These are interesting times. I believe it is the Chinese who use that as a curse, "May you live in interesting times." As an architect it has definitely been interesting for most of the past decade.
Not too long ago, anywhere from 20% to 40% of us had found ourselves unemployed or underemployed. That has slowly changed, but for a while it looked like the new normal.
The Bad News
The mega-firms dominate the design landscape.
The world we operate in is getting more and more complicated. Is anything less complicated than it was 15 years ago?
Complexity favors the large firm over the small firm even though the 120,000 architects in the United States are still predominantly employed in firms of less than 20 people. Firms of five people are the most common. A pizza shop has more employees.
How to survive? How to flourish?
Have you ever screwed up?
I do all the time. Luckily, the vast majority of my screw ups are small and don't affect anyone else.
When you make a mistake as an architect, the ramifications can get alarming very quickly.
When I was a kid, I had grass cutting jobs. So I have a degree of professional insight into ‘lawn technology’. I always mowed a lawn by starting on the perimeter and spiraling in toward the center.
My neighbor mows his lawn on a diagonal!
*thinking: “what a jerk”.*
But then I reconsidered…
As you can see, my garage could use some organization.
The new Costco isn't helping.
Luckily there is an IKEA 20 minutes away.
Pick a cabinet. Assemble it. Put stuff in cabinet. Easy.
Not for me ... I like to organize, so I organized the organization project.
Here are just 6 of the 18 pages in my digital notebook (Inkflow for iPad).
THE SIX PHASES OF A PROJECT
3. P a n i c.
4. Search for the guilty.
5. Punishment of the innocent.
6. Praise and honors for the non-participants.
Unfortunately this is true more often than not.
Flying is a terrible experience.
TSA makes it even worse.
I can't wait for the "intermodal transport capsule" to be developed where I can travel by boarding a capsule in my driveway that delivers me to any point on the planet by planes, trains, and automobiles. Like 'Uber'esque shipping containers.
In the meantime, instead of spending $7 billion a year on the TSA why not spend $1 billion for rudimentary airport security and put the other $6 billion a year into a trust fund to pay reparations to any US citizens killed by terrorists. This would make it counterproductive for terrorists to kill Americans because all that happens is that those Americans' families become rich through the trust fund. A capitalistic counterpoint to the jihadist's martyrdom.
Let's say the terrorists find a way to kill 1,000 people per year. Using an annuity scheme for the payments, that would allow a reparation to the victims' families of $12+ million per death.
This would cover all terrorist activities not just airlines. Maybe the NSA could contribute some of their budget!
It's inevitable that TSA is going to miss a major terrorist initiative. Wouldn't the families of victims be better off with this modest proposal?
I have to credit The Economist for getting me thinking about this. They published an article this week titled, "No More Of The Same, Please". The issue is even bigger now since the attacks in Paris. It is depressing to see what $7 billion per year is buying.
HOW TO SELECT AN ARCHITECT
This article is taken from information that I have shared with clients and potential clients. You might find a use for it in your work. Feel free to modify it to suit your needs.
Selecting an architect should be a lot different from the competitions, RFQs, RFPs, and presentations that are used most of the time. These selection processes obscure what's really important; and they distract you from your criteria for quality, schedule, and budget. These processes have their basis in trying to correct abuses in the selection process for public projects. If you are familiar with the level of satisfaction with public projects, you will know that this process guarantees absolutely nothing. This is a shame, because finding the right architect will determine your project's real success. Any architect can design you a building, but not every architect can give you the building that you need and that you can afford.
First, form your selection committee, which could be just one person or a small committee of four to six (the fewer the better). The selection committee should be key members of the building committee that has set the goals for the project. Once you form your selection committee, the process described here has four steps.
A. Select buildings you admire and talk to the owners about their architects.
B. Ask acquaintances who have used an architect for their suggestions and their level of satisfaction.
C. Check the Yellow Pages listings of Architects for names that ring a bell.
D. Contact the firms whose names keep coming up. Request a list of projects that are similar to what you intend, the building owner's contact person, and basic information on the firm. You will already be getting a feel for which firms are appropriate. Contact as many as you wish, but six is plenty.
E. Weed out the firms who haven't much experience in your type of building or with your type of organization. These are two critical qualifications. Also consider if the size of the firms is too big or too small. No matter the size of the firm, there will only be two to six people working on your project. The smallest firm you are comfortable with is a good measure to keep in mind.
F. Visit several buildings of each architect you are considering and talk to the owners. Ask whether they are happy with the results; what works, what doesn't, would they hire the architect again. This should be three or four firms. This could be delegated to a staff or committee member.
G. Allow about two months for this research.
2) INITIAL INTERVIEW
A. Make appointments with two or three firms you are feeling the best about. Go to their office for the interview. Do not ask for a presentation.
B. Informally interview them. Ask all the questions that are important to you (see samples). Ask why you should consider their firm. Ask what they would like to tell you that hasn't come up, and listen for compatibility between what is important to you and what they want you to know about them.
C. This will take two to three weeks.
3) FOLLOW UP INTERVIEW
A. Select the one or two firms that you really like. If you can't say this about any, repeat the research and initial interviews.
B. Meet with them to discuss your needs, schedule, budget and any hurdles you must address. Ask for their feedback on your plans. This kind of meeting will tell you a lot; but it will take several hours.
C. Ask your favorite one or two firms for a detailed proposal of services - what do they propose to do to get you where you want to go. Include fees now or discuss later. Bear in mind that the difference in fees between firms will probably represent less than one percent or so of the entire project cost. Getting a building that is a good fit for you is more important than getting the cheapest fee.
D. Let them propose however they want - in person, in writing, both. When you see this proposal, it should feel "right" to you.
E. Select the firm that you feel most confident in. Make sure you have seen plenty of the people you will really be working with - not just the sales team that will soon vanish when you have been 'sold'.
F. This can be done in two to four weeks.
A. Negotiate a fee and contract with the firm you have selected.
B. Authorize them to proceed.
This process usually takes more effort on your part, but the success of your project requires it. Think of it as 'due diligence'. You are about to make a major expenditure!
orig post date May 2013
Thanks to my brother for passing this on; and thanks to the Whistleblower.
Do you have a good password solution? Sometimes I think I do. Sometimes I work on improving my passwords. Mostly I wish I had a magic wand. With about 150 login credentials and passwords, it is a major task. But I've taken the first step. Yesterday I bought the password app, 1Password. In a few days (months?) I should have everything in the $18 app that works on iPhone and iPad, synchs with iCloud; and will work with my Mac, too, once I buy the MacApp for $70.
I know. Almost a hundred bucks to solve a problem I may never have. How does that make sense?
Well, I am convinced that it is just a matter of time until we all get hacked. Current wisdom is that you need individual passwords for each use, and those passwords need to be letters, numbers and symbols that don't appear anywhere. Otherwise the hacker can turn his computer on the problem and it will discover the match within minutes or hours.
I began doing this. The problem, of course, is that you have no chance of remembering 10 of these passwords, much less 150. So you need a place to store them on your phone so you always have them with you. I can't find a method that can't be hacked. 1Password provides that storage place behind a password and encryption, but so do others. The features that make it my choice are:
So here's the plan.
If I do 2.5 passwords a day on average, in a mere two months I'm done!
Hmmmm, I guess I need to do 10 per day...
1Password is available for Android and Windows, too, so everyone can jump on board.
BTW I first heard of 1Password when I noticed it was on the the home screens of quite a few folks at 37signals. I'm a real fan-boy of 37signals, so I looked it up.
There's an update to be found here...
Original post date 2/27/14
I think the big opportunities for computerization in design firms lies mostly outside of design, not entirely, but mostly. By lying outside of design I mean in project documentation and in other office functions. My candidates include:
So in design, what is a candidate? By design I mean the layout, look and feel of the building. This is a list off the top of my head
The uniqueness of buildings keeps this list short. And it will probably always remain short. Project documentation and other office functions make up the lion’s share of the time we spend, so the real opportunities for time savings lie there. In those areas, if we use computers well, then more time is created for the important stuff - design.
Orig post date: 1/12/14
Right up front - I'm an Apple fanboy.
But there are limits. I can't warm up to the watch.
Apple's new mobile operating system, OS 9, is very nice. 1Password, my password manager, is able to work much smoother in OS 9. Multi-tasking. I do this a lot. Sometimes using both phone and tablet as a work-around. Being able to reference another app in the sidebar is very nice. It would be really nice on the larger iPad Pro. Notes with handwriting. This is the first handwriting app that synchs between phone and tablet (that I know of). Does handwriting pretty well and it will get better. The iCloud drive app lets you open files created in one app in another app. I'm surprised that I want to do this, but it is happening regularly.
Can't wait for the new Apple TV.
On October 1st Weebly surprised everyone with a new update. Weebly Carbon. The update has new features to make websites better.
But there were problems. In spite of testing (supposedly) Carbon is buggy. Really buggy. Users noticed. And complained. On Twitter (@weebly). And on the blog announcing the release (http://www.weebly.com/blog/carbon). 600 comments and growing.
Evernote pulled off a similar feat in the past year by revamping Penultimate to be more like notes in Evernote. Just about everything that made Penultimate the best handwriting app for tablets was reimagined. And screwed up. At least that is what their users told Evernote. Over the following weeks several reimagined features were returned to a shadow of their former selves.
I don't use Penultimate any more.
If I could easily migrate to another website building service, I would stop using Weebly. They will fix the bugs eventually. But a company that would release such a mess and without warning or any fallback solution is not a company that deserves anyones trade.
Shame on you Weebly.
MailChimp is my new tool for emailing the blogs to subscribers. I decided to make use of a MailChimp feature that allows a subscriber to choose which Groups to belong to. I've created a Group for each of the three blogs that are part of Architekwiki. You are probably most familiar with WIKI, since it is the home page. DETAILS has a number of articles that have been popular. I don't add new articles as frequently as I once did, but it is growing.
Today I added my Personal Blog, this blog, back to the navigation menu. There was a hiatus on articles appearing here while I was involved with the Corbu Project.
So there are three blogs that you can follow. When you subscribe, there are check boxes to indicate which blogs you are interested in. Once subscribed, you can change this through a preference link in the footer of each email.
MailChimp is awfully easy to use. We will see if I was able to screw it up anyway.
Today I added Boomerang to my Gmail accounts.
Should have done it six months ago.
If you use Gmail or Google Apps, add the Boomerang App or extension to your Chrome browser for added functionality with your email account.
1) Send an email to limbo after specifying when you want it to return.
2) Get a SEND LATER button for scheduling when to send an email.
3) Get an alert if you don’t get a reply to your email.
4) Get Read receipts.
I have probably ranted about BIM enough, so rather than start up again, I'll just give you this handy table of contents - five articles expressing my views.
The problem with BIM is ... well, I'm starting up again. Just read on.
The BIM Revolution
BIM Is Sick
BIM Webinar Thoughts
Are You Ready For BIM?
How Long Till BIM Heaven
Over the past 18 months I have published a number of articles on software tools that a designer might find useful. Most are tangential to actual design. Some are focused on the software, others on the procedures or the concepts.
Collected below are links to six of those articles, which give a sampling of the past software-related articles.
Unique Feature Of Gmail TASKS
Gmail TASKS has one feature no one else has.
Useful Mobile Apps
I find these groups of apps very handy. There are over 40 in 11 categories.
A Field Measuring App
I find this app helps me do a better and more effective job of my time spent measuring-up.
This app for Google Chrome can do bubble diagrams among other tasks you see from time to time.
Accounting Software Criteria
What to look for when considering a new accounting package.
Accounting Software Comparison
A comparison of 14 accounting apps.
Phase 1 is complete!
If you don't know what I am talking about, here is where it all started.
There are 91 items in my 1Password app now. I expected more. The process wrapped up faster than I expected because as you dig deeper and deeper into your password 'archive' you find more and more websites that you have no intention of ever using again or that you don't even recognize.
So Phase 1 was putting everything into 1Password, and Phase 2 will be cleaning up the duplicates and the weak passwords; and then continue on with replacing the remaining items with strong, unique passwords.
With Phase 1 complete I can begin using 1Password for every login and forget about my old system.
Evernote played a large part in my old system. I tagged entries so I could search for them. This was important because I got the idea that the passwords were safer if they were not text. So I was storing marked up screenshots and pictures of handwritten login credentials. Often I referred myself to a third 'key' for the actual password.
If 1Password is a '9' on a scale of 1-10, my system was a '4.5'. But as I've said, the real problem was the time it would take to find the password when I was using a different computer or device than usual or even a different browser.
So I'm basking in the warm glow of having made the switchover to 1Password. Ahead is a few weeks of updating some old passwords every day until everything is up to speed. All in all this changeover hasn't been all that painful.
While I am on my password kick, it's hard to get off the topic. Hopefully I will get back to Architekwiki soon. In the meantime... While I have been going through my cache of passwords, I came across an article from late 2011 that I had saved. I had been aspiring to follow the advice that James Fallows outlines in his Atlantic blog. That advice differs from the path I am on now, but I can see that it is pretty well-thought-out. So I am going to paraphrase it here for you.
The challenge with passwords is to over come the Catch 22: “Passwords that are easy to remember can be easy to hack, and passwords that are hard to hack can be impossible to remember.”
One technique that you can use to solve the Catch 22 is phrases. Basically you use a string of words. An example would be: Cold weather isn't tropical! This 28 character long password would be nearly impossible to hack/guess. And you could change the “o”s to “0” and the “a”s to “#”s for good measure. Something like this example beats the Catch 22, but it breaks down when you have 100 of them. You can't remember 100 phrases (I can't anyway), and you can't remember which one is used where.
One solution to this impasse is to duplicate some passwords based on the value of what you are protecting. This is “going against the rules”, but if the risks are minimal...? For example, let's say you list and rank the sites you use like this:
There are other worthwhile ideas in the article I referenced above, and you might find they give you the amount of security you want. My desire is to have the security without the “remembering”. In other words I would rather learn a system that does the managing and remembering for me.
The Final Update can be found here.
Well, it's been a few days now since I undertook the password project and there have been a few surprises. In case you need to catch up, here’s the first post. So what are the surprises?
First, 1Password for the Mac is $50 rather than $70 so I am under budget!
Second, 1Password for the Mac really makes getting your passwords into 1Password very easy. If you have 1Password running, then whenever you go to a website with a login, you are prompted to add it to 1Password. In light of this, and another tool I'll describe in a minute, I have changed my workflow a bit. Now it is:
1Password keeps a history of your passwords as you update them. That's comforting, but I'm not sure how useful it is. What is useful is being able to store a file with the password information. This is really useful if you have documented some security questions/answers by screenshot.
One thing I am surprised by is that app passwords aren't addressed. I am treating those as logins, too, even though it is clear that logins are intended for websites. I suppose there isn't much sensitive information in an app and/or it's stored on the device and inaccessible. Hmmm.
Anyways, I've stored 55 items already. I should be able to get the switchover to 1Password accomplished in a couple more days. My hurry is driven by the fact that for these next few days I will have to check two places to find the password that I have forgotten. This happens nearly once or twice a day - right when you don't want it to happen. So things will get (a little) worse before they get lots better.
You can follow the saga at this update.
I get a surprising amount of work done in this chair with just five tools.
orig post date 6/9/2013