelwald’s true face, even Scamander doesn’t manage to come through as that odd. Everyone is odd. Odd beyond recognition. Odd beyond credibility. And nothing, not even a death potion, is able to be perceived as a threat. The my-God-he’s-going-to-kill-us-all monster is an emo kid. Pure Disney in its latest and less amusing form.

So was I right or was I wrong in fearing that this movie was going to be inconsistent?
Well, I was right, but for the wrong reasons.
The trouble is not Fantastic Beasts (the booklet). The trouble is the broader story underneath.
Harry Potter started with a very dark, very twisted setting: killings, orphanage, war, prophecies, secrets stirring.
Fantastic Beasts starts with a Niffler.
And though I am very fond of the little guy, I don’t believe this is what narratives should be about.
Science Fiction and Fantasy both have a great power and a great responsibility: they tell stories that are out of our world in order to make us understand ours a little more. The art though is not being able to do this: everyone can do this with a couple of metaphores and a niffler. The art is doing this without being obvious. It’s a test that this first Fantastic Beasts is tragically failing at.

We’re back!

Yeah, it has been intense.
Yeah, it has been tough.
But me and my BIM manager made through it succesfully, we didn’t get married with Elvis and we even managed not to gamble anything, except my liver.

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Registration of one of our classes is out and you can find it here: it’s called “BIM for Hotels: Revit Automation for Rule-Based Spaces”. You can also find the slides (here) and the handout (here): the latter is a 21 pages article and we are quite fond of it. Give it a look.

Also, you can download the handout of our other class, “The Day Revit Came into Our Lives—Implementation of Best Practices for Small Offices”. You can find it here: it’s 25 pages, we’re proud of it too, it contains pirates and a quiz.

If more material will come out, we’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I highly suggest you watch at least the closing keynote (here). It’s quite hilarious.

Stay tuned!

It’s time

We’re ready.

BIM for Hotels: Revit Automation for Rule-Based Spaces – read the handout
The Day Revit Came into Our Lives: Implementation of Best Practices for Small Offices – read the handout

See you in Vegas at Autodesk University.

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The sexiest thing is trust

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At the technology store

“Good morning, I’d like the explosive one”.

*he stares at me*

“The phone, the one that blows up”.

*he looks puzzled*

“It’s a gift – I explain.

Nothing, I had to settle for the s6.

30.09.2016 – BIM @ Lucca (1)

Ringraziando ancora tutti coloro che sono venuti a vederci lo scorso sabato a Lucca, qui potete visionare la presentazione completa, in versione “animata”.

Se avete dei problemi a visualizzarla, probabilmente il vostro firewall non gradisce i siti indiani. Potete rivolgervi a una versione “statica” della presentazione, su Slideshare.

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Per i più pigri, ho selezionato alcune slide qui sotto.

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Everybody Swings Both Ways

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Happy B-day, everybody.

Quando l’esaminatore non conosce Seneca (o il BIM)

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Tanto tempo fa, prima di darmi al BIM, tra le varie cose mi è anche capitato di insegnare. E, insegnando, mi è capitato di assistere a quel girone infernale che si chiamano esami.
Ricordo tanto tempo fa, durante un esame di maturità, quando il presidente di commissione attribuì a Seneca il Carmen de moribus (che invece è di Catone, altro gran simpaticone).
Ricordo la rabbia e lo smarrimento di fronte a chi avrebbe dovuto certificare le conoscenze di quei ragazzi, e che invece avrebbe dovuto essere rimandato a scuola, senza passare dal via e, soprattutto, senza le 20000 lire.

Orbene, la recente certificazione per esperti BIM promossa da ICMQ mi ha risvegliato un sentimento simile.
Prova scritta a crocette? Validità di tre anni? Prova pratica? In che diamine consiste una prova pratica da BIM coordinator? Coordina una diga e stai sotto a guardarla mentre la riempiamo? E una da BIM manager? Implementa uno studio in tre mesi senza che i professionisti ti brucino casa? E, dulcis in fundo, un test orale. Su cui non farò nessun commento, perché sono una signora.

Non volevo parlarne, per non pubblicizzare un’iniziativa che ritengo essere profondamente dannosa per lo sviluppo del Paese.
Poi ho visto tanti illustri colleghi, anche stranieri, misurarsi con la stessa problematica, primo fra tutti Casey Rutland che vince la palma d’oro con il suo paragone tra la certificazione BIM e l’esame di nuoto.
Poi ho incontrato i colleghi del BIM user group (ricordate? BIM night e tanta birra) e ho scoperto di non essere l’unico professionista indignato.
Ne è nata una discussione.
E dalla discussione è nato un pamphlet.
Potete scaricarlo qui.
E, come sempre, formarvi la vostra opinione in merito.

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