I was interested to see Shaan Hurley reporting the Ribbon usage figures from the Customer Involvement Program (CIP). Shaan’s figures show Ribbon non-users at 46%, my poll results show it as 71%. Why the discrepancy? Is somebody telling fibs? I don’t think so.
First, blog nauseam poll respondents represent a biased sample, comprising people who are more interested in AutoCAD than average users. Dare I say more knowledgeable? More likely to be power users or CAD Managers, anyway. They are probably more likely than average users to make changes from the default AutoCAD settings. But Shaan’s CIP users are also a biased sample, comprising those AutoCAD users who have CIP turned on. Are users who go with the flow and have CIP on also more likely to go with the flow and leave the Ribbon on? Possibly, but I would have thought the CIP-on bias would be less significant than the blog-reader bias.
Second, Shaan’s sample size is likely to be very substantially larger than mine. I currently get about 5000 unique visitors to this site each month, with only up to about a hundred bothering to respond to a given poll. Shaan’s numbers are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands, and thus much less prone to a few people skewing the results.
Finally, the method of measurement differs. My poll is totally open and transparent, but requires active participation by the respondent. This means that the more strongly you feel about something, the more likely you are to be measured.
Shaan’s measurement method avoids that pitfall. However, because the details of the CIP measurement mechanism aren’t public, its accuracy is open to conjecture. For example, if somebody spends 8 hours working in a Ribbonless session and then tries out the Ribbon in another session for a few minutes, does that count as a score of 1-1, or is the time used taken into account? If somebody works Ribbonless except when using the Block Editor (personally, I think the Ribbon works well there), is a flag raised that says the Ribbon was used during the session? Does that then count as one Ribbon Session and no Ribbonless sessions? (Shaan, you’re very welcome to put that speculation to rest with some details of how it works). In any case, the number of part-time Ribbon users is likely to be small enough not to make a huge difference.
In summary, I’m quite prepared to accept that Shaan’s CIP numbers are likely to be closer to reality than my poll results. I think “about half and half” is a decent compromise answer to the question posed by the title of this post.
The question is, is that a good result? Shaan says he was surprised by the results, but doesn’t state whether he thought the Ribbon would be more or less popular than that. Before I ran my poll, I would have said that a significant minority, say a third of users, were going Ribbonless, and that a good result for the new interface would have been if less than 20% of AutoCAD 2009 users were going out of their way to turn it off. Whichever numbers you choose, the Ribbon is doing a lot worse than that. Why? Please fill in the poll on the right and let us all know. Whatever the reasons, we should be grateful that unlike many software companies, Autodesk has at least given us the choice.