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dynamo 101 course that is more than just another software tutorial

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I am pleased to announce that a course (Dynamo 101 – Fundamentals) that I was working on with the team over at Think Parametric is now available. Just to give you all an idea what this course is about I want to say a few words.

First off, I have always believed and still do, that in order for us to learn, we need the support system in place. For Dynamo, that support system is called a Forum, a GitHub Issues page, Twitter, etc. Whatever means of asking questions you are most comfortable with should not matter, so long as there is someone on the other end answering them. Now, I don’t exactly get paid by Autodesk** nor anyone else to be active on the forum, twitter etc. so you might be wondering why me, or anyone else for that matter, is ever answering these questions. The answer is quite simple, When I was just getting my hands dirty, getting started with Dynamo, getting started with Python or anything else you do in your life, there was always someone willing to help.

For me it was my friends over at the Bad Monkeys group that were always active on the forum and helping me with my questions. This give and take relationship in life is called reciprocity. Most of us might live entirety of our lives and never realize that most of what we do throughout the day is just a series of transactions, you give something to get something. Now, learning new software is that kind of a transaction for me. When I am picking new things up, I need to ask people questions, and then of course I feel obliged to share that knowledge with others. Why do I feel that way? I never knew, I just do. It’s not even so much as a feeling that I “owe” something to someone, but more like a need to share. Obviously at some point, you have paid your “debt”, yet people choose to stay around and still contribute and help others. This is called paying forward, and in some way has always been my way of saying “thank you” to all of you that have helped me along my journey.

I realize that I might have gone on a tangent here. We were supposed to talk about a Dynamo course and not discuss the underlying logic of community support forums. The reason I am mentioning this, is because I start this course out, by introducing everyone to the Forum and GitHub page. Why do I do that? Well, I want in a way to make sure that all new users of Dynamo, understand that its instrumental to the success of this project to be involved. I don’t mean by that, that they need to answer other peoples questions or write code and push it to Dynamo core. No, the idea is that we all contribute, however we are comfortable. Asking smart questions, reporting bugs or even simply restraining ourselves from being dicks to other people is a great way to contribute. I certainly need to work more that last one. :-) So, to all people that are just now picking up Dynamo, I say, welcome to Dynamo Community and thank you in advance for paying forward with your time and knowledge.


Now, one more thing about this course that I think is worth mentioning is that I have tried to structure it a little bit different than most people would. I have always believed that Dynamo was a great tool for Revit users, and that it has most potential was when used in conjunction with Revit. I know that the team over at Dynamo doesn’t always feels that way, but let’s be honest, Grasshopper is a much more mature, complete and easier to learn visual programming platform. However, it doesn’t exactly offer the same access to Revit’s database as Dynamo does, and hence makes it a lot less feasible to work with Revit. Given that, I think that the general idea I had for this course was that it was a Dynamo 101 course, for Revit users. Yes, this is not a visual programming 101, even though I do cover some of that as well, but I always try to relate my examples and exercises to how things work in Revit. I also, try to introduce some basic Dynamo and Revit interoperability examples – despite the fact that Dynamo is meant to be an independent visual programming platform – just to drive home the fact that neither is able to reach its full potential without the other. That’s what’s fun about Dynamo and Revit relationship; people on the Development team keep telling us that Dynamo is not a plug-in for Revit, and that it really is a stand alone visual programming tool, yet, its best use is when it’s used with Revit. So again, this course is structured to take advantage and showcase that relationship and assumes that you are a Revit user that is trying to expand his skill-set beyond Revit.


Now, finally this is just an introduction, and obviously there are always things like interface, navigation etc to cover in these courses, so yeah, I did that as well. The idea is that in the future as Dynamo grows and its integration with Revit is strengthened and its core set of nodes is expanded we go back and do a more advanced course. You ask me why not do it now? Dynamo can already do some cool things with Revit. Yes, I know that, but most of these cool workflows are centered around custom solutions provided by the community and available via Package Manager. As much as I like the idea of doing that, I don’t think it makes much sense to teach people how to use Dynamo to make this great workflow, if its based on a set of custom nodes from Jen in New York, that just might have gotten married and gone off to her honey moon for a month, when in the meantime Dynamo jumped up three versions and now everything is broken. Yes, I do teach people how to use Jen’s nodes, and that’s great, but I usually teach people that work for my company, so that if things break I can fix them for them. I might not exactly be incentivized in a similar fashion for people that don’t work with me – even though that I try to find time to help them as well, it’s not always possible.


Lastly, I want to thank Think Parametric for reaching out to me, and working with me to put this course together. I believe this is just the beginning of a great relationship so good luck to them, and happy watching!


* images in this post are courtesy of Think Parametric.

** I did just become an Autodesk Expert Elite member and they sent me this great jacket, but I am not sure if this counts as being on Autodesk’s payroll.

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