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Monday, April 18, 2016

Revit Add-ons – The Origin Story (Or, No Gamma Rays Here!)

Today, on the 5th anniversary of the first post on Revit Add-ons, I thought I'd write about the origins of the site. It's a story that I've wanted to tell here for some time, partly because I think it's a little humorous and whimsical, and partly because it might help to inspire others to create their own blogs, but mostly because it's part of my own narrative.

I worked at LMN Architects during a period when one (or more) of the partners very cannily steered the firm into more of a technology-oriented one than it had been, and it was none too shabby to begin with. One very clear product of this effort was and is LMN tech studio, or LMNts, the firm's R&D group.

When the LMNts blog was created, it was reported that it "only took 40 hours" to build the blog and publish it. I thought, "Only? That seems a little much to me..."

Then inspiration struck: I would go home that very evening and start creating my own blog, and then I would have a comparison! Though I had never created one before, you bet I was determined to bring it in under 40 hours!

For the subject, I chose Revit Add-ons. Why? Because I had been researching them while supporting LMN's transition from Bentley Architecture to Revit, and I was surprised when I couldn't find a single resource site online.

In my career, I had written A LOT of custom applications for MicroStation and Bentley Architecture, and I intended to do the same for Revit. Also, add-ins are one way to learn about a new application: they tell you both what's lacking in the foundation product, and what you can do with its API, and these are good things to know.

So I went home that night and used Blogger to create the site. And I was done that very evening. I don't even think I stayed up late. Sure, the site's changed a lot since then as I've tinkered with the branding, the layout, how I convey content, etc., but the framework was done, and the site was published, along with the first half dozen posts.

Things really picked up in terms of my content publishing when I was laid off late that same year, in 2011. In addition to my work situation or, more accurately, the lack thereof, I was in a bad marriage and my home life was... not good. Suffice to say, I was in serious need of distraction, and publishing content to Revit Add-ons fit the bill.

I remember being excited when the site first received 40 or 50 pageviews in a single day. After conveying my excitement to my now ex-wife, she replied pointedly: "But is it making us any money?!"

Well, it is now, thank you very much.

(And nowadays the site often receives 1,000+ pageviews per weekday.)

So, here's the whimsy, or whimsy-ish: I didn't start and then build out Revit Add-ons for virtuous or noble reasons; I did it for selfish ones – first out of a misguided sense of competition, and then as a form of escapism. Later on, supplemental income played a role too, naturally. From these humble beginnings though, I think Revit Add-ons has become something... kinda great. And, if not that, then at least valued and rewarding.

If you find my honesty here shocking, there is a point to it, and that's: TAKE INSPIRATION WHERE YOU FIND IT. For some of us, good ideas don't come along very often. So it's important that when they do, we make the most of them.

An aside: LMN's a great firm, full of good people who create enduring and meaningful projects. Like all LMNers, I'm sure, including us alums, I was very proud when, in December 2015, LMN Architects received the 2016 AIA Architecture Firm Award. What a great accomplishment! And it's made even more impressive by the fact that they're a single-office firm of, historically, about 100 people (though they're staffed at about 50% more than that presently). And the firm's advanced use of technology surely factored into the decision, because it's become a key part of their narrative, and justifiably so.

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