Autodesk not listening? The response, part 1.

While attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch today, I took the opportunity to interview three Autodesk people: Eric Stover, Jon Page and Shaan Hurley. I raised the issue of Autodesk being seen as not listening to its customers, and was given a very comprehensive response. Here is the first of two parts of that interview.

YouTube link.

Disclosure: Transport, accommodation and some meals were provided by Autodesk.

Why do you think Autodesk isn’t listening?

I frequently see people remark that Autodesk doesn’t listen to its customers. I’ve made that remark myself in relation to certain specific items, most recently the botched discussion group update. Of the six Rate Autodesk polls, the Listening to its customers poll shows easily the biggest bias towards the wrong end of the graph.

Now I happen to know that Autodesk goes to some lengths to find out what its customers are thinking (more on that later), but still this feeling of being ignored persists among its customers. Why is this so? Why do so many of you hold this view? I have my own thoughts about this, but right now I’m more interested in yours.

I’d like to see some examples that make you think that Autodesk doesn’t care about your viewpoints, wishes and desires. If you can suggest ways in which Autodesk could do things better, let’s hear them. On the other hand, if you believe that Autodesk is listening, please provide examples that show that to be the case.

I will be asking some Autodesk people the same question very soon, in addition to any questions you pose in my Ask Autodesk a question post (more questions, please!). I will report back on the answers, so it will be interesting to compare your comments with what the Autodesk people have to say.

(Don’t) Ask Autodesk a question

If you had a real live Autodesk development person standing in front of you right now (an AutoCAD Product Manager, for example) and were allowed to ask one question, what would it be?

Please add a comment here with your question. I would ask that you keep your question civil and reasonably concise (one or two sentences), and bear in mind that the development person in front of you isn’t going to have a useful answer to policy questions about pricing, license agreements, customer service and so on. Other than that, anything goes, so let’s have ’em.

I can’t promise that your question will get answered, but I’ll see what I can do.

Note: comments are now closed, as this post keeps getting mistaken for an ongoing mechanism for asking Autodesk questions.

Adding Heidi

Although I want to keep my list of links reasonably compact, it should not have taken until now to add the AutoCAD Insider blog of Autodesk’s Heidi Hewett to the list. Heidi’s idea of going through the AutoCAD alphabet is a great one, and I wish I had thought of it.

blog nauseam has been light on for AutoCAD tips and information lately. Although that’s going to change for the better soon, there’s plenty of that kind of stuff on Heidi’s blog to keep you amused in the meantime. It’s useful stuff for all AutoCAD users, explained well.

Oh, and Heidi, the Boundary command was (kind of) added in Release 12, except it was called Bpoly at the time. It was renamed to Boundary in Release 13. The Bpoly command lives on to this day, doing exactly the same as Boundary.

Has Carol left the building?

We all know Carol Bartz has taken on the challenge of leading Yahoo!, but does that mean she’s no longer with Autodesk? I would have thought she would have had her hands more than full with her new job, but I haven’t seen any mention of her giving up her Autodesk position as Executive Chairman of the Board. The Autodesk web site still has her listed in that position, so I guess she’s still there. She’s on various other boards and councils too, so maybe she’s sticking around at Autodesk long-term?

Bad Photoshop 4

Pathetic perspective, courtesy of the work experience person doing Clark Rubber‘s brochure images:

Escher would be proud

The same background is used for another table set. The perspective doesn’t match in that one either, but it’s not as bad as this. Maybe it’s just CAD geeks who notice this sort of thing?

One more to come from this brochure, and it’s the worst one of the lot!

Bad Photoshop 3

More Fotoshop phun courtesy of Clark Rubber:

Legless

We’ll allow the oversized box and balls as an artistic device. But the woman has been cut out (badly) and pasted in with little regard to scale; that water is about 30″ deep. She either has very stumpy legs compared with her skinny top half, or the Autodesk shark is in there and it has given her an amputation at about the calf level. Why is her forearm oddly shaped, and shorter and thinner than that of the girl? And what’s going on down by the ladder?

Come to the dark side

Why is it darker one side of the rail than the other? Why is the edge of the water higher and darker on that side? Why does the ladder cast no shadow? Inquiring minds want to know.

Cadalyst goes bi-monthly

As you may be aware, I’m a Contributing Editor (i.e. writer) for Cadalyst magazine and have been writing the Bug Watch column since 1995.  Back when Cadalyst was thicker, Bug Watch appeared in the printed magazine every month, but it has been exclusively on-line for a few years now. Cadalyst’s owner, Questex, recently announced that Cadalyst will be moving from 12 to 6 issues a year, effective January/February. However, the Cadalyst site already shows the effects of the bi-monthly schedule, with the current issue being November/December.

I wrote Bug Watch columns for both November and December, and they are both listed in the on-line current issue. It’s not yet clear what will be happening with Bug Watch next year, but as soon as I can tell you what’s going on I will do so. Bug Watch has been rather tricky to find for some years now, so I don’t know how many of you still read it or find it useful. I don’t know how many people read printed magazines these days, either. I still buy some magazines myself in other areas of interest, but it’s much less frequent than it used to be.

Minor site changes

I have updated this blog to use WordPress 2.7, and have also taken the opportunity to add a few new features:

  • At the bottom of each page, you will now find a page navigation bar, as the old one-page-at-a-time thing was a bit painful.
  • At the bottom of each post, there is now a Print This Post link, which displays the post in a cleanly printable format with any links shown in full at the bottom of the page.
  • I have added a Stats page and a Stats section in the first sidebar (under the polls).
  • I have moved things from one sidebar to another, because with lots of polls, things were getting a bit lop-sided. In particular, I moved the Recent Comments and Recent Posts sections to the second sidebar.

If there is anything you have seen on other blogs that you would like to see here, please let me know and I’ll look into adding it.

Bad Photoshop 1 & 2

I’ve mentioned before that I love the Photoshop Disasters blog, and I’ve also mentioned that Clark Rubber has provided me with great service.

Here’s the first of a few posts that combine the two. I recently received a Clark Rubber brochure, and from the look of it (and the web site), Clark Rubber is not receiving the same kind of service from its Photoshop people that it provides to its own customers. I could fill this whole blog with disasters from that one brochure, but here are just a couple for a start.

Water cannon defies logic

Putting aside the awful water spray, the cut-and-paste problems, the strange lighting/shadow issues, the unrealistic water edge and the rest of it, how did that picture of the kid in the pool also manage to appear on the water cannon itself (sans pool and with the toy at a different angle)? Eddies in the space-time continuum, perhaps? He probably is.* My head assplode.

Blade Blaster defies geometry

This magic device not only fires oversized lemons, it also emits a strangely unrealistic jet of water of significantly smaller diameter than the inside diameter of the tube. I must have one!

* Joke stolen from Douglas Adams.

AutoCAD 2009 – Do you use the menu bar?

You may have noticed that I’ve added a poll to find out if the AutoCAD 2009 users among you are using the menu bar (i.e. MENUBAR = 1). I’m also interested in hearing your comments about your usage and the reasons behind it.

If your menu bar turned on, why? Do you use it all the time or do you just need it for those less-frequently-used commands that you don’t have handy at your fingertips, on toolbars, palettes or the Ribbon? Do you need it because your own custom routines are on menus, or third-party commands? Does the vertical AutoCAD variant you’re using need it?

If your menu bar is turned off, why? Do you never have any need for the stuff in there? Do you use the Menu Browser instead, sacrificing an occasional extra click for the sake of a permanent strip of screen space?

Let’s have your Autodesk University stories!

I am an unashamed Autodesk University enthusiast. I’m not at AU this year, but if I was I’d be blogging about it like mad. I had all sorts of plans for posting reports, photos, videos, interviews and so on, but circumstances conspired against me and it’s not going to happen this time round.

These days it seems as though everybody has a blog, but I’m sure there must be at least one or two of you who are in the opposite situation to me. That is, you don’t have a blog and you are attending Autodesk University. So if you’re one of those people and you have something of interest to say about your AU2008 experience, let’s hear it.

Did you meet somebody famous, interesting, friendly, or from a faraway place? Did you have a good time at one of the many official and unofficial functions? Did you attend a brilliantly presented session? Did you learn something particularly useful or fascinating? Do you have incriminating photos of people doing embarrassing things? Do tell.

Please add your comments here or email me if you have something that needs special attention, such as a photo or a video.

I’ve posted these before, but here are a some videos from my AU2006 experience:

Lynn Allen’s Famous Cell Phone Story

YouTube Link

Sorry the sound’s not the best, you may need to turn it up a bit.

Shaan Hurley gets blue

YouTube Link

Artist site: Blue Man Group

Autodesk University 2006 Video

This one’s not by me, but I’m in it!

YouTube Link

Created by Helge Brettschneider, originally posted on Between The Lines by Shaan Hurley.

How well cooked is the average major new AutoCAD feature these days?

I’ve now closed the poll that asks this question, and the results show a typical bell-curve shape with the peak clearly on “Half-baked”. There is a slight bias to the bottom end, but not a significant one.

This result doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve seen and heard a lot of user comments to that effect, and I’ve made such comments myself.  I’m not saying that this poll is definitive proof of anything, but it sits pretty well with my perception of what AutoCAD users generally think.

Now I’d like you to consider a related question. If we accept for the sake of argument that the average major new AutoCAD feature is half-baked, is that necessarily a bad thing? There are some valid arguments that can be made for pushing out features before they are complete. I’ll examine the pros and cons from my perspective later, but for now I’d like to hear from you.  What do you think?