Laiserin's Lemma—Have a Nice Day
(lemma: a short theorem used in proving a larger theorem)
Jerry Laiserin

The indefatigable Martyn Day has contributed still more of his rapier-sharp insights—and we respond. Unable to "afford such complacency" and preferring "historical accuracy over hyperbole," Martyn hurls the ultimate trans-Atlantic barb: "sounds like you work for Autodesk!" (albeit with a tacked on).

> "First off, I think you should have left the analogy in situ [Martyn is referring here to my editing of and response to his contribution to Issue Nineteen's LLetters—JL]. While not 'AEC,' it was a good example that people can fail to predict the use and deployment of new technology. Another one, more AEC specific, I recently dug up was that of Thomas Edison's concrete houses. It's not commonly known, but the inventor of the light bulb also thought that concrete was the way forward for affordable housing (for slum dwellers).

"While concrete did and does play a role in affordable and unaffordable housing (yes I live in London ), Edison decided that houses should be created as a single piece cast-concrete structure from a mold—this included the picture frames, bathtubs etc. They were a complete disaster, expensive to create and uninhabitable when the irreparable cracks started to appear as the concrete in the houses settled—they were literally a wash-out.

"After that disaster he moved on to try and make concrete record players, pianos and bedroom furniture [and so on—JL]. Obviously concrete is used today but perhaps not how this venerable inventor saw fit.

"As for this bit:
'As for nit-picking the Autodesk Revit white paper (PDF), I wouldn't lay all the blame for your "1,000 words in notes" at Phil Bernstein's doorstep. The current incarnation of that paper carries the spirit of Revit white papers from that product's previous life in the independent Revit Technology Corporation (RTC). As a privately held USA corporation, RTC was not held to the same standards of veracity as is a publicly owned company such as Autodesk. Consequently, some RTC pronuncamientos seemed to fly perilously close to a gray zone that I call revitas—which contains the same elements as veritas (the truth), just slightly scrambled.'

"I have read the Revit white papers and the new Autodesk one and there are differences; while the principles are the same, my issue is with the woolly language, lack of depth and sheer assumption of the Autodesk effort. I take issue with the person who's name is on the work and therefore who's view this is allegedly attributed to. Perhaps people who have contributed their thoughts countering my output on this issue shouldn't lay the blame with me but should perhaps contact my parents and other influences on my opinion?!! To be serious, the 'spirit' of all these papers is that of the Single Building Model concept, that you want to call BIM, it was never exclusive to Revit, as BDS and Sonata were there a long time before.

"On the subject of white papers, it has to be said that Revit was a small company, so its opinion and impact on the market wasn't really a big issue for debate—it had some very interesting technology and in many ways its customers were exclusively self-selecting. For Autodesk to take this product up, herald it as the replacement of its existing foundation platform, impacting G-d knows how many users, and then crank its global sales and marketing machinery behind it—well hell, sure, yes, I am going to be considerably more 'veracious' in pursuit of explanation of technology and process-fit. I think Revit is still a great product but should not be approached blindly just because it' s backed up by the industry giant. The concerted effort put into Revit by Autodesk in the past few months and the sheer scale of impact makes the analysis of the message that much more pertinent.

"As for this bit:
'As a corporate entity, Autodesk adheres to the highest standards in its public statements, and I would be confident that any lingering ambiguities in the Revit white paper will soon be rectified.'

"All a bit worrying, sounds like you work for Autodesk! What I can say is that I admire your implicit trust and confidence in the marketing efforts of corporate entities. Unfortunately, my thirteen years as a technology journalist have taught me, through many bitter lessons, that I can not afford such complacency.

"Re: The invention of CAD bit—I prefer historical accuracy over hyperbole any day. I find studying history can be an excellent teacher. Had 'BIM' been a success in those early systems, we would not be having this debate. I'd love to hear from those readers of yours that used BDS, RUCAPS or Sonata."

> Hmmmm? As before, I'll take Martyn's points in reverse order. No dispute about "historical accuracy over hyperbole" (before architecture school and before business school, I took my undergraduate degree in history). No one in this debate, not me nor any of the vendors involved so far—Autodesk, Bentley Systems and Graphisoft—has claimed to have invented CAD or BIM, nor to "own" the names.

> Re my "implicit trust and confidence in the marketing efforts of corporate entities," I'll plead not guilty. I was and am placing my trust and confidence in the enforcement powers of the USA Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) and the private class-action lawsuit "industry" to discipline the public pronouncements of corporations with publicly-held securities. My point was that privately-held entities, such as the pre-acquisition Revit Technology Corporation, are not held to the same standards.

> One of the most encouraging signs of health in a market economy is the symbiosis between venturesome startup companies and established players. Autodesk acquired Revit, and will develop and market it, just as it had acquired, developed and marketed the former Softdesk programs that underlie Autodesk Architectural Desktop—and Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) acquired, developed and attempted to market Reflex, and Alias|Wavefront had acquired, developed and attempted to market Sonata before that. No one is giving Autodesk a "free ride" just because they acquired some spiffy technology and have the development muscle and marketing power to capitalize on it.

> As for the provenance of the Autodesk Revit white paper—and the competing Bentley white paper (PDF) and Graphisoft white paper by CyonResearch (PDF) —my primary interest in launching this BIM debate was to challenge assumptions and open a dialog. So please let me know what you think.

Editor and Publisher, The LaiserinLetter
Analysis, Strategy and Opinion for Technology Leaders in Design Business

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