Taking The 3D SwYm

With the launch of DraftSight, Dassault's community platform, 3D SwYm, also made it's beta debut, bringing a collaborative layer to the table. 3D SwYm, which stands for "See What You Mean", was branded under the name 3DSwYmer.com when shown at SolidWorks World Conference 2010 in February.  3DSwYm is currently in a "Technical Preview" and positioned as follows:

3DSwYm is the online service dedicated to the management of online professional communities. Creating online communities enables to gather people from different disciplines, geographies, companies and start networking, sharing information, experiences and ideas. It also allows you to put directly customers needs at the center of your product development activity by involving consumers in your communities. 

3D SwYm is governed by the DS Passport, which essentially acts as the single sign-on service to get to other web-based offerings by the Dassault. Once authenticated, users have the ability to collaborate in a forum-like environment, post rich media iQuestions and thread responses to other community members. The overall feel is very social centric, similar to LinkedIn, since it uses terms like posting your "Status" and searching for members to "Add to Network".

Currently there are 3 communities (DraftSight, SwYmers' Hall, and Building In Life) of which DraftSight and SwYmers' Hall are open, allowing users to be defaulted to "Contributors" in order to post content in the form of questions and answers.  Buildings In Life is a closed community and will prompt enquiring users to fill out a form as to why they want to join.  Buildings In Life, like DraftSight, is a community around an application offered by Dassault, extending this collaborative community around an application, similar to a forum.

In the technical preview of SolidWorks Product Data Sharing (PDS) at SolidWorks World 2010, the R&D team showed this new service running on top of 3DSwYmer.com, which was referred to as the "Enovia Framework". Since then, nothing has been mentioned about PDS or "SolidWorks V6" for that matter, despite all the chatter about CAD on the Cloud.  Now that 3D SwYm has gone into beta, I can only hope that this cloud-based, 3D CAD sharing platform is also going to go into beta sooner than later.  (details about PDS in live blog)

SolidWorks users need a service to easily collaborate on designs without complex setup and configuration.  This would not be a replacement for PDM but a collaboration "side car" of comments with access to CAD related information like configurations, assembly hierarchy, file properties, and/or version information.  This would be the first attempt to reenter the SaaS market since 3D TeamWorks launched in February 2002 (and killed shortly there after).  How would you use a tool like this, if at all?  ~Lou

Notified By Google Wave?

This past week Google rolled out a few enhancements that I believe will bring this web-based collaborative tool back into focus for some. One of the biggest complaints of Google Wave was it was just another place to check for "stuff" online and without a notification mechanism, the service was not checked regularly. Depending on your preference, you can now specify how frequently you are notified of new Waves in your inbox.

I have been using a third party notification tool in my system tray in Windows called Wave Notifier for Windows and the Unofficial Wave Notifier for Mac, both of which are doing essentially the same thing without me having to look at my email. These solutions work well if they are installed but most people pushed Google Wave off after the first couple of weeks and never went back. Hopefully this is the beginning of features that Google adds to fill in the gaps for people who would like to have a powerful, web-based collaborative tool like Wave.

Wave Notification Setup:

- In Navigation (upper left) click on the Inbox and pull down the arrow icon (right)

- Select Notifications

- Choose notification frequency and email address. (screenshot)

You can add additional email address selections by adding them to your Google Profile associated with the Gmail address your Wave account is associated with.

Extensions Menu:

One of the many powers of Google Wave is it's extension architecture, allowing 3rd parties to build applications to verticals within the platform. This has been accessible since launch but required you to pick from a small subset of extensions within Google Wave's "Settings" wavelet or understand how to add the Developer Extension and plug in either an extensions XML URL or know the Manifest URL to add the extension to your toolbar. This made the functionality only interesting to techs/geeks but not for the user just wanting to use extensions. Google has finally brought the "Extensions" menu that has been in the developers sandbox for a while to the Navigation panel. Clicking on this will display a list of waves of different (more popular) extensions with the ability to get a brief summary and a one click install for that user.

I hope this is the beginning to many more features in Google Wave so a path can be set for this tool. I have started using this for many projects and would hate to see it die on the vine. This is a tool that can be used by engineers and product development to bring a collaborative aspect to every project but without stability and integration to existing tools it is just another silo! So I say with great enthusiasm...."Save Google Wave...Save Google Wave!"

3DVIA Meets Google Wave

As the hype dies down around Google Wave and the tinkerers all shake their heads and walk away underwhelmed, the work begins. From the very beginning Google Wave proposed a platform that would allow us to consolidate our communication and collaboration needs into one platform. However, many missed the fact that this platform is in Preview and is just a glimpse of what could be. Many would argue that Google Wave, as it works today, is not worth anything and does nothing but create yet another place that you need to check for "Unread" somethings. I agree it is not ready for the public and has some real missing features and security issues, however developers are making up for many of the lack of features with all types of gadgets.

If you are on Google Wave, a great public resource for how Google Wave works today is at The Complete Guide to Google Wave by Gina Trapani (Founder of LifeHacker). Another great resource is in this public Wave: Google Wave Extenstion List where you can find some of the current development to extend Google Wave beyond what is launched in the Preview.

For those of us in the CAD Industry, we have been trying to find how we can all use this technology to bring collaboration to product development. I wanted to use the resources that are availble now to take a first step in bringing 3D into Google Wave. Since 3dvia is already web-based and has conduits to upload many 3D file formats into their community, I started there. I was able to upload a model from SolidWorks and embed it into Google Wave for others to see and manipulate. How to Embed 3dvia into Google Wave:

1. Go to 3dvia.com and find a model (or upload one from your CAD tool of choice)

2. Click on the model and select the "Embed" tab on the right of the site. This will allow you to copy the embed code.

3. Start a new blip (New edit in a wave)

4. Click on the "Add Gadget by URL" button

5. Type in the HTML gadget url: http://wave-ide.appspot.com/html.xml - This will load a gadget window in Google Wave. In the upper left click "Edit" and you can paste in the embed code from 3dvia.com.

6. Once pasted, click "View" in the upper left of the gadget window and you will see the image of your model with the "Play 3D" on it. Click to start the viewer.

In order to get this to work you will need to have 3dvia Player installed which is supported in both IE (Windows) and Firefox (Mac & Windows). There is no support for Chome, which is my browser of choice, especially with Wave but Firefox works well. The viewer, as far as I can tell, is not collaborative so everyone sees their own instance of it but this is much better than just uploading a file attachment.

I hope to see more true collaborative 3D tools emerge for Google Wave since the framework lends itself nicely to product development and would complement any 3D CAD tool out there. ~Lou


Team Syncing with Google Wave

Back in May Google got major attention with this video from Google I/O that outlined Google's attempt to recreate communication via the Internet called Google Wave. Well 100's of 1000's of users are now playing around with this limited preview and I was very fortunate to get invited by a friend and wanted to share my thoughts early in my testing.

For those of you who didn't spend the 80 minutes watching the spot from Google I/O, Google Wave is a live collaborative environment that incorporates many of technologies we use everyday into one sandbox. Think of one place to email, instant message and create collaborative, topical conversation in a threaded live document in the cloud. Sounds too good to be true, huh? Well, it is early and like many new technologies or services, Google Wave is still in the "Geek Stage" so many of it's users are people who enjoy the bleeding edge. So I thought as a good measure of the general public's ability to understand Google Wave I would try to explain this to my wife who is simply a user of technology and really doesn't care how it works, just that it does. She nodded in agreement that it made sense but I still felt that even though it made sense she would probably not be the first one to jump on the Wave.

E-mail but Not:

Similar to email, Wave has an inbox, folders and even an indication that new activity has occurred, however there are some fundamental differences that make Wave a much better tool for communicating with a group of recipients. When trying to send a message in email to your team, you add them to the "To:" area and then you type the message, essentially sending a read-only document to them for review. When they reply, they must reply to everyone in the team in order to keep the conversation contiguous. The problem grows when you want to add people to this conversation.

Wave is different in the conversation is centralized and it's recipients gather around the content, keeping it in sync with everyone in the group while extending editing to everyone. This makes the conversation resemble that of face to face meetings while ensuring everyone leaves with notes! Ever compare notes after a roundtable meeting only to find someone wrote something down you forgot?

IM but Not:

Whether it is Skype, AOL, Yahoo, GTalk, or Live Messenger, instant messaging has become a very common communication tool within teams due to the real-time nature of these services unlike that of email. IM is still mostly a 1:1 real-time tool, allowing two parties to chat and even video conference on a whim. Group chat can also be a productive way to sync teams but sometimes that content is not captured and has limited content creation tools available.

Collaboration is enhanced further in Wave by also making editing real-time. If more than one individual is editing the wave, others in the wave can watch them edit and even type each character in the instant it is happening in the Wave. This essentially brings chat into the communication when it makes sense; within the working environment about the topic at hand.

Gadgets, Bots and Extensions:

One of the things that makes the platforms successful is their ability to be extended through community need and programming. If you look at successful platforms in technology today, Firefox, iPhone, most computer operating systems, they all have a common thread; extensibility through applications. Gadgets are essentially embedded apps that perform a multitude of services as a feature of the conversation. I tested a few of these: Google Maps (maps with collaborative markup), Trippy (trip planning), Napkin (napkin sketching) all which extend the platform for various collaborative specialties. I can imagine once this platform is out, this is an area that 3D might be able to take into account, building interactive 3D markup and viewing gadgets like eDrawings (hint hint SolidWorks!).

Bots, on the other hand, can be added to the wave, similar to a contact, and will perform various actions based on activities happening within the wave. I have used four to date, Tweety (integrated twitter client) and Bitly bot (integraded Bit.ly shortening for URLs, Notify (Email notification) and XMPP (IM notification). In the 80-minute video, Google shows one that does real-time language translation while multiple parties talk called Rosy.

The Verdict:

It is still very early but after using it for the past week I really don't ever want to use email again. I use Yammer as an internal "CB radio" to allow group chat, fact finding and short topic conversation. Other projects are buried in a number of local tools that are shared via email which is slow hard to keep in sync with everyone involved. I can imagine using this platform for all sorts of projects but see a future as a cloud-based platform for all sorts of industries to build in real-time collaborative extensions into tools like CAD, Simulation, PDM/PLM and the like. The point is, providing a platform like Google Wave that could make design teams more cohesive and in sync, the more efficient they become. ~Lou

Publish to 3dvia from SolidWorks

3dvia is a place where social media meets 3D modeling, allowing its users to upload, share and find 3d models. With over 6000 models and almost 75,000 users, 3dvia is the place to be when it comes to sharing 3d models. Content can be created in a variety of CAD tools including their own tool 3dvia Shape and uploaded in 3DXML format and viewed with 3dvia Player which can run as a standalone application or embedded inside the browser.

Even though SolidWorks has been able to export 3DXML for 2 releases, you were required to orient the model differently than the standard views that are native in SolidWorks. Don Swavely wrote a great artilcle about how to property orient models so they don't come into 3dvia with the Front view facing upward. This process was a bit painful to have to do just for the upload to be correct.

With the introduction of SolidWorks 2009 SP2 (as of 1/2/09 still in early visibility) publish to 3dvia is a new feature allowing a user to select "Publish to 3DVIA" from the File menu. Once selected, a dialog will prompt for your user name and password to your 3dvia account. Once you log in you will be presented with a nice dialog for specifying your publish settings. Among the options you can title, tag and type a detailed description of your model and specify the audience (public or private). This simplifies the upload process and streamlines the ability to share models to the web.

I hope this new addition will encourage SolidWorks users to share their models and helps reduce the barrier of entry for the SolidWorks masses. The key to many of these communities is keeping the interface simple but powerful, allowing their users to communicate and contribute without much effort. This is a great new addition and I hope it further diversifies the 3dvia community! ~Lou