Accessible dataΒΆ

Tags: aec

Well, time for a re-run of sorts. From my 17 april post on the internet operating system - for the building industry? (couple of sentences scrapped for brevety):

Make the info in the drawing system available over the Internet in some documented format. Likewise for the specification system. Likewise for the accounting system. Likewise... Put behind passwords what should be kept within the project.

Just have the building specification on-line so that the planning boys can grap bits and pieces out of it. Come on. If it's available, how long do you think it would take for some smart person to build a quick program that pulls some info from the specification, combines it with some company-internal recipe-like document and prints it out, ready for the people on the workfloor to do their job?

Why the re-run? It's about the how long do you think it would take for some smart person... part. That mirrors what almost-librarian Dorothea says when discussing the great work done by definitively not-librarian Jon Udell on making small bookmarklets that happily connect webpages with an ISBN number somewhere to your local library, checking whether the book is available there. Etcetera.

Her point? The usual reaction amongst library folk (or library bloggers, at least) to something like this is: Why aren't we doing this? But they don't need to do this themselves:

...electronic libraries would be irresistible targets to an electronic tinkerer of the Jon Udell stripe if they weren't so damned self-contained and impenetrable. We don't have to do all this ourselves; there are a ton of busy-fingered programmers ready to do things with our data we never could have dreamed of-if they could get at our data in the first place.

If they could get at our data in the first place. Yes, same in the building and construction industry IMHO. There's all sorts of great data neatly locked away. Partly for economic reasons on the part of the information systems providers. But there are other reasons.

Personally, I'd like to challenge some of the information-must-be-closed assumptions. Through open content (first Dutch effort) and open source software . There is a real value-creating possibility here, which should allow commercial viability. You could get paid building stuff like this because it would help bigger companies save money. That is "being paid to build it", not "being paid to hoard the information afterwards". Adapting it to local needs and integrating it with existing solutions could keep a service provider happily afloat money-wise. Starting my own company is a real possibility (though the tought still scares me...). It'll be the slow growing kind, not a dot-com-style startup if it comes of the ground. I've already been tentatively asked to build software for a year for a certain project, which sounded much like just the kind of software I've been thinking off. Might be a good starting point, but it's way to early to tell.

Another option? There might be someone who'd like to have a postdoc in his group pursuing this. A project aimed at supporting the low end of the market (the small contractors, the small architects) with all the research goodies that we've got to offer. Why whine that there's no industry uptake? Give those scores of handfuls of droves of small contractors something web-based to put their project information in. That saves them time, hassle and money. Maybe then the big contractors will be able to make some serious money off their IT investments. Research is still badly needed here, so it'll all be nice and proper scientific :-) Dunno... I'll wait for my dissertation to sort itself out a bit more; I need to do more ordering and strengthening regarding this thinkwork.

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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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