It’s been about 6 months or so since Sketchup was aquired by Trimble. As much fun as Basecamps always are, I was really interested to see what Trimble had in store for us since they’re now settled at their new home.
Monday started up with a presentation by Trimble folks, and John Bacus, the product manager for Sketchup. While there was no announcement of a new version of Sketchup, there were some very interesting things. First, Sketchup will now be released annually, and the next version will be called “Sketchup 2013″ so that basically confirms we’ll see something early next year. Also, the Sketchup team really recognizes that developers are so important to what they do. For starters, they have release AND open sourced “TestUp”. TestUp used to be an internal testing tool for the Sketchup team only to root out bugs, but now it will be available to any developer. This was met with a tremendous applause by the developers in the crowd.
The next major announcement is that Sketchup has reached out to developers who have written STL import and export tools and worked with them to open source those plugins so that they will be available to Sketchup users. It sounds like these plugins will be baked into Sketchup soon as well. For those of you that use STL, or have a MakerBot (more on that later) this is huge.
The other major encouraging news we heard during this opening keynote was that they are hiring developers. At Google, it seemed like Sketchup was a bit of an odd fit at times, and they didn’t put a lot of engineering effort into the software. Google engineers program many web based languages, and Sketchup is based on a very different language. My guess is that they were unable to shuffle engineering staff around Google to fill needs, and they never really hired outside.
That’s just speculation on my part, the big news is that Trimble is ready to throttle up development big time on Sketchup, which I think is fantastic. So if you’re a great Sketchup developer and you want a job, now might be the time!
Followed by John Bacus, we got to have Bre Pettis, the CEO of MakerBot Industries give a keynote speech. I’ve had the chance to hang out with Bre and he’s a pretty interesting guy. He’s also a huge Sketchup fan. Sketchup is what gets a lot of the models into the machines that his machine builds. Check out www.MakerBot.com to see how these incredible 3D printers work.
Another highlight of the week was the MakerBot lounge. There were several machines running all weekend pumping out all kinds of wonderful widgets, all from Sketchup models. If you go back in this blog, you’ll see how the Markbot works. Check here:
At the end of the first day, all 280 of us went to a local bar. But we didn’t go there to eat and drink, we went there to pitch ideas for the “unconference” the next day. The way an unconference works is that everyone in attendance who wants to present pitches an idea, and then they go right into presenting sometimes with only minutes to prepare. It can be fun, chaotic, and always interesting. If you were there for this particular pitch entitled: CAD MUST DIE! You were in for a real treat.
Now besides all the informative learning I did the rest of the week, Sketchup pictionary was about the most fun thing I did. It’s a little hard to see here, but there were two big TV’s, two identical computers with Sketchup connected to a screen, and hundreds of avid Sketchup fans willing to step up to the plate to model words for the crowd to guess. Fueled by creativity, drink tickets, food and energy from the crown, this insane contest went on for hours. It was so entertaining! I definitely want to do this again next year!
On the last day we did a design “charrette”. This was a design challenge where teams of 10 people were set the challenge to come up with the classroom of the future. We were given just over two hours to design a classroom, and come up with a presentation. We had to present to a panel of local teachers and were judged. The winning team was then pitted against each other in a “death match” round of Sketchup trivia. Last modeler standing won a MakerBot.
This was an absolutely fantastic trip to Boulder. I’ll be honest, when Sketchup broke away from Google, I was a little nervous. In the months following the acquisition I was more optimistic. After going to Basecamp, I am genuinely excited. Trimble loves the community that they have gotten, and they want to support us and give us even better tools to work with in the very near future.
Big thanks to Sophie Feng for all of these pictures!