Things I just don’t get


I just don’t get Facebook. I know it has more than 1.5 billion worldwide users on a monthly basis, but I don’t see its value, as a social mechanism or a business tool.

Everyone who is tech-connected will tell you, including your children and grandchildren, that it’s great. But getting them to explain what it does other than enabling them to exchange photos of their cat, or more intimate words and pictures, and they are stumped.

I’m sure it’s a lot of fun and helps to fill those boring hours at work. But a company with a market value of $250 billion? Really?

They say that “if you are not paying for the product you are the product”. This was first used in response to the influence of TV advertising in the 1970s, but is just as true today about social media.

If you are connected, someone will use that fact to sell product, either directly or by selling your personal data on to others.

Much of what modern technology can offer is good and, to some extent, useful, both socially and in business. But it’s a real concern when something that was originally designed as a means for university students in Boston to rate co-eds as “hot or not” has become such a powerful means of simply filling in time.

A birthday card I saw recently had an office assistant in front of a computer screen saying: “Well that’s 15 minutes of work and looking fabulous; now back to Facebook!”

Social commentator Phillip Adams talked about the “dumbed-down realm of digital dementia — the early onset beginning when parents first give their children iPads”.

While exaggerating for effect, he makes the point that so much of what children and many adults spend their time on when accessing social media is essentially mindless.

I understand the value of Google, Wikipedia (with some restraints on lack of rigour in oversight), Skype, iTunes, YouTube, the ever-growing number of music and entertainment sites, and LinkedIn (if you want to tell the world how great you are); and I use them all on occasion.

I also understand how some companies use Facebook as an occasionally successful means of spreading the word on a new innovation; by dropping it on to their Facebook page in the hope their so-called “friends” will pass it on to others. But Facebook being worth $250 billion?


Industry advances

I don’t get why our industry is not good at accepting new technologies. In a way that’s a good thing, as some advances in IT have proved to be damp squibs, or have sat there unfulfilled many years later.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) was first mentioned in the late 1990s, and is only now showing a few signs of serious take-up. Taking time to see whether a new innovation is worthwhile saves a lot of pain and wasted investment. Nevertheless, early adopters will tell you that being first may be painful, but is also lucrative.

Time will tell whether BIM realises its full potential. What I just don’t get is why industry organisations are not doing their bit to develop the necessary protocols to ensure that true collaboration can happen.

Without full collaboration between all the key players — designers, contractors, product manufacturers and BCAs — BIM will remain more potential than reality.

Industry organisations also need to sell the advantages of BIM to investors and building owners, because the post-construction use of BIM is a real selling point.


Poor performance

I just don’t get why our performance-based building code has been such a failure. Yes, it has to be described as a failure. Show me the innovations it promised, explain to me why the weathertightness tragedy occurred and now explain to me why we have Auckland Council talking about a 25-40% failure rate of on-site inspections?

There is now talk about allowing builders to self-certify their work. When the original government committee produced its first draft of the current building code, they included the possibility of designers being required to self-certify compliance of their own design work.

This proposal failed to clear the final hurdle and, although raised again in the 2004 review, it was set aside.

The effect of its adoption would have been dramatic. Any architect or engineer required to certify compliance would have insisted on being retained by the client to observe the construction phase.

And designers would have insisted on managing the whole construction process to ensure there was no substitution of shonky materials or use of substandard building practices.

Would it have prevented the problems currently besetting our industry? Maybe, maybe not, but it would have focused certain parties’ attention on getting it right or paying the price.


The internet of things

The internet of things is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity, enabling these objects to collect and exchange data.

The thought of companies being able to track my car usage, supermarkets being able to know what I have or don’t have in my refrigerator, or companies knowing how and how often I wash my smalls is hopefully a step too far.

If you watched the recent Rugby World Cup you might have noticed the rectangular lump on the back of players’ jerseys. These were GPS monitors used to track and analyse each player’s movements on the field. Welcome to the future.

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