Darren Lester, architectural technologist and founder of construction technology company, SpecifiedBy, shares his view on the #UKBIMCrew debate.

I realise I’m wading in on this debate a little late, but I don’t get to write just as much as I’d like to at the minute, and as it’s such a delicate subject, I’ve changed my mind several times as to whether to publish it, but here goes…

A lot has been written since the uproar caused by a slide in a presentation at BIM Show Live by Quantity Surveyor, Andrew Turner and these subsequent tweets. So here’s my interpretation of what’s been said and how it’s been dealt with.

Is the #UKBIMCrew a bad thing?

Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone is really trying to say this. At worst I think Andrew chose his words poorly in his attempts to raise a legitimate concern. We can all agree the #UKBIMCREW is great.

Giving people who have an interest in a particular topic a way to communicate, collaborate and learn from each other is awesome. And I’m sure everyone will agree that the #UKBIMCrew has played a massive role in getting BIM to where it is now, in terms of awareness and recognition.

Can it sometimes come across as a clique? Intimidate newcomers who have zero, or very little, knowledge of BIM? Yes it can. Of course it can. It’s just what happens when you have a tight-knit group of people with a passionate, aligned interest in a particular topic.

But the fact even one person has raised this issue (and it seems there are a lot more who feel the same) means, whether anyone likes it or not, it is reality.

The #hashtag

This is where I think the whole situation has been really badly misinterpreted and dealt with.

I’ve read a couple of articles recently that put a lot of emphasis on the ‘#’ — but for me, this completely misses the point. To dismiss the claim that the #UKBIMCrew could be perceived as exclusive, because a hashtag on Twitter is technically not in any way ‘a closed group’, or that anyone can add the twibbon, completely misses the point, it dodges the real issue and devalues the discussion.

Anyone can buy a full Man Utd kit in the shop; it doesn’t make you a part of the team! (Although it couldn’t hurt them right now!) The perception of the #UKBIMCrew being exclusive or a clique has nothing to do with a hashtag. The hashtag is just a mechanism that helps drive the group or movement.

The actual issue is also the best thing about #UKBIMCrew — it’s so much more than a hashtag. It may have started off as ‘just a hashtag’, but it’s evolved and grown way beyond even what the guys who started it ever would have thought it would become, I’m sure. If you spend just a few minutes following the Tweets, it’s quite clear that a lot of people who use the # have become friends.

There’s lots of back and forth banter, in-jokes and references — clear relationships that have developed over time, either completely online, or through a combination of twitter, meeting at events and more than likely, a few #BIMBeers! And this is great. Surely this is the best thing that could have happened to a simple #. It’s become a symbol of the BIM movement within the UK.

But because of this development of relationships, inevitably, for someone looking in, not knowing anybody within the ‘group’ it can come across as an exclusive club that requires some sort of initiation to join.

The angry mob!

I genuinely hope some people who tweeted in the immediate aftermath of the slide being shared on Twitter have looked back, felt a bit embarrassed, and apologised to Andrew.

There literally wasn’t a worse way to react to the accusation of exclusion than to get the pitchforks out and demand the head of whoever has dared to question the integrity of the crew. It all came from a good place. It’s a natural reaction to defend something you are a part of, that you are proud of, and most importantly, that you believe in.

Any criticism was always going to incite such a reaction, but I don’t think it helped the #UKBIMCrew cause. Conclusion Here’s my impartial view of where I think we are… Andrew was wrong to encourage people to ‘Say no to #UKBIMCrew’. I think he was also wrong to suggest it has a negative impact. However, he was right to raise what is a legitimate issue.

There is a real danger that as BIM progresses ever more rapidly, and the early adopters become more advanced, that entry into the topic at the very bottom of the ladder will become increasingly more difficult and daunting. For people new to BIM, looking in, it does seem like something that you to ‘gain acceptance’ to, which can definitely be intimidating.

This is NOT as issue caused by any single ‘member’ or ‘members’ of the #UKBIMCrew, it’s nobody’s fault — it is simply a side-effect of the movement maturing. But equally, the dismissal of Andrews claims are wrong. It was important that this was brought up now, and hopefully it can be addressed.

I personally think he should be given a pat on the back for having the balls to do it at BIM Show Live, even if his message was slightly off. I do believe the #UKBIMCrew is a truly open, collaborative movement that is of massive benefit to the industry. So each and every member should want to know if others feel excluded, because that’s not what you want, not what you’re trying to achieve.

The best thing that can happen is that this issue is acknowledged as a real thing, rather than swept under the carpet and dismissed based on how a hashtag actually works. I’ve no idea what the solution is, but the first step should surely be to acknowledge that it’s a real issue?

This article first appeared on Sharing Architecture, a website that shares ideas, opinion & stories that is designed to make architecture more accessible and allow professionals to learn from each other.

About the author

Darren Lester - founder, SpecifiedBy

Darren Lester is a trained Architectural Technologist and founder of construction technology company, SpecifiedBy. SpecifiedBy provides specifiers with access to a smart library of technical data, design files and shared knowledge for thousands of construction products and materials.

Manufacturer data is combined with information management tools, increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the product research and specification process. Darren believes that improving this process can have a hugely positive impact on the overall design and construction of a project, and ultimately lead to a better performing built environment.

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