Interview with ArchiCAD Master Eric Bobrow - Dec 2011
In this interview we discuss his experience with his highly successful Best Practices Course, which is celebrating its one year anniversary, and his most recent ArchiCAD QuickStart Course, his online Coaching programs, along with his great plans for the new year and more.
AS : Hello archiCADmonkey fans, I’d like to welcome back Mr Eric Bobrow to the show. You may remember him from his last interview a few months ago, where we discussed his amazing ArchiCAD Best Practices Course, and now he’s back to talk about some new exciting things. So, without further adieu , welcome back Eric, great to have you on the show.
EB : Hi Apollo, nice to talk to you again.
AS : So, it’s been a while, you definitely have been busy as I’ve seen. How has the ArchCAD Best Practices Course been until now, what have you been up to?
EB : Well, it’s been a really interesting journey. Over the first year we’ve got 540-something people signed up to the Best Practices Course or the QuickStart Course. I introduced the QuickStart Course in response to many requests and questions from people saying, “I’m not really that experienced with ArchiCAD, I’m just getting started” or “I’ve just used it for a little while, and though your Best Practices looks good, would it suit me or would I be able to understand it?”, so I decided maybe I should really start from the beginning and create a basics course, and I did that, that’s 29 lessons long.
AS : So it’s “ArchiCAD for Beginners” essentially?
EB : Well, I call it “The Basics of ArchiCAD, but not just for beginners”, because what’ s been interesting is that a lot of Veterans have gone through the material, which total 13 hours, broken up into 29 bite-size video pieces, about half an hour each. A lot of Veterans have gone through it and said “Wow, when did they add that feature?” or “God, I never understood that!”, in fact many of them said that this has been extremely worthwhile to go through, even though they’ve used it for 5 or 10 years or more.
So anyway, it’s been nice to get that sort of validation for the QuickStart Course, and the Best Practices Course is a combination of video training lessons of some specific topics, following a curriculum, as well as a Coaching Program. It’s been very interesting, as after the first couple of months I changed it from once a month to three times a month, because people had a lot of questions, so I decided it would be well worth it. We’ve now got probably between 40 and 50 hours of recorded coaching calls and it’s been amazing, because the questions go all over the place, from design to documentation to project setup to interactions with other programs, and many of them are submitted ahead of time so I can prepare a bit, others are right on-the-fly, and it’s made me very agile. In other words, I’m not only trying to answer the question but of course fill in some of the foundations to allow everyone or almost everyone to understand it. It may be a fairly advanced or obscure question, but it always has some tie-back to the basics, to what particular sections of ArchiCAD are about. So, the Coaching Program has been a really great experience and a lot of people have commented that that’s really a special part of the course. Maybe they appreciate the Coaching Program more because they get their questions answered.
I’m planning on spinning off the Coaching Program next year, it will still be included for a period of time with the Best Practices Course, say 6 months of access, but it will also be available separately for those people who have been in the Course and want to continue as part of the community, and also potentially for those who just want the Coaching. I also do email responses and have been able to help a lot of people with questions, so it’s been very interesting connecting with people all over the world.
AS : That’s great, and as I believe that it’s the 1 year anniversary of the course. Congratulations!
EB : Thank you, I’m just delighted. I launched this last fall, of 2010, not knowing how much interest there would be, not knowing if I could make my living just doing training and just doing it online rather than in person. The response has been rather incredible, I mean I’m not getting wealthy, but I’m definitely able to make a decent living.
AS : That’s great. As ArchiCAD is becoming more advanced and everyone wants to know about it, and I’m guessing now that it’s expanding even more around the world, especially China at the moment, you might have many more customers there.
EB : Actually I do have a handful from China, but what’s been interesting is to see the usual US, because I’m based here and people know me more here a little bit more, and you know Australia and the UK, and South Africa, as you would expect. There’s a total of 49 countries represented by our members, and that’s quite international. I’ve never known anyone else like me who has gotten an inquiry in Nigeria, saying that someone wanted to send me money, and they actually did and signed up for the Best Practices Course, in fact I have a couple of people from Nigeria right now. All that being said it’s been exciting and tiring, because there’s so much material to develop and I still have more to finish up, in terms of the basic curriculum.
AS : That’s what I was just going to ask you, what can we expect from you in the following months? I’m guessing you’re going to finish the Best Practices Course, and a few more videos of the QuickStart Course?
EB : Actually the QuickStart Course is done, although I probably will add in a couple of additional small modules, one on the Renovation tool in ArchiCAD 15, and one perhaps on foundations and footings, because that’s certainly a basic component of structures, that at least should be addressed in the basics course. There’s probably another 12 to 15 hours of material that I’m planning on the Best Practices Course. Right now on the course website we probably have about 65 hours of material, so there’s a lot there but there’s some more for the Best Practices Course that I’m working on.
AS : Are you planning anything after you complete all of this? Possibly a quick video on how to export the new BIMx app for ArchiCAD, like to explore the model on the iPad? Because I remember when they first announced it, they had a great competition on Facebook for creating ArchiCAD models for BIMx, and I especially remember Jared Banks’s from Shoegnome, his Zombie model was amazingly successful and I’m sure many people are excited to create these kind of models to be viewed on the iPad.
EB : I think that there will always be some more things that I can add in, but I haven’t decided the structure. I may continue adding things in, just sort of here and there, there may be some sort of a membership system, where people can pay to keep getting updates, I haven’t quite worked that out yet. I guess one thing that would be a sideways expansion of the work that I’m doing, is that I’ve learned a lot about marketing on the internet and I mean obviously to be able to get that many people to know about the course and say “Wow, this is good, I want to sign up”, I had to develop systems for email and web stuff that were effective for being seen in the search engines, and I realized that many architects and designers are pretty naive or at least haven’t focused or learned much about how to take advantage of internet marketing. So, I’m thinking perhaps I might start something on the side to help architects and designers to use the internet better to get more prospects. If someone looks up, say, you’re in Greece, let’s say they look up “Athens architect” or they looked up in the San Francisco area “South Solito architect”, who would show up on that page, would it be your firm on that first page of the results? So this is something that I think I may start doing, and I can teach people the basics of how to get better results in search pages, or possibly offer a service. I wouldn’t do the service, I would outsource it, but I could manage that and I think, understanding the needs of architects and designers, as I do, I could probably help a lot of people to get more enquiries, more opportunities to bid on things.
AS : That sounds great, that’s definitely useful, as some architects don’t even get into web design at all, or even possibly understand SEO or anything, and they just leave it up to web designers or web developers to take over everything, so I guess if they can do it by themselves that would be a major advantage.
EB : Yeah, so that’s one area. Another thing is that I’ve just got a request from another software developer who makes some tools that tie into ArchiCAD, but they are independent. Then perhaps I could create some training materials for their users. So there are certain possibilities in the training area related to ArchiCAD, whether it’s rendering or as-built survey, which is what this particular tool does. It helps do on-site surveying of a structure....
AS : And then it sends it to ArchiCAD as a BIM model...
EB : That’s right. So, there’s a lot of things I’m looking at and I’m just really excited to be able to connect to people worldwide. There are so many things that I think are possible through this media, through the video training and the community building. I think the other thing that’s been very exciting is the Best Practices community that’s built around the course, people who are not only saying “Hey Eric, help me”, but also “Hey, i saw this, check this out, this is really interesting or useful” or “I discovered I can do such and such” and there’s been a very cooperative spirit, I certainly am always ready to learn more and people do make comments that I say “Oh, right we could apply that tool in that way”....
AS : Great, we’re really excited to see what you can come up with. I’m sure everyone loves your show, I mean the reactions of the subscribers I’ve seen on the website, all the comments on the members’ site and under every video. They seem like they’re saying “Where have you been my whole life”, they’re really enjoying the whole course.
EB : Yeah, it’s been very gratifying and you know I work long hours, then when I get an email saying “Wow, this just saved me so much time” or “I wish I had had this when I was getting going”, it helps motivate me to keep going.
AS : Absolutely, obviously it’s good work, it’s good to get paid but it’s always very gratifying to help someone in need.
EB : Yes. So, the 1 year anniversary, I’ve been marking it by reposting some of the tutorials that I think are the most interesting and quickly useful. We’ve got some right now on the site that people can access, and I’m sure you’re going to have a link for them so they can check that out (The ArchiCAD Best Practices Course). And I’m also going to be updating my personal story as part of that, I think some people had seen that earlier in the year, I wrote a little summary about how I got here, because I didn’t have just a straight path of well, going through architecture school and then becoming a consultant, I actually went through as a computer science major and then left technology field entirely to become a professional modern dancer and had a 15 year career as a performing artist.
AS : ...a slight deviation of paths....
EB : Yeah, but I think the interest in the arts and in creativity, the passion and following your dream has always been an important part of my core being. And at a certain point I had the opportunity to work start working with architects, this was in late ‘80s, 1989, and I started working with ArchiCAD and I found it was the perfect combination for me of technology, which I am very good at, and design and art and working with people who are passionate about what they do. So, I share more about that in my online story, and talk about some of the turning points that I’ve had. We all can be open to turning points, particularly when opportunities present themselves to make a change or just do something more or better with what you’re already doing. So, I haven’t quite worked it out, but there will be some type of opportunity for people to sign up to the course with some special terms that will be coming soon. This is really something that I want to be able to offer to more people and give more as a celebration. We’re going to have an anniversary sale and an anniversary celebration, that will hopefully make more people go “I’m ready to take the voyage, and actually transform how I work with ArchiCAD.”
AS : Sounds good. Be extremely productive around New Years; a new you, a more productive and more exciting you.
EB : I hear actually you are going to be having a big transformation as well, you might be coming to the Big Apple?
AS : It’s a possibility, it’s actually a big possibility. We’re just going through all the details at the moment, but I could be joining the ArchiCAD community in New York in the coming year. So, we’re hoping to be coming around maybe February 2012 and it’s extremely exciting and terrifying and the same time, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m venturing to the beyond, and it would be great to be closer to you and actually have coffee with you face to face.
EB : Yeah that would be wonderful. May that turning point in your life come soon and just the way that you’re hoping.
AS : Thank you very much Eric, it’s been great talking to you again. I’ll talk to you soon.
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