I have to vent …

I have to vent…

Matt Lombard over at DezignStuff.com/blog has been writing about how the blogs about SolidWorks are dying or dead and I agree. SolidWorks corp has been aware of the death of the blogs and asking for help on twitter. Here are my thoughts:

Has anything changed from the heyday a few years back where it was cool to be writing about SolidWorks? YES!!!! Here it is in a nutshell and SolidWorks needs to seriously look at this. WIIFM (Whats in it for me?) I started blogging to help others with learning SolidWorks. I think I also carved out a cool little video niche on teaching people. I had hopes on starting a tutorial site and get paid for it. I did eventually but at the start I just needed to develop an audience. SolidWorks helped me with that and that was a great incentive for me to write blog posts and record tutorials.

At first SolidWorks patted me on the back and flew me out to SWW in NewOrleans and treated me very well and helped me get a larger audience. But the following years because I was teaching people how to use SolidWorks and not praising the new and great things about SolidWorks, generally blowing smoke up their ass and pseudo selling SolidWorks I was not once invited again unless I begged… I had not become what they envisioned, the loyal sales funnel that they wanted. I was choked that I was not getting invited anymore and told them so, and then after my fellow bloggers came in and told them that they were disappointed that I was not invited they caved and invited me again. This repeats each and every year and each and every year they make up excuses as to why I am not invited. But it boils down to a narrow view of online media and an absolute fear of people like me publicly telling my audience that something in the software sucks. Oh the horror! Why would you do that to SolidWorks after all they have done for you??? The thing is objective outside views help them, but their marketing fails to see that.

Now I am sure some of you are thinking what am I complaining about? You got free admission and flights etc for a few years you should be grateful right? Well no one and I mean NO ONE does things like this for free. You may not do it for money but you do do it for perks like invites to a conference, when the perks dry up so do the blogs…

Here is what I see as the timeline of blogging and how it applies to SolidWorks growth with online blogs

  • SolidWorks starts small and to make a dent in the market they have to innovate the shit out of all the things in the software. This makes for great blogging content and the company sees that if they innovate and wow us there is more blogs and posts because they are listening to the users and building what they need.
  • Next SolidWorks establishes a larger market share with the new innovations and genuinely caring about the users and starts getting bloggers involved, treats them great, listens to them and help encourage them to talk more and more open about the product. They are still relatively small and run by an actual engineer that is OPEN to criticism, and realizes that if you listen to the critics it will help guide your innovation and make a better product. (this is the stage my blogs started and we started working with each other it was great!)
  • Now things are getting big at SolidWorks and there is more corporate red tape and those that are gaining power are not the kind to listen, they are the kind to show you how fast and how great they can make the company. They saw people making gains in market share by saying ‘We are listening’ but soon find out as all larger companies do that if you spend 100K on innovation you only gain a little more income from your existing customers but if you put that same 100K to marketing you get a ton more customers. Like any business, including mine, if you can make more by putting the cash to marketing then you put the money to marketing. We are all in it to make money. (This is the point where I start getting push back and not getting invited to SWW. Why? Well the people that have more power at SolidWorks now are the marketing types not the innovation types and they cannot handle me knocking their product down… Its negative press! How dare he! )
  • Now the CEO has changed guard over to the marketing guy. He has to answer to stock holders and at this point innovation means very little. His opinion is to innovate just enough to keep the existing customers around (note I said keep them around not keep them happy) and that money to marketing is the best thing PERIOD! I cant fault them to be honest I would likely make the same choices, like any company they are here to make money, not to make people happy (unfortunately you can have both but they have lost sight of that). They might tell you they want you to be happy and that SolidWorks is nothing but happiness personified in your computer in the form of ones and zeros, but in the end that is crap, they want your money and will say what they think you want to hear to keep you around. And it works.
  • At this point all the bloggers get nothing but poor, crappy, slow innovation and nothing to talk about. Maybe if they (the bloggers) blew enough smoke up SolidWorks ass they will get an invite to SWW but at this point WIIFM comes into play. The bloggers look at it and see that there really is nothing in it for them anymore. You have to beg and plead to get an invite (at least in my case and I wont mention any other names but I know I am not the exception). There is nothing really cool to talk about anymore and no benefits to blog so why bother?
  • I then start my site UsingSolidWorks.com because at this point I need to manufacture a WIIFM to keep me going. I end up charging people for my tutorials and am making enough to continue. I like helping people and there is some money in it for me. In the end I make just enough to keep going, behind a paywall. My bogs fade and so do the others out there. There are a few die hards like Matt Lombard and Lou Gallo but the rest of us are tired and have nothing to talk about.

So where does this leave SolidWorks and the lack of blogging? What are they doing about it? Well they invite new people every year to SolidWorks World to see if they can seed a new blog but invariably it dies like the rest of us. Why? because there is no longer anything in it for the blogger once they have reported on SWW. Until SolidWorks starts getting this through their money hungry heads the blogs will die. What can they do? Listen, but this time really listen like they did back when the CEO was an engineer and make changes worthy of talking about.

Here, I’ll give SolidWorks one very specific thing that would light up things in the blogosphere? Make files backwards compatible, thats it, nothing else. It would start a media frenzy I nearly guarantee it. Hell, have you not seen that since the first complaints were made that this was the biggest thing talked about. You even point it out as one of the most requested enhancements EVERY BLOODY YEAR at SWW. You want to get people talking again? Then listen to them, really listen and make that improvement to the software happen. Why have they not done it? They will give you every excuse in the book and trust me that they are all excuses. The reason as I see it is that it does not sell seats, why would someone buy subscription support if they implemented such a feature? Ill tell you why, because you LISTENED to us and did what we need. I would buy subscription support from you because you listened to me. Do you hear me??? Ill say it again. I would buy BECAUSE YOU LISTENED TO ME! Not because you forced me into it, and to boot I would be a happy customer willing to talk about it and blog about it.

Will SolidWorks listen? Not likely, as the cooperate side will see me as just another blogger bitching and they will just push me aside as they have always done. I might get a call from Matt West who will ask how they can make things better but in the end nothing will get done as the red tape of corporate will keep Matt from actually accomplishing anything they hired him to do. Which is sad since they are wasting a great resource in their own office in a sea of red tape and marketing types.

Could things turn around? I believe it could, but with how things are run and who is in power it is certainly unlikely. Those in power are too busy listening to stock holders to listen to the users. The unfortunate thing is that the best ROI would be to listen to the users. But that is not how things are done. The safe bet is to do things like they have in the past, it is viewed as too risky and un-proven to care about the customer and his thoughts, they will do what is safe and what they know. What they know is marketing.

In the end I have given up caring, at least about SolidWorks as a company. I still care about the users I help and I will write for them occasionally and give them stuff they can use with solutions to problems that SolidWorks wont because they are too busy looking for a new customer instead of helping the customer they already have..

What are your thoughts?