Be2camp East – the power of collaboration is here

Whilst listening to Paul Wilkinson recount the history of Be2Camp we were reminded on Thursday once again of how important the two complimentary aspects of be2camp are: the face-to-face meetings, and the community we have here online.

With this in mind I thought it would be useful to take some of the ideas we heard on Thursday in Chelmsford and bring them out into the ning site for a bit of further hacking about. This will give those of us who were there to dig a bit deeper, and those who weren’t a chance to get properly involved in the conversation.

I’ve picked some to raise questions about, please join in and add your 2d.


Firstly Gordon O’Neill and Lee Smallwood both put the power of digital video on the table. Gordon explained how effective video is for extending your marketing and campaigning reach, in effect it is a huge PR tool. He also delved into best practice for us as you can see in his slides.

Having heard Gordon prove how important video is and share with us some of his secrets, Lee's stats drove the message home. His nuts-and-bolts tour of Youtube gave the evidence to prove it to the boss, and the tips on how to apply Search Engine Optimisation most effectively.

Are you using video yet? Have you seen it used effectively, or wrongly? Got ideas for how video might help the built environment sector in particular?

iPhone App on Construction Site – Site Clean Up

Peter Daly of SmartBuilder Software made the trip over from Ireland to talk to us on Thursday. His iPhone application for Non Conformance Reports is just one of a series of tools they are developing in their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) package for contractors. We had an interesting discussion afterwards about how contractors use technology at the moment, in particular whether an application like this will work on construction sites.

Having looked at his slides, what issues, or opportunities can you forsee for this type of software. Have you seen iphone apps targeted at contractors? Have you seen a tool like this before?

Real Time Visual Chat – Woobius Eye

Next Bob Leung gave us a demonstration Woobius Eye online visual chat application. We had trouble with WiFi all afternoon (sorry about that, still haven’t worked out why) but Bob managed to carry out a demo of the software very successfully talking to Daniel back in London and them both annotating a picture on the screen. He also showed this video: Woobius Eye Demo

Whenever Bob shows the tool (which is available in your browser for free at people come up with new ideas for how to use it. I think that it is not just for architects but will be popular as a mass market application for people to talk about how to solve problems on the phone when you can't see what the caller can see. Woobius are actively seeking users to help them develop the product. Having seen the demonstration, what thoughts does it bring to mind? How would you use it?

Profitability Comes to Renewables

I'd heard about the Feed In Tarriffs for Renewables which came in this year, but I had no idea that the legislation means that energy companies will pay you over 40p per kWh of renewable energy produced, not just the excess but even the energy you use yourself! Barry Nutley @greenenergychap set out the situation in his presentation and later explained to me that developers and owners of business parks and other large roofed buildings should be considering getting involved in the scheme, either by investing themselves or renting out their roofs to investors.

Do you think the legislation will keep? How safe is that 25 year guarantee? I’m interested in your thoughts.

Getting Historic Types online

Then there was James Mott of Projectbook. He put the entire situation in context by pointing out that 73% of people working in the Heritage Sector have no website and 50% have no email address. How do you encourage people that unconnected to get on board?

James's Presentation is here (can't get it to embed!)

Many Heritage practitioners are one man/woman bands –thatchers, painters, stained glass repairers, historians. It can be a lonely, cliquey job and getting online can help break open the old traditional ways of getting work. As more and more new Web 2.0 connected people join the Heritage Sector the old 'Cowboys' (cue Clint Eastwood!) are going to have to watch out! How do you think we can help James in his campaign to get Heritage practitioners online? What tools would be useful to him?

Inspired to Get On with It

Claire Thirlwall really impressed me on Thursday. She's a perfect example of how James' site, Projectbook, can help get people together and using new tools. I love her unashamedly positive attitude to twitter, and I think she's right about Moneypenny the virtual PA service, I think it is Web 2.0 in its collaborative, online outsourcedness.

One of the great things about attending be2camp events in person is the chance to talk to the people who aren't presenting in between and after the sessions, and I happened to run into a software developer in the break who would entirely agree with Claire. More and more people like her are working on their own or in small groups, away from home, in creative, cost effective ways. Online tools of all sorts are helping them punch above their weight. What tools do you use?

So there are my thoughts. Please add your comments, ideas and issues here and get in touch with the speakers too. Then we can all benefit from each other’s expertise.

Every person I met on Thursday, and all the people round the curry table that evening, were all specialists in their chosen field, and all of them have the sort of knowledge that can save me and you time, and money. So get to know some people who know things you don't. They'll also need
your expertise one day.

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Comment by Peter Daly on June 30, 2010 at 12:19
That is a fair comment, Paul on the " big picture " since the main SaaS offering is not ready to go yet so it's relationship to that is not available at this time. However Site Clean Up is not just a marketing tool - it is also a small useful app for site managers to use on a stand alone basis. We met a range of builders who told us about how much messy housekeeping was costing them, in some cases well over £150,000 per year across all sites. In an industry with tight margins that is money needlessly wasted. This app saves the main contractor money from day one of purchase and will more than pay back its price from the first day of usage. If any of the Be2camp attendees are contractors I would be interested in hearing your views.

As regards the iPhone we are not focusing just on this operating system.

Peter Daly, SmartBuilder Software Ltd, Dublin.
Comment by Paul Wilkinson on June 29, 2010 at 17:31
I would echo much of what Su says, but - for now - I would like to focus on Peter Daly's presentation (partly because I've had email contact with him since Be2campEast2).

To me, I thought Peter didn't really explain what the "bigger picture" of his application is - the NCR reporting tool was perhaps 'one tip of a much bigger iceberg', and without knowing what other functionality is contained in the promised Software-as-a-Service system it was difficult to see if this was a worthwhile way to give people a 'taster'. Will contracts managers, etc, and/or their companies, feel that $19.99 is value for money for a stand-alone app that doesn't (yet) feed into some kind of collaboration application?

Thinking about the platform, I have tended to be a bit sceptical of the value of iPhone apps (96% of the working population don't use iPhones), and there are no 'killer apps' yet that make construction people say I must buy an iPhone (indeed, the corporate tendency in some AEC businesses has been to look at, say, Blackberry rather than iPhone). I know Bob Leung (Woobius) is also considering Android and Blackberry versions of his apps.

Over time, I reckon phone 'smartness' will become more widely available on less expensive devices, so what today we describe as smartphones could well take over from ruggedised devices eventually (connectivity issues could be a factor, though - may need to think about storing information on the device until it can synchronise online).


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