Company blogs for ARCHICAD users
I mentioned in one of my recent posts that user groups don’t need special online groups or dedicated blogs, mostly because they are too small to create critical mass. I stand by that comment, but there is another type of small organization that greatly benefits from having an ARCHICAD blog: companies.
There is a long tradition of design firms sharing their internal ARCHICAD knowledge and protocols with the greater community. These company blogs focus on the firms’ internal needs, but share that with the world. It’s a way to transfer and distribute information to both current employees and the greater community. If an architecture firm is lucky, they have an employee with both a broad knowledge of ARCHICAD and a deep understanding of how to problem solve within the program. It is important to share that expertise with coworkers. And while those of us who fit that description might think “daily lunch and learns, strict training regimes, endless template development, and monthly user groups” sound like awesome ideas, we also think “spending our days saying the same thing over and over again to each coworker” gets a bit exhausting. It’s much more effective to centralize the distribution of our knowledge, focus on explaining things once with text, images, and/or video, and then be able to share that again and again. Blogs are the natural solution to this because they are searchable, easy to maintain, and accessible from anywhere. If an employee has a problem, they can be anywhere in the world and still have easy access to the collective ARCHICAD knowledge they need to stay productive. Furthermore, a user can review the help provided on the blog as often as they like; once a problem is solved, the BIM manager doesn’t have to continuously address the same issue.
Below are my favorite USA based ARCHICAD firm blogs, and two honorable mentions. All these blogs and bloggers continually inspire me to keep sharing and producing. Each blog (and blogger) is a great example of why (and how) your firm should have a blog.
James Murray of Rill Architects in Maryland has been maintaining Onland.info since 2003. To the best of my knowledge, Onland.info is the first and longest lasting of the ARCHICAD blogs. If there was one before that, please let me know in the comments; I don’t want to slight anyone. Onland has been a powerhouse in ARCHICAD blogging since before most of us even knew what ARCHICAD was. For insane perspective, in July 2003 when James started writing about ARCHICAD, I had just finished my senior year of college, Apple had just introduced the itunes store a few months earlier, and a few months later camera phones were still new enough that Time Magazine was writing about them in their best of 2003 lists. Or maybe more appropriately, James’ second post is about telling his coworkers to start new projects in ARCHICAD 8. It was a long time ago.
I’ve written about Onland tons of times and it’s a topic I could probably write about non-stop for the next decade and still have more to share. I’ll prove to you how great Onland is using only two posts. Read James’ second post, the one about moving from ARCHICAD 7 to 8. There are obviously countless improvements since then—and a lot of the post is hyper specific to James’ 2003 coworkers—but think about how much of that advice is still applicable. Now realize most of us will be jumping from 18 to 19 over the next couple of months. Does reading that post give you some ideas for how you’ll explain the jump between versions to your coworkers? It’s pretty easy to imagine how one could rewrite that blog post for one’s own coworkers in 2015. Still not sold? Let’s look at James’ first post. Okay, even better than that. Let’s look at the first paragraph James ever wrote:
In my latest attempt to not 1) expect everyone to remember everything, 2) expect myself to remember to tell everyone everything, 3) talk 9 hrs/day, I have begun this website.
That’s it. That’s why you as the keeper of the ARCHICAD secrets in a firm should start a blog. It doesn’t have to be a work of art, it just needs to be documented and shared.
Brian Spears of CJMW Architecture in North Carolina started the CJMW ArchiCAD blog in early 2014. It’s great and—of all the blogs I talk about in this post—it’s the one you should be trying to recreate for yourself. Brian posts on average once or twice a month, which I’m guessing is all he has time to do. The posts are super informative and very applicable to his coworkers. I know that Brian would love to be able to share more often (we’ve talked about this), but (if I’ve learned one thing about blogging since I started in 2010) what matters is persistence. One post a month for a decade is better than ten posts a month for ten months and then nothing ever again. I look at what Brian started in 2014 and hope that what I’m watching is the start of another Onland.info.
Patrick May of Walker Warner Architects in California has the newest blog on my list—well if we ignore the fact that the current iteration of his blog is a continuation of a personal BIM blog he started back in early 2013. Patrick is a powerhouse of ARCHICAD blogging these days and WWA BIM is full of great information. I miss the days when I was producing as much as Patrick is now. I’d hold up Patrick as a role model like Brian, but honestly try to emulate Brian. Just be inspired by Patrick. He’s a sharing machine. You will probably burn out fast if you try to share as much as Patrick is right now.As you might have guessed, many of us ARCHICAD bloggers know each other and have become friends through our various online and offline meetings (I had the pleasure of properly meeting both Brian and Patrick at the 2015 BIM Conference). Because of this, we ARCHICAD bloggers e-mail, message, or Tweet each other whenever we have a question or any other need where it’s helpful to have the input from another ARCHICAD pro. When I started writing this post, I reached out to Patrick to ask what he thought were the benefits of a firm blog. Here’s his (paraphrased) main points:
- A company blog is a great way to document and introduce coworkers to new workflows that will improve productivity.
- A company blog is a quick and easy way to relay information from those with BIM and ARCHICAD knowledge to all employees of all experience levels.
- A company blog allows one to share (and get feedback on) firm specific solutions that are valuable to all project teams within the firm.
- A company blog opens a dialogue to develop modeling and documentation solutions without the need to call a meeting for every problem that comes up.
- A company blog can be graphic heavy and more easily describe solutions than an e-mail to one coworker.
- Often a problem being faced by one coworker or project team is also a challenge to others within the firm.
- Sharing with the global community allows the crowdsourcing of solutions being faced by the firm. Often a blog post is just the starting point for a broader discussion via Social Media with other users inside and outside the firm.
- A company blog becomes a single source for all software related troubleshooting and solutions. The average coworker doesn’t need to follow every BIM blog, online forum, discussion group, etc. A company BIM blog becomes the place where users not obsessed with ARCHICAD can more easily learn from the coworker(s) who are.
I can’t talk about ARCHICAD blogs without plugging Bond Bryan BIM, which is run by Rob Jackson. I’m only giving him an honorable mention though because I want to focus this post on USA based firms and Bond Bryan Architects is out of the UK. But whatever. Rob started blogging in 2013 and focuses on general BIM issues rather than just ARCHICAD. It’s a stellar endeavor and something we’ll need to emulate in the USA in the coming years. Part of what got Rob motivated to share his knowledge is government mandated BIM in the UK starting in 2016. When Rob started blogging in 2013, he had the joint task of figuring out how to get ready for 2016 and how to share that knowledge with both coworkers and collaborators. Rob does a TON of other things both internally and externally in this regard, but the blog remains a stalwart backbone for his work. His first post is a good one to read to understand why he started the blog. This doesn’t really fit into the discussion thus far, but another benefit of a firm ARCHICAD blog is that you can use it as a platform to talk about why your work was chosen to be the signature building for a version of ARCHICAD.
Of course I am going to give myself an honorable mention as well. Here’s why: from its very beginning, I modeled my blog after James Murray’s Onland.info, which was a company blog. As an attempt to be a user group blog, I envisioned Shoegnome as a company-less firm blog. And in fact, when I started Shoegnome it was a hybrid of personal blog, user group blog, and unofficial company blog for my day job. A lot of what I was writing about was immensely applicable to the work being done at SALA Architects. If you look at my early posts from 2010 and 2011, it was a lot less big picture than I write about now. Now I write about grand shifts. Soon I’ll write about my thoughts on the concept of ARCHICAD 19. Now I share videos and write about whatever hyper-specific topic I want—whether that’s some ultra basic function like undo or something wildly impossible to tackle like answering the question “I want to learn ArchiCAD, where do I start?”. But when I started, I focused on things like James, Patrick, Brian, and Rob (on a different level) now do.
We need all types of ARCHICAD blogs. We need people pointing to and dreaming about the future. We need others to share the collective knowledge that helps us get things done. Each blogger in his own way shares the secrets of the day to day grind: company standards, project migration tips, how to follow the template, where files are located on internal servers or the cloud, etc. All the sorts of stuff that give the reader a better understanding of how an organization uses ARCHICAD. If a blog post, video, or GDL Object shared on a company blog helps a coworker or fellow ARCHICAD user shave an hour or two off every project, how much more can be accomplished? How much money can be saved, or turned into profit? ARCHICAD company blogs: BIM faster. Hey, where have I heard that before?
- If you share your company standards with the larger community, the odds of a future collaborator or employee already understanding the concept of how you like to work increases exponentially. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons why I started sharing my template. If someone wants to team up with me and I’ve already inadvertently taught them how I like to work, then my life just got a whole lot easier.
- If you have a company ARCHICAD blog, think about making it the homepage for all the employees. Or sign everyone up for the RSS feed so that they get e-mailed every time there’s a new post. Why not? Both those tactics will increase the chance of coworkers learning something to make them better at their jobs.
- If you have a company ARCHICAD blog, people in your firm will get experience in blogging, writing, and social media. Writing a client proposal is easy compared to crafting a blog post meant to engage with thousands of readers. Well it’s easy after you’ve written hundreds and hundreds of blog posts.
- If you have a company ARCHICAD blog, it’s a great place to get more people involved in your firm’s cultural development. All the blogs listed above are written by the top ARCHICAD guru in each firm. But there’s no reason why others can’t also contribute. If an intern shows interest in rendering or GDL or pushing the envelope with ARCHICAD, encourage him to share ideas via the blog. If a project architect has a success story involving a client’s reaction to working with an ARCHICAD enabled team, have her share on the company blog. A company ARCHICAD blog can be both technical and inspirational.
- If you have a company ARCHICAD blog, remember that a post can be a 30 second video, one image with a single sentence, or whatever you want.
- If you have a company ARCHICAD blog, it’s a great place to share schematic work. Not only will it be good marketing, it’ll also show other people in your firm what you’re all working on.
- If you have a company ARCHICAD blog and it becomes popular, that’ll drive more and more traffic to your website. When people search for architects in your area, that’s going to be a big plus.