Thursday, August 9, 2012

August Meeting

Attendees: Dave Bleiman, Mario Guttman, James McKenzie, Karen Thomas, Dan Tsui, Marla Ushijima

Dan updated us all on his status - he's left Modulus Consulting to go back to school and get his MBA. Dave questioned whether a cost-benefit analysis of an MBA would pencil out in terms of finances and increased earning potential. Dan seems to have sufficient academic curiosity to make it worthwhile for him.

Mario told us about an exciting project he's working on with Tim Meador called Hummingbird, which uses the Model Builder in Mario's WhiteFeet Tools to translate Rhino/Grasshopper geometry into Revit models. Mario referenced a couple of blogs that provide more information: and

We discussed the plethora of software for BIM coordination, cloud computing, and project management. Autodesk is especially redundant within their own organization as they're busily buying up all their possible competitors. Horizontal Glue (which they bought last year) has been folded into BIM 360 Glue, which is like "Navisworks in the cloud". It handles various file formats within a shared environment, somewhat analogous to Google docs. It has a model viewer and redmark editor, and integrates with CMIC for construction and capital management. Autodesk also recently bought Vela, for field management and BIM viewing. Hopefully Autodesk will leverage their hegemony to improve workflow and communication among all the various tools.

Talking about cloud security brought up some anecdotes regarding hacking. Dave relayed the case of the Wired reporter whose life was hacked - multiple accounts (Apple, Twitter, Google, Amazon) taken over with passwords reset via telephone, and all his personal data and devices wiped clean. As a result the various companies are no longer changing passwords over the phone. Linked In was also hacked, and now they "salt" passwords by adding something to them prior to encryption, as there are a limited number of encryption algorithms available. Marla passed on a warning about unsolicited text messages: thieves can set up accounts to receive donations (such as were used to raise funds for victims of Katrina and the Japanese tsunami). They then go on a massive spam campaign, sending out messages with the option to prevent further messages by sending a reply of "stop", but as soon as you do that you're hit with a $5 or $10 "donation" charged to your phone bill. Dave also mentioned that Bank of America was hacked by hijacked phone systems being used to authorize wire transfers.

Karen brought up Deltek Vision accounting software, saying it was the worst business decision that Hilliard Architects ever made - it's just overkill for small firms. Dave doesn't trust it to evaluate efficiency, as Deltek tracks cost by multiplier and thus paints a deceptive picture. Dave uses raw costs only. Axium was mentioned as an alternative to Deltek.

Marla canvassed people on how they're using Newforma. Rutherford & Chekene uses it only as an email aggregator for project-oriented communication. Hilliard Architects hasn't bought it. Karen questions its value as an ftp site, though recognized the potential value for proactively tracking downloads by consultants. She remained unconvinced about the ultimate value of that, as she thought that regular communications should reveal questions.

James described the process of the VDC team at Swinerton. They do a minimum of work on high-level direction. They push most things down to the project level. Not only is it billable that way, but it's also more efficient, as value is evaluated more rigorously by a project manager.

There was some discussion on the purpose and value of a firm's cyber presence on social media such as Twitter and Linked In. We questioned the effectiveness as a marketing strategy - which seems how it's typically used - but came to the conclusion that it's now pretty much de rigueur and that just showing the link logos on the firm website lends a certain air of tech cred.