Bound, Gagged and Pissed

Roopinder Tara has raised an interesting issue in his blog post titled “Bound and Gagged“. Frankly, I never really understood why companies make such a big issue regarding information about new versions of their products. For example, take the recent launch of Inventor Fusion by Autodesk. Some “select” members of the press and bloggers (which included me) were given access to the software and a demo three weeks before the official launch and were asked to shut up. To be fair to Autodesk, their PR agency asked me before hand whether I wanted to shut up and I agreed. I figured that if I began talking about Fusion before Autodesk was ready to sell it, people would stop buying Inventor and wait for Fusion instead since it was made out to be a drastic change and not just a regular upgrade. As it turned out the Fusion which was eventually released had the “fusion” part missing and was available as a free download on Autodesk Labs. So I cannot understand what the secrecy was all about. What calamity would have come to pass had the press/bloggers started writing about Fusion when they were told about it?

On the other hand, take the recent news about Alibre’s $99 offer. Alibre let me in on the offer much before it was announced and asked me to stay quiet about it. That made a lot of sense, because if I had spilled the beans, then the sales of Alibre Design Standard would have stopped immediately. I can also understand situations when the flow of information needs be controlled. During my recent US/Europe trip I visited PTC and Bricsys, where they let me in on a lot of stuff about their development, outsourcing, internal business processes, etc. Although neither company made me sign an NDA, they figured that I could be trusted with the information to use it responsibly.

Some are of the opinion that letting someone in on something is giving the person a sense of importance. Personally, I think it is quite irritating, especially when the information being disclosed is really no big deal. As Roopinder points out in his post, apparently SolidWorks showed some bloggers the new features of SolidWorks 2010 and then gagged them. This resulted in the bloggers writing about their flights, hotels and boozing sessions. Does SolidWorks think that people will suddenly stop buying SolidWorks 2009 if these bloggers start yapping? And what happens when the embargo is lifted? Do they stop buying then? And if new features are such a big secret, then why have a Beta program that anyone can join? On the contrary, I believe that if information on upcoming versions is made public, people will be more inclined to buy subscriptions, which is what SolidWorks and other CAD vendors want to begin with. Interestingly, McNeel is a company that does exactly that. Not only do they disclose what they are working on, they even release a WIP (Work In Progress) of their next version shortly after they release a new version. This way customers and prospects get a sense of the direction that the product is headed, which helps them to make informed decisions.

If this whole concept of secrecy is to create suspense, then I think these companies need to wake up. This is 2009. People expect to receive information when they want it, not when someone’s decides to give it to them. Suspense may have worked in the past. Not any more. These days, there is so much information that a person’s attention span is very limited. To get maximum exposure for your brand you need to get it to the attention of your target audience over and over again and over an extended period of time. Merely telling people that there is information and that they cannot yet get it only goes to piss people off. Moreover, when the information turns out to be not important enough to justify the suspense, it goes to piss people off all the more.

  • Autodesk Labs is our home for free technoloy previews. It lets people know what we are considering way in advance. This allows them to provide feedback and shape the technology while there is still time to make major changes. Typically when an idea reaches the beta stage, it is so close to release that that useful feedback at that time is whether it works or not. Embargos are a long-standing part of the information sharing process. It allows the information to be widely disseminated over a period of time but have that information become public at the same time. In this way, one blogger does not “scoop” another. All bloggers can start posting at the same time.

  • Autodesk Labs is our home for free technoloy previews. It lets people know what we are considering way in advance. This allows them to provide feedback and shape the technology while there is still time to make major changes. Typically when an idea reaches the beta stage, it is so close to release that that useful feedback at that time is whether it works or not. Embargos are a long-standing part of the information sharing process. It allows the information to be widely disseminated over a period of time but have that information become public at the same time. In this way, one blogger does not “scoop” another. All bloggers can start posting at the same time.

  • Deelip,

    Just to be clear, all the bloggers that visited SolidWorks were (as far as I know) Beta testers, and the NDA from that applies.

    I think one of the reasons for the “veil of secrecy” is that they could decide at the last minute to pull a feature for some reason…

  • Deelip,

    Just to be clear, all the bloggers that visited SolidWorks were (as far as I know) Beta testers, and the NDA from that applies.

    I think one of the reasons for the “veil of secrecy” is that they could decide at the last minute to pull a feature for some reason…

  • As I recall, Autodesk marketing asked if I would be intereseted in some new technology if I agreed to kept it under embargo. Fusion was not mentioned in that initial email.

    Naturally I was annoyed when the “big surprise” was Fusion, software that had been shown months earlier to ten thousand at Autodesk University, videos of which were posted on Al’n Martyn’s blog for the whole world to see.

    Some embargo.

  • As I recall, Autodesk marketing asked if I would be intereseted in some new technology if I agreed to kept it under embargo. Fusion was not mentioned in that initial email.

    Naturally I was annoyed when the “big surprise” was Fusion, software that had been shown months earlier to ten thousand at Autodesk University, videos of which were posted on Al’n Martyn’s blog for the whole world to see.

    Some embargo.

  • Scott: “In this way, one blogger does not “scoop” another. All bloggers can start posting at the same time.”

    I guess some bloggers are more equal than the others. Because as Ralph points out on his blog (see http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2009/08/is-pr-communisim.html), “Autodesk, however, has twice allowed selected bloggers to spill the beans on new AutoCAD releases before all others.”

  • Scott: “In this way, one blogger does not “scoop” another. All bloggers can start posting at the same time.”

    I guess some bloggers are more equal than the others. Because as Ralph points out on his blog (see http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/2009/08/is-pr-communisim.html), “Autodesk, however, has twice allowed selected bloggers to spill the beans on new AutoCAD releases before all others.”

  • I do not mean to imply that we are perfect at this. We do try very hard. My point was that although secretive information may not be “calamity” inducing, it may be the company’s intent to have it become public via multiple sources simultaneously.

  • I do not mean to imply that we are perfect at this. We do try very hard. My point was that although secretive information may not be “calamity” inducing, it may be the company’s intent to have it become public via multiple sources simultaneously.

  • “Does SolidWorks think that people will suddenly stop buying SolidWorks 2009 if these bloggers start yapping?”

    This is were the article starts getting a bit illogical. Anyway, I’m just going to call this like I see it, yet another sour grapes article.

  • “Does SolidWorks think that people will suddenly stop buying SolidWorks 2009 if these bloggers start yapping?”

    This is were the article starts getting a bit illogical. Anyway, I’m just going to call this like I see it, yet another sour grapes article.

  • linux

    “This is 2009. People expect to receive information when they want it, not when someone’s decides to give it to them”

    absolutelly agree. tell that to bricssys “coming soon’s”

  • Linux,

    Yeah, Bricsys has been repeating “coming soon” for far too long now. I think they grossly underestimated the amount of work involved in stripping the Windows specific code and making Bricscad OS independent. Either that, or more urgent matters have put their Linux development on the back burner.

  • Linux,

    Yeah, Bricsys has been repeating “coming soon” for far too long now. I think they grossly underestimated the amount of work involved in stripping the Windows specific code and making Bricscad OS independent. Either that, or more urgent matters have put their Linux development on the back burner.

  • fcsuper,

    First off, I need to figure out how this WordPress comment spamming thing works. Your comment got caught as spam. Not sure why. I had to manually allow it although I don’t moderate this blog. But I guess the anti-spam system superceeds the (non) moderation system.

    Anyways, to address your comment about “sour grapes” there is no way any CAD vendor will get me to any of their events mainly due to the fact that I live in India. Air fare is just too much. I dropped into PTC and Bricsys since I was in that area. And even if they did pay for my air fare I would not go, except if there was a business opportunity for SYCODE. I cannot justify a week out of office and travel half way around the world, just to listen to people tell me something I already know, more so if I would not be able to write about it. And this blog is just a hobby. I earn absolutely nothing from it.

    Heck, it takes me 48 hours to get to the US and another 48 to get back. I also need another day after each flight to recover from the jet lag. It’s just not worth it. That much pain may be worth for COFES, but not this.

    No sour grapes here. I can assure you of that.

  • fcsuper,

    First off, I need to figure out how this WordPress comment spamming thing works. Your comment got caught as spam. Not sure why. I had to manually allow it although I don’t moderate this blog. But I guess the anti-spam system superceeds the (non) moderation system.

    Anyways, to address your comment about “sour grapes” there is no way any CAD vendor will get me to any of their events mainly due to the fact that I live in India. Air fare is just too much. I dropped into PTC and Bricsys since I was in that area. And even if they did pay for my air fare I would not go, except if there was a business opportunity for SYCODE. I cannot justify a week out of office and travel half way around the world, just to listen to people tell me something I already know, more so if I would not be able to write about it. And this blog is just a hobby. I earn absolutely nothing from it.

    Heck, it takes me 48 hours to get to the US and another 48 to get back. I also need another day after each flight to recover from the jet lag. It’s just not worth it. That much pain may be worth for COFES, but not this.

    No sour grapes here. I can assure you of that.

  • As a PR consultant for several CAD companies, I helped them promote new products including road show with pre-launch software. As a corporate communications director for 2 software companies, I managed pre-launch activities. For both roles, issuing non-disclosures was part of following company protocol. It was just what was done at the time.

    Today, as an editor, I find non-disclosures frustrating. Why show us your product if we can’t talk, blog, write about it now? Let’s face it. Times have changed. Communication technologies have changed. Non-disclosures should end. Show us your product when it’s ready to be reported on. We promise to blast the news in a myriad of venues.

  • As a PR consultant for several CAD companies, I helped them promote new products including road show with pre-launch software. As a corporate communications director for 2 software companies, I managed pre-launch activities. For both roles, issuing non-disclosures was part of following company protocol. It was just what was done at the time.

    Today, as an editor, I find non-disclosures frustrating. Why show us your product if we can’t talk, blog, write about it now? Let’s face it. Times have changed. Communication technologies have changed. Non-disclosures should end. Show us your product when it’s ready to be reported on. We promise to blast the news in a myriad of venues.

  • no doubt there are some people different cad companies like to show product to. I don’t think nda’s should be different though. I like getting some news out first just like anyone else would, but if all you guys were posting on it as well, all the better. There’s room enough for unique insight all around.

  • no doubt there are some people different cad companies like to show product to. I don’t think nda’s should be different though. I like getting some news out first just like anyone else would, but if all you guys were posting on it as well, all the better. There’s room enough for unique insight all around.

  • Josh,

    Precisely. If we do not give our “unique insight” then I guess we become a bunch of parrots, right? 😉

  • Josh,

    Precisely. If we do not give our “unique insight” then I guess we become a bunch of parrots, right? 😉

  • linux

    “This is 2009. People expect to receive information when they want it, not when someone’s decides to give it to them”

    absolutelly agree. tell that to bricssys “coming soon's”