Cadweb say “Death to folders!”

There are new developments afoot at Cadweb. Its latest news release quotes extensively from an Economist Technology Quarterly article which predicts the end of the nested directories of folders and files familiar to many computer users. Instead, it seems we will have built-in powerful search engines, ‘tagged files’ and ‘smart folders’. With version 7 of Cadweb’ extranet apparently now due for release in January 2006, does this mean that Cadweb is finally going to move away from a folders-based extranet system? Or is it simply trying put a positive spin on a system that will still essentially be folders-based?

To be honest, I didn’t find much new in the Economist article (usefully, colleague Steve Cooper had a hard copy of the 17 September Quarterly; online, you need to pay for the premium content – dated 15 September). For instance, relational database-based construction collaboration systems such as BIW’s have been using file ‘attributes’ or ‘tags’ to provide additional ways to search and index files for some years now.

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Ever heard of Mangofile? I hadn’t – until I followed this IT Showcase link. Apparently, Mangofile is a virtual filing cabinet solution which, when combined with a PC and scanner, can remove all the piles of paper you might have scattered around your office. One of the case studies is from UK AEC business Carillion.

The "interesting facts from Mangofile about paper document management costs" were, well … interesting:

  • 95% of all information is stored on paper
  • Each document filed costs £14.00.
  • 80% of a secretary’s day is spent finding or filing paper-based information.
  • 60% of the worker’s time is spent working with documents.
  • A Document, once filed, is referred to on average once every 2 years.
  • Documents are copied 19 times on average.
  • Each document misfiled costs £84.00.
  • A company’s stored documents double every 5 years.

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‘old DOS trying to do new tricks’

I liked John Naughton’s article, Pitiful spectacle of an old DOS trying to do new tricks, in yesterday’s Observer newspaper – not least for the witty title, but also for his analysis of Microsoft’s ‘On Demand’ vision announced last week (see my post).

He mentions Harvard academic Clayton Christensen, who looked at why successful companies can fail to cope with disruptive technologies. "[He] shows that even well-managed firms with established products miss the next big wave in their industries unless their leaders know when to abandon their traditional business practices." ‘How can great firms fail?’ Naughton asks, before closing: "Watching Gates and co fudging the issue of web services on Tuesday suggested a simple answer: easily."

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I like the weekly news service from It’s full of the nitty-gritty of routine UK construction industry PR, with lots of press releases about products and a few about software – most of which are published free – an invaluable service to hard-pressed PR and marketing people.

I recently used it to post a news release about BIW’s support for the forthcoming NCCTP conference (see the result here). If you are interested in learning more about construction collaboration technologies – aka ‘extanets’ – (whether a beginner or someone with a more advanced understanding of the sector), I reckon you would be hard-pushed to find a better conference than this anywhere!

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Welcome back, Nathan

My Asite bloggers post has been picked up by one of the chaps I spoke about, Nathan at Free collaboration – fresh back from India and moving house.

(I have pointed out to him that his comment regarding Sainsbury’s being a former BIW client is a little inaccurate – they remain a valued BIW customer and have been since the late 1990s, having undertaken over 600 projects using the BIW Information Channel extranet. Can’t think where he got the impression that I was comparing Asite to "a bulky law firm or a bank in the city", though.)

Nathan is kind enough to say that he has bought (from Amazon) and started to read my book. I look forward to reading the review, Nathan.

Clicking on the Amazon link this evening, I found that I had climbed to 84,694th in the Amazon sales rankings (up from 138,000-ish when I checked around four weeks ago) and second among my various name-sakes.

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Firefox penetration continues

A BBC report describes how the Firefox browser is continuing to make inroads into MS Internet Explorer’s domination of the web browser market. Latest figures suggest a global average of 11.5% of web surfers are using the open source browser. In the US, 14.1% of Americans use it, but only 4.9% in the UK.

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Flexible working not taking off in public sector

A article, Public sector still shunning flexi-working, says the UK public sector is still failing to embrace flexible working, despite the highly publicised benefits of staff retention and increased productivity. The article underlines that many daily tasks and chores could be performed anywhere if appropriate remote working solutions (extranets would be prime example) were put in place.

Research from email management firm Kinomi found that almost two thirds of public sector staff spend at least 30 minutes per day searching for emails and almost one fifth spend more than an hour per day doing so. This equates to a worrying 20 hours per month spent on a task which could be done from anywhere an employee is able to connect to work email and could easily be fitted in around a more flexible approach to work.

What the article doesn’t suggest is avoiding use of email altogether. Some of today’s construction collaboration technologies – BIW Information Channel is a good example – have email-type functionality that retains all such communications within the application, with search tools to help users find past emails. And being web-based it can, of course, be used anywhere anytime.

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Digital pens

Two days ago, a group of architects talked to me about the expense of digital pen devices. Discussing this yesterday with a colleague, we felt the cost of these (and other solutions) will drop over time as they become more widely accepted and popular. has two items about digital pens. Digital pens write "the end" for paper describes how social workers in my local London Borough of Greenwich have been using digital pens "used on specially printed paper which features a tiny dot pattern". Driving test examiners give digital pens green light talks about a pen device that records the details the examiner has entered on to a form; these details can then be downloaded, avoiding the need for the forms to be scanned and speeding up the license issue process as a result.

While not perhaps the types of solution that will find favour with architects, there must be merit in such solutions for any construction or property professional who regularly enters details into forms (snagging lists, for example). The data is entered once and, after being downloaded, can be made immediately available to other team members electronically.

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Asite CEO gets “closer to customers”

There was no Asite representative at the NCCTP members meeting yesterday morning. One member said he’d rung the company last week and the phone was answered by acting chief executive Gordon Ashworth. This is not an isolated incident; a marketing lady I spoke to this morning had also rung Asite and was surprised to get straight through to Gordon, who apparently told her "it’ part of an effort to get closer to our customers". Hmmm…. either that or the drive to reduce UK administration expenses (referred to in Asite’s half-year report – see 28 September post) is cutting ever deeper.

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Microsoft to go ‘on demand’

News (eg: BBC article Microsoft hails ‘strategic shift’) that Microsoft is going to push into online services marks "a revolution," according to Bill Gates, in how the company thinks about software. It is perhaps also a belated acceptance of the challenge posed by application service provider (ASP) businesses such as who have rejected the sale of "shrink-wrapped" software in favour of services delivered via the internet.

It will be a major challenge for a business hitherto dominated by the need to sell software to be installed on users’ computers, and the licensing of its software to corporate customers. It will mean changing the Microsoft mindset from shifting product towards providing a service – what Gates calls a ‘service plus software’ mentality.

Competitors have been dismissive of Microsoft’s move. I liked the comments from Salesforce’s Marc Benioff: "With ‘Live’ appended to some familiar names: Windows Live, Microsoft Office Live, Windows Live Messenger and so on, the clear implication is that their current product line should be renamed with similar zeal: Windows Dead, Microsoft Office Dead, and Windows Messenger Dead," Mr Benioff said.

However, the move should not be dismissed so lightly. Microsoft commands a large following and when a major player makes a strategic shift like this, others will be influenced into following suit. Also, this development will hopefully encourage wider acceptance of web services, and make it a little easier for existing web services providers to convince sceptical clients to embrace ASP technologies. And the construction collaboration technology ASPs, for example, can at least congratulate themselves on going to market with the concept some years before Microsoft finally admitted that the future lay via the internet, not on the desktop hard-drive or internal server.

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