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RE: Fees for Publications & Seminar

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<Part 2: Sorry making it shorter would require focus and more time!>

Engineering is about maximising the benefit obtained from the available but
otherwise limited resources. It is not about accepting the status quo.

Here in SA, seminars tend to by-pass Adelaide or get cancelled due to lack
of participants. Until recently there has been little major development, so
most consultants are very small operators, 86% employ less than 5 persons.
Seminars are not only a financial cost but they are a cost of time taken out
from work and time wasted on travel. Even more expensive if have to travel
interstate.

It is also strange: we have weighting of continuing professional development
hours (CPD). If I study a revised code on my own and put it to use, then
each hour is only worth half an hour. If I attend an expensive seminar, get
a certificate of attendance, and fall asleep with boredom and never use such
knowledge then each hour is worth a full hour. Or I could present the
seminar, that's worth a full hour for each hour.

It has little to do with professional development; it is largely about
making money from education and distribution of information, for many it is
beneficial as a networking exercise, or maybe political value. Also many
presenters appear to be self-appointed experts, promote advanced level study
programmes, and then present the trivial. But its that diversity problem
again: some people are pupils and need to be taught, others are students and
scholars and can get on with things on their own. For example Coulomb had
mathematics and developed soil mechanics and more besides. It's what you do
with knowledge that counts.

So yes Scott may be right that publishers have a large infrastructure to
support, however not all of that infrastructure is necessary, and costs
could be lower. By the same token however, engineers and architects are also
not entirely necessary, so builders and building owner's costs could be
lower. Does the global community really want to be paying people to shuffle
paper when we really need someone on site building the houses that 1 billion
people are in need off?

But business is about maximising financial profits, not minimising costs.
The minimum cost is zero: don't do it!

If we operate in a free market economy, then we have to learn how to adapt
and evolve our products to service smaller niche markets. There is more than
one business model, for generating income. But it is also necessary to
enable people to buy, not simple make the product available.  

Those complaining about the costs, are represent an unsatisfied market. We
could adopt Henry Ford's approach of dam the customer they can have any
color they want as long as it's black. But when we are talking mandatory
codes of practice that is not acceptable. The intent of the code may be
locked in, but the form in which it is presented does not have to be.

I am certain the market for the BCA and the IBC is far greater than current
sales indicate. But the market is for the content of the code, not the forms
in which it is currently presented.

And if either of those codes is released under a copyleft license: which
would achieve the greater international coverage? Given that apparently the
BCA is the most performance based code in the world, with the least
prescriptive content. I would say both would merge, with codes from
elsewhere. Performance based is most adaptable to other locations, but
prescriptive is easier to put directly to use.

If all codes written in the English language were released as copyleft how
long would it take for them to merge, into a single code with national and
sub-national appendices? Include in that templates for national
specifications. The politics of standards organisations and local government
organisations are a hindrance to breaking down the barriers for mobility of
engineers and other professionals. Practising engineers outnumber code
committee members, they are likely to adapt and move towards new ideas
faster than the committees will. Individual's collective actions will foster
change.

For example I believe Britain would have adopted EuroCodes faster if there
weren't so many people complaining about the cost of new codes. If the
EuroCodes were distributed under copyleft, then all practicing engineers
would have opportunity to view the new content of the Eurocodes, identify
little real difference in what they do and get on with their job as usual.
Occasionally looking to the content of the new code and slowly changing what
they do.

For the most part a code is a book which sits on a shelf awaiting use. Most
of the time, what we need to know is in our heads, and we just get on and do
it. Code changes don't generally make much difference to that. We operate on
the assumption that the laws of physics are constant, there is no
justification for such, just history so far suggests it to be so. It may not
be so. As long as the laws of physics are as we believe them to be, code
changes are of minor significance on the majority of design. Code checking
calculations may take longer, but design continues as usual.

In other words there is little real need to own such codes. Large offices
with many engineers may only have one copy of a code, shared amongst many.
As with Scott I have preferred to have my own copy of references rather than
run around trying find out who has the office copy. Libraries provide
information in books. If library is a hassle to get to, then having own copy
of book has more value. But maybe a pencil and note pad down at the local
library will suffice. But maybe the library doesn't have the required
information.

In Gonzo Marketing and the Clue train Manifesto, it is pointed out that the
market as a voice, and for the most part they are not interested in the
message that suppliers for presenting.

This listserver is part of that market voice. And a huge part of that market
is saying the codes are too expensive. The market is saying they are having
difficulty accessing what is being supplied. The market is demanding an
alternative. Some on the listserver appear to be on the side of the
suppliers demanding we buy what is supplied. The available product lacks
value and quality we demand superior quality and service.

We hold the knowledge and information that is the content of the codes; we
are the body of people who volunteer to write the codes. We are the people
who put the codes to work.

We therefore have a choice on how we distribute that knowledge. It is a free
market economy. So who is going to provide the alternative products, that
cater to diverse range of niche markets? So who is going to improve the way
such knowledge is distributed to those who need? Who is going to increase
the value of their design/engineering services and diminish both their own
and their clients dependence on the official version of the code? Because
whilst we are complaining about it we are part of the problem not the
solution.



Regards
Conrad Harrison
B.Tech (mfg & mech), MIIE, gradTIEAust
mailto:sch.tectonic(--nospam--at)bigpond.com
Adelaide
South Australia




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