BIM Conference 2015 Reflections and the Aftermath of The Great Recession
From 2013 to…
In preparation for writing this post, I went back and reread my thoughts from the 2013 BIM Conference in San Diego. Part of me just wanted to copy and paste that post, updating the names and experiences with their analogs from this year. It’d be easy:
Instead of being recognized on my way to my hotel room, I was first recognized while waiting for the shuttle bus to the hotel.
Instead of being at a conference with 150 people where I had met maybe ten people in person but knew a quarter via the Internet, I was at a conference with almost twice that number of people where I had met a quarter of the attendees in person but knew dozens more via the Internet (and even more knew me).
Just like in 2013, the CEO of GRAPHISOFT, Viktor Varkonyi, and a number of other key people from Budapest were in attendance. Instead of being too timid to chit-chat with the CEO, this time everyone was taking photos with Viktor. I’ve included one of my favorites in this post: Flash and Jon are flanking Viktor, all looking quite happy. Flash and Jon both work for Hopkins, Minnesota based Wilkus Architects and are big ArchiCAD fans. I’ve known Flash and Jon for years, but hadn’t seen them since I moved from Minnesota.
Just like in 2013, all the attendees got to see what was coming in the next release of ArchiCAD. This tweet sums it up best.
Just like in 2013, we all left the event feeling energized, proud to use ArchiCAD, and eager to tackle the future. We also got a special treat at the end of the event involving a head-to-head speed comparison of ArchiCAD 18 and another BIM software that was also released in 2014. It was fun to see how fast ArchiCAD 18 was in contrast to that other software. It was a beautiful bonding moment for all the attendees. We all sat there, laughing, smiling, sharing knowing glances at friends new and old, and watching the disparity between these two powerful programs as Ransom and Josh tried to copy more and more elements. One, ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand…
Find someone in your local community who was there and ask for more details. They’ll be able to explain; but quite honestly, you had to be there.
As should be no surprise, the event was wonderful. I could fill a dozen blog posts with all the shareable anecdotes, conversations, and encounters we all had. Everyone learned a ton; Zoltan’s CineRender seminars were incredible and all the gurus’ favorite words were the same: Template, template, template, template (OpenBIM, IFC), template, template, template. There was of course intense non-stop networking. And it’s a safe assumption that everyone who attended wants to come again, just like everyone who I talked to who attended in 2013 but not 2015 lamented their failure to make it, commenting that they wanted to be at the next event. For the record, the lack of re-attendance was pretty much universally due to too much work and not enough time to do anything but work.
Events like these are always jam-packed with awesomeness and there are always a few moments or concepts that stand out. One of the main themes in 2015 was the future. We all got a sneak peak of the next iteration of ArchiCAD and heard about the overall direction of where Graphisoft wants to take our beloved BIM program. It’s pretty exciting stuff and makes me extra excited to be an ArchiCAD-using architect. But we all know (or can assume) great things are coming down the pipeline. After all, for just about every major architectural software out there, there’s another version coming each calendar year. And this has pretty much been the case for a long, long time.What really stood out about the future was the other users. Take Patrick May, for instance. Patrick was one of three panelists on the Power User Panel I moderated (which by the way was the best ArchiCAD user panel, ever). I’ve known Patrick for awhile now, though we only finally met in Vegas. We’ve collaborated on a number of articles and helped each other solve all sorts of ArchiCAD problems. He has an excellent ArchiCAD blog and is making that awesome leap from local BIM hero known only to his coworkers to BIM expert known to the global community. I’ve been watching this shift for months now, but I saw the turning point.
After the session, I sat down with Graphisoft’s VP of Marketing to talk about some upcoming excitement (it happened to be a spare moment for both of us, and yes “sitting down with the VP of X or Y” is something that happens at these sorts of Graphisoft events). While Ákos and I were talking, I watched what was going on in the rest of the room. The audience was flooding the panelists. Each of the three (the others being Ken Adler and Ken Huggins) spent the next fifteen or so minutes talking shop with a number of people. Chatting with Patrick May the next morning over donuts, he commented how after that panel he got so many business cards, had people coming up to him to introduce themselves, and in general spent the remainder of the conference being someone people were wanting to listen to. It was an awesome transformation, and I know it’s just the beginning. The same way that Nathan Hildebrandt went from writing a guest post on a well known ArchiCAD blog in January 2014 to flying from Australia to Las Vegas to give a killer talk in March 2015, I expect you’ll be seeing and hearing from Patrick a lot more.
2017 and Beyond
Both Patrick and Nathan are rising voices in the ArchiCAD community, but they are also what I’d call second generation ArchiCAD gurus. My rough hypothesis is that we are on the cusp of the third generation. What am I talking about? Let me back up. When I started learning ArchiCAD, I spent all my educational time on the ArchiCAD-Talk forum. While I was there, I learned from so many ArchiCAD greats. Many of these forum participants started using ArchiCAD in the 80s and early 90s. By the time I was figuring out the program in 2006 some of them had moved on to positions at Graphisoft, or other interesting places. A lot of the prominent voices in our community now are either still those early users (I’m looking at you Link) or those of us that I consider the second generation who learned from them before the financial crisis of the late 00s. Patrick and Nathan, while only now speaking out in the community are both long time ArchiCAD users (version 9.0 and 6.0 EDU, respectively), so they fit into this pre-recession group.
The Great Recession has had a far reaching impact on the AEC industry, obviously. And a unique example of that was very clear at the 2015 BIM Conference. There were a few times when a speaker would ask for a show of hands, looking to understand the same information: when we all started using ArchiCAD. The speaker would call out a version of ArchiCAD and if you hadn’t used it, you’d put down your hand.
ArchiCAD 18: almost all the hands were up (some people are still on old versions). ArchiCAD 17: a few less. ArchiCAD 16: a bunch less. ArchiCAD 12-15: almost no change. ArchiCAD 11: less. ArchiCAD 10: a few less. ArchiCAD 9: more hands going down…and so on. Eventually a few proud users would shout out 4.55! 3.1! 2.0! I helped smuggle Apple computers with Gábor!
There are a lot of people who learned in 11 or earlier, and I’m seeing a lot of people who started on 17 and especially 18. But there is a clear gap in when people started using ArchiCAD. I used to wonder why there were no new gurus popping up for a few years, why I rarely met someone whose first version of ArchiCAD was 14 or 15. Typically the story with v14 or v15 went “I was laid off and missed using ArchiCAD, so when I started my own firm I bought ArchiCAD 15”. And therein lies my answer. Since few firms, especially in the USA were hiring during the Great Recession, not many people had the opportunity to learn ArchiCAD during those years. What versions came out during the darkest times? ArchiCAD 12 was released in 2008 and ArchiCAD 16 in 2012.
What does this have to do with BIM Conferences?
Like many ArchiCAD users, I’m already counting the days to the as yet scheduled next event. I don’t know when it’ll be or where it’ll be. In the spirit of Las Vegas, I’d wager that the next big Graphisoft North America conference will be sometime around 2017. And I’d also bet that the attendance will nearly double again. And the quality of presentations will double again (did I mention that above?). And the number of speakers will increase. And the general awesomeness will triple (that’s how math works).
I know when I write the next recap post, it’ll start the same way: new friends, old friends, bigger crowds. I will then write about all the great voices we didn’t know about in 2015. When I saw all the hands raised for people who’s first version of ArchiCAD was 17 or 18, it made me smile. When I met users in their mid-20s who had been sent by their firms, it made me wonder: will some of these users be the speakers in 2017 or 2019? Will they be the next bloggers? What great advice will they give? How will they—unburdened by memories of Plotmaker, Materials, Lightworks, etc.—transform the utilization and creative power of ArchiCAD?
There is an intern reading this article who has just started learning ArchiCAD. Maybe she is still at the point where she is frustrated with the program. It’s more burden than joy. Or maybe she’s already fallen in love with how ArchiCAD makes her better at her job. Perhaps she even attended the 2015 BIM Conference, and was inspired by one of the lectures to become an expert. That intern or recently licensed architect exists, and in a few years time will be the next great voice. He or she will be the one whom we are all clamoring to meet at the airport, or whom we fly across oceans to have speak to us. That is what excites me most about the conference I just attended: seeing the beginnings of the next generation of ArchiCAD gurus, pioneers, and experts.
Now that the recession is over and firms are investing again, I expect a flood of new ArchiCAD talent to emerge.
Let’s not wait
What do you say? Are you ready to be that next voice? Or do you think one of your coworkers or employees should be? I want to meet. I want to talk via Skype and e-mail. I want to provide a platform to collaborate, to write guest posts, and to challenge us all. I want to find the hidden power users who we all need to be listening to at the next big Graphisoft North America event. You with me?
Leave a comment below or e-mail me. Let’s do this.
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