Fellow Be2camp organiser Martin Brown (here) and I (here and here, for example) have both written several recent blog postings about the AEC sector’s adoption of Web 2.0 tools. Martin’s post was also picked up by the US-based Construction Software Review blog (Construction needs to embrace technology, not avoid it, part 6: Web awareness) who writes about how the tools could be useful, particularly during a recession:
“For instance, Facebook can allow a business (or anyone with rudimentary computer skills) to create a website, offer contact information and upload photos. A construction firm could conceivably display current projects and provide updates through pictures and blogs — all within the easy-to-use setup of Facebook.
[I know several examples of this – Facebook pages with RSS feeds created by UK construction trade journals Construction News and Contract Journal, for instance, plus corporate pages for the Construction Management Association of America, the National Construction College, BIW Technologies (my employer), and a quick page search found a whole host of small UK firms such as Brackley Fencing and Building Services and SMC Group Building & Maintenance.]
“LinkedIn is another tool that is under-utilized within the construction industry. It’s a social networking tool that allows you to connect with co-workers, which then will enable you to link with their co-workers. It’s a great way to make new business contacts, especially for freelancers.
[As well as people maintaining their own personal profiles, there are a growing number of online groups in LinkedIn – Be2camp has one, naturally, there is one for local members of Constructing Excellence clubs, and a whole host of networks focused on recruitment – likely to be busy if current job losses continue, sadly.]
“Finally, Twitter is new new-age news service in which users can send text messages to twitter.com for subscribers to read. This is a quick and easy way to stay connected with a large group of people, and it could have practical uses within a workplace.”
[Here I could mention various construction Tweeps, including journalists like Phil Clark (@zerochamp) and some of his colleagues at Building, plus fellow bloggers like Martin Brown, Mel Starrs and Jodie Miners. Twitter has/is also been used, to varying degrees of success, by organisations such as Constructing Excellence and several of the afore-mentioned UK trade publications – though others (eg: NCE) don’t realise that Web 2.0 is not just about one-way broadcasting. If I get spare time, I might try to compile a list of construction Twitterers – similar to this list of environmental tweeters from Jetson Green.]
The Construction Software Review post concludes, somewhat gloomily:
“It appears that Brown, and the rest of the members of be2camp, have an uphill battle on their hands. However, with the economy the way that it is, would you consider using these free applications to promote your business? These are just the early days of Web 2.0 technology, but odds are you can use all the help you can get.”
I am not as gloomy. As I’ve said before, I think we need some trail-blazers to start the AEC Web 2.0 ball rolling, to create some useful spaces in which those new to Web 2.0 can take their first tentative steps, and to show that the technologies have specific relevance to the AEC industry.
Engineering Web too
However, it is not just the construction sector that is slowly beginning to discover Web 2.0 – other parts of the design technology universe are also exploring its potential, according to Beth Stackpole at Design News. In an article, Engineers, Meet Social Media, she describes how various ‘self-proclaimed geeks’ are using social media to open up new channels of communication and collaboration, from blogs to Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn to wikis (and where the Construction Software Review blogger talked about how Twitter could have practical uses within a workplace, Beth describes the Yammer corporate microblogging platform).
Update (11 December 2008): Beth’s post was also blogged about by Jim Brown at Manufacturing Business Technology. Jim writes:
“social networks can take virtual team relationships even farther. Couple social networking with online design collaboration techniques, and I think we start to see global design and global product development work more like the skunkworks team locked in the basement together.”