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April 03, 2006

Comments

dprawel

I'm a little late to this dance, but been following... I agree for the most part with all said, but we have to be careful generalizing. I recently had a chat with Marc Halpern, whom I suspect we all know. I find he usually stands on the side of fair, honest objectivity. I was expresing frustration with the issue covered in this thread - the marketing of the PLM Emporers' New Clothes. He told me he "took a lot of heat from the vendors for my positions below and my pubs last summer that documented it", regarding a piece summarized as follows "What's unfortunate is that there are certain vendors," Halpern says, refraining from naming them, "that promote the notion that CAD, simulation, virtual modeling and some support for PDM equal PLM. Everyone gets a little lazy and lets the vendors call the shots. So the vendors define it based on functionalities they are already offering; that way, they can claim to be market leaders." There are some analysts who try harder than others and indeed who take some risks. We can only imagine what form of "heat" he had to endure for some honest (and I think very accurate) opinions.

I for one think this problem is much bigger than we perceive, even in our worst imaginings, but I am pleased the dialog is ongoing. Consider the huge impact on all the small company's trying to sell something that might really be great and might really help improve some manufacturer's productivity or competitiveness. My large manufacturer clients regularly express frustration with things they read and the opinions they get, the result being slower (or no) decisions. How many small company's excellent software products never see the light of day due to such delays? One might think this makes for a good situation for consultants, but I'd rather think we're all better off with an educated (and not confused) customer.

I find it interesting to read today that UGS has won some big PLM award from Frost & Sullivan. Perhaps it would serve the industry well to know how much funding (or other monetized form of influence) was received by the "analyst" is these and similar situations.

al dean

It's all about perspective people. You rarely see bad CAD reviews because, for the most part, all of the bad products out there have finally died off - the few remaining stragglers will be gone soon like so many weak and injured wildebeest on the open plains. Once that happens, we can all get back to a jolly old life of mutual back slapping and self congratulatory wordage. Yeah, every system does some things badly, but at a base level, most things are ok – you know?

In nearly ten years doing this, I’ve only ever had two emails from readers complaining about their software choice – one I helped take the vendor to court over IGES data translation issues and the other wasn’t interested in solving the issue he had – he just wanted someone to vent at. Readers need to take it upon themselves to get in touch with the journals and tell us about problems.

As Martyn says, Analysts are the scourge of this industry - pay them enough and they'll proclaim you leader of "PLM Implementation in company's beginning with the Letter C who’s head count is exactly 217 people"…

Don't confuse the two - the editors are the guys searching for loose change in their jacket pockets at the bar - the analysts are the guys in the deluxe suites supping The Dom. I don't care whether the vendor is advertising their products or not in my hallowed pages – or where ever else my thoughts turn up. In response to Sean’s comments, I fear for the future of my family and friends, I fear the tonic water running out (or worse still, the gin), I fear a worldwide ban on cigarettes, I fear that my Ipod is going to crap out 2 days after the AppleCare plan runs out. One thing I DO NOT fear is an advertiser - potential or otherwise.

And with that, I’ve worked up a thirst - SolidWorks 2007 is due soon - so let’s see you at the bar Mr. McEleney – it’s your round sunshine ;)

Owen Wengerd

Roopinder:
I did start a blog some time ago, but never published anything. The blogosphere is a primordial soup, and I'm still waiting for life to emerge.

Giving bloggers the same standing as "editors", while heady and stylish, is a bit of a stretch methinks. Without the coattails of tenlinks.com to hang onto, most CAD blogs would never reach an audience.

I think bloggers are still more the story than the story tellers, but I find this irony amusing: an editor writing a blog in which editors are the story. :)

John McEleney

This is an interesting discussion - essentially it is about conflicts of interests. It reminds me of the "findings" that Wall Street Analyst published bullish stock reports when they knew the company was fundamentally flawed (perhaps the most well known example of this was Henry Blogett of Merill Lynch). Were people really surprised by this "revelation"? If the answer is yes, then I am really scared!

The conflicts arise with three parties: the vendors (who want to push their products), the reviewer (are they really reviewing or simply acting as a mouthpiece) and the magazines (they need to make $ to stay in business, but they have to be careful not to alienate their readership). How all of this get's balanced ulitmately affects the fourth party (the most important one): the customer.

I will choose to focus on the vendor (since that's the world I live in).

It is well known that the best way to kill good advertising is to not deliver on the product or the goods.

So even though some might try to "slip one by" and push for a good review (and magazines may turn a blind eye), at the end of the day this is a really short term perspective. This type of PR/Marketing strategy will not have a material postive impact on their business in the long run if they don't focus on what's really important (in fact more often than not it backfires - because readers are NOT stupid).

So what is really important? I believe that people over-complicate things, I think the formula is pretty simple:

1. build a great product or service
2. work with your customers to validate that they are getting value out of the product/service
3. work like hell to make the product/service better for the next version

If you do these steps right, then advertising and PR can be your kindling, the real fire will start when your customers tell other prospects about their positive experience.

Simply put: If you try to make the kindling your fire, it may burn bright for a brief period, but it will not sustain itself.

- John

Roopinder Tara

Owen

Editorial power is concentrated no more...start a blog. You can publish anything you want. In fact, your views as a CAD insider would be most interesting. See my entry on this subject http://cadinsider.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/04/blogs_freed_fro.html

Roopinder Tara

In response to Bill Fane, I remember editing a staff written review of a product that sucked. It was from a company that was about to advertise. I was called into the publishers office and questioned about it in detail and asked to justify the criticisms. I stood my ground, having full faith in the author. The author was also brought in for questioning. Not getting anywhere, the frustrated publisher went on to criticize the writing style and grammar. As we left the office, I heard in a stage whisper, "That's one advertiser we'll never get."

The review ran but the message was quite clear.

I never had favorable review questioned while at CADENCE.

Sean Dotson

Owen,

While I'm honored to be considered one of the individual with "editorial power" you speak of nothing could be farther from the truth. I am not a journalist nor an editor of any publication (unless you count my websites http://www.mcadforums.com and http://www.sdotson.com and rantings therein as publications).

I too am simply an engineer and a user of CAD products who is tired of being quiet. I do happen to have access to information earlier in the discovery process than some but overall I'm just a user.

I do however have the distinct advantage on not having to sell advertising and having to "walk the line" between telling the truth and making money.

The few ads you do see on my site are from friends in the industry and provide me with the funds to run my sites.

There is great freedom in knowing that you can speak the truth, praising where praise is due and criticising when stupidity and greed prevails.

rachael Dalton-Taggart

From a CAD PR person's Point of View: we do indeed have certain 'editors' pinpointed as to what they will publish based on some criteria including 1) can they make enough money out of the review 2) can they keep the advertisers happy or 3) could they get future consulting fees based on being nice in the present.

I am glad to say that the balance of editors with integrity outweighs that of the more questionable ones. But in my job, we work to get everyone to look at a client's product - and hopefully be favorable. We spend much time working out ways to make conditions as favorable as we can.

In the past Steve Wolfe was the most feared (dare i say most hated at times?) editor by vendors because of his entire integrity. He was brutally honest, and since his retirement from active reviewing and editing, his reviews are sorely missed. Please note that I spent some ten or so years working with (and sometimes fighting with) Steve, and over that time developed utter respect for him as a friend and a trusted industry expert. Martyn has also often received the sharp tongue of many vendors for his honest remarks. I am pretty sure that Dave Cohn, Randall Newton and Ralph to name a few also fall into that category!

My office will confirm that I often bemoan the loss of Steve's active participation, simply because the endless favorable reviews and 'affirmation' of marketing nonsense by many writers is, simply, mind-bending.
I believe editors are there as experts to question some of the crap announced by vendors, to look at and investigate some pretty wild marketing claims. And I feel that the claims have been getting wilder and wilder in the past few years. (My story about SAP getting 'outed' is indicative. You can read it at: http://floatingpoint.typepad.com/pr_marketing_and_the_busi/2006/03/sap_customers_a.html

I don't believe my office is guilty of many of these kinds of claims, but we are often sorely tempted to let them run wild...just to see if anyone notices. Maybe this is something to discuss at COFES eh?

Rach

Evan Yares

I've never been a full-time editor, but I've been in the public eye since the first article I wrote for CADalyst in the late 1980s, back when Cohn and Grabowski were editors there. Having been on a lot of mastheads, and having co-founded a company that owns several media properties (as well as a COFES, the industry's coolest conference), I suppose I should be tarred with the same brush as editors.

Overt bias can be a problem, but is not nearly as penicious as unconscious bias.

Yet, beyond both of these, I think the most serious problem is credulity. When an editor accepts what is said, or forms opinions, without doing homework, they do a disservice to their entire constituency -- which includes not just users, but the entire ecosystem of the industry.

On a personal level, I do a lot of homework. I probably read hundreds of pages of technical, business, and legal papers, and talk to I don't know how many users, programmers, managers, resellers, professors, lawyers, and experts every week.

For me, this is not about being a journalist. It's about making a difference. I'm an engineer who is deeply committed to helping technical professionals get the tools they need to do their jobs better.

I see editorial ethics -- or any kind of ethics, for that matter -- as springing from your core purpose. And you can find that by asking yourself a simple question: what do I want to contribute?

Bill Fane

I have been writing about CAD for nearly 20 years now, and have often heard the charge that reviewers only write favourable reviews for fear of the magazine losing ad revenue. Indeed, I once wrote a review for a prominent CAD magazine that was never published, but here is the full story.

The product stank, and I said so in no uncertain terms. The magazine then approached the advertiser and gave them a choice: withdraw your ads and pull the product from the market or else the review would run as written.

The review never ran.


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