Matt Writes and Confuses

Yesterday Ralph Grabowski wrote his views on free software. Matt Lombard’s used his comment to take a dig at trial software. He said, “The best way to learn something is to sit with someone who knows it so you can ask questions. Self teaching generally doesn’t amount to anything more than playing.”

And today Matt’s blog (“Matt Writes”) has a post letting us know that he has created a 150 minute video training course on SolidWorks. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this video course self learning. I doubt Matt or anyone else is going to sit with the person playing the video to answer his questions.

There is reason why we software developers add step by step tutorials, sample files, videos, etc. into our trial software. People who choose not to use them and prefer to “sit with someone to ask questions” are missing the point of it all.

I only hope that the people who are thinking of paying Matt for his training course do not share his views.

And by the way, although Matt questions the effectiveness of trial software he urges you to download a sample lesson from his video course. I wonder why.

  • Anonymous

    I think you need to understand the word “best” from the statement “the best way to learn”. It clearly doesn’t state that it is the only way, just the best way. By saying the word “best” you are inferring that there are multiple ways. To be fair, when you say “best” you are also refering to some standard. It would make sense if when we stated “best”, we explained what stnadard we are referring to. I tend to agree with Matt when he makes a statement about training/learning, but who has the money to pay an expert to sit next to them? If I can learn 90% of the material I need to know from a $400 on line video tutorial with examples and files in my own time, verses a $1500 fixed schedule course. What do you think I would choose? As far as tutorials… Often times the info is not in-depth enough to give users the breadth of examples of how the tools might be used. I don’t blame the developers. I don’t think I want to pay the developers the money it would cost to fully explain every feature in every way. Why? Because I won’t probably be using every feature in every way. If I need it, I’ll go learn it from a place that offers some more advanced examples.

  • Anonymous

    I think you need to understand the word “best” from the statement “the best way to learn”. It clearly doesn’t state that it is the only way, just the best way. By saying the word “best” you are inferring that there are multiple ways. To be fair, when you say “best” you are also refering to some standard. It would make sense if when we stated “best”, we explained what stnadard we are referring to. I tend to agree with Matt when he makes a statement about training/learning, but who has the money to pay an expert to sit next to them? If I can learn 90% of the material I need to know from a $400 on line video tutorial with examples and files in my own time, verses a $1500 fixed schedule course. What do you think I would choose? As far as tutorials… Often times the info is not in-depth enough to give users the breadth of examples of how the tools might be used. I don’t blame the developers. I don’t think I want to pay the developers the money it would cost to fully explain every feature in every way. Why? Because I won’t probably be using every feature in every way. If I need it, I’ll go learn it from a place that offers some more advanced examples.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anonymous, it is important to note that when a prospective customer downloads a trial he looks for certain things in the software. If he finds them and they work (or seem to work) as per his requirement, he then investigates further using a variety of means. This can involve fiddling around with the software itself, tutorials, sample files, videos (free or purchased), internet, user groups, “sit and ask questions”, etc.

    The first logical step in determining whether a particular software will work for you or not is to try it for yourself. In the past seven months, I wonder how many people took the pains to figure out whether SpaceClaim would solve their problems. Even if they wanted to they couldn’t because there was no free trial. Just some fancy videos which show what the vendor wanted to highlight.

    So saying “self teaching generally doesn’t amount to anything more than playing” isn’t right. If you need someone to sit with you and teach you whatever you want to know, you are not giving due credit to the intelligence that you have been blessed with.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anonymous, it is important to note that when a prospective customer downloads a trial he looks for certain things in the software. If he finds them and they work (or seem to work) as per his requirement, he then investigates further using a variety of means. This can involve fiddling around with the software itself, tutorials, sample files, videos (free or purchased), internet, user groups, “sit and ask questions”, etc.The first logical step in determining whether a particular software will work for you or not is to try it for yourself. In the past seven months, I wonder how many people took the pains to figure out whether SpaceClaim would solve their problems. Even if they wanted to they couldn’t because there was no free trial. Just some fancy videos which show what the vendor wanted to highlight.So saying “self teaching generally doesn’t amount to anything more than playing” isn’t right. If you need someone to sit with you and teach you whatever you want to know, you are not giving due credit to the intelligence that you have been blessed with.

  • matt

    Deelip,

    I’m sorry that you think my position is confusing. First, I have not encouraged anyone to download a trial of the course. The download suggestion is on SolidProfessor’s site. I believe their approach is valid because in my opinion, there is a vast divide between passive video training and actively trying to use unfamiliar software. A sample video is easy to digest, but complex software is not always so easy.

    If you were to try to make a decision to buy Autocad, assuming you are completely unfamiliar with the software and you had two hours to evaluate it, how would those two hours best be spent? Autocad is so complex you could never teach yourself anything in two hours, which is four times as much as most people use a trial version for evaluation purposes.

    Using trial versions for actual productive work is a different issue, you have already made the decision not to buy it.

    I agree with what you said about the value of step-by-step tutorials, but not all software developers provide this, and even when it is provided frequently the quality and detail are less than ideal. Part of the reason I write books and video training is to help fill the gap that developers leave in the documentation. Frequently, developers do not see functionality through the eyes of end users.

    I’m not very familiar with Sycode’s business model, but my impression of it is that you write smaller applications which augment the functionality of larger tools like Autocad and Rhino. Evals of smaller applications can be valuable, because they are much easier to understand than things like Autocad, SolidWorks or even Spaceclaim.

    From a user’s perspective, larger applications usually require the user to adopt a certain modeling philosophy, which helps the user understand the workflow. Modeling philosophy is rarely articulated in documentation, and is very difficult for users to “reverse engineer” out of the software without more usage than a trial version allows.

    From the reseller point of view, eval versions of large applications are a complete waste of time. In my 7 years of working for SolidWorks resellers, I never lost a deal to free giveaway software, because I took the time to help the potential customer understand what he/she was looking at.

    Even optimistically assuming that giveaway software gets used for two hours, no one could possibly gain an understanding of SolidWorks upon which they could base an informed decision to buy or not to buy with two hours or even two days of self directed wandering through the software. Spaceclaim is not as complex as SolidWorks, but for someone coming from a parametric background, the Spaceclaim philosophy is even more difficult to understand than the individual tools (“why” vs “how”).

    To summarize my position, evals are more valid for smaller, easier to comprehend tools, such as those provided by Sycode. Large comprehensive tools cannot be sold this way (SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, Catia, Unigraphics, etc.)

    Some players like VX, Rhino and others offer trial versions, but I’ve had a trial version of Rhino since it was available, and have never bought it. I use it as free software, without even the least question of wanting to buy it. I think they are just fishing, and might occasionally get a bluebird due to a free copy. Serious evaluators always get help from experts.

  • matt

    Deelip,I’m sorry that you think my position is confusing. First, I have not encouraged anyone to download a trial of the course. The download suggestion is on SolidProfessor’s site. I believe their approach is valid because in my opinion, there is a vast divide between passive video training and actively trying to use unfamiliar software. A sample video is easy to digest, but complex software is not always so easy. If you were to try to make a decision to buy Autocad, assuming you are completely unfamiliar with the software and you had two hours to evaluate it, how would those two hours best be spent? Autocad is so complex you could never teach yourself anything in two hours, which is four times as much as most people use a trial version for evaluation purposes.Using trial versions for actual productive work is a different issue, you have already made the decision not to buy it.I agree with what you said about the value of step-by-step tutorials, but not all software developers provide this, and even when it is provided frequently the quality and detail are less than ideal. Part of the reason I write books and video training is to help fill the gap that developers leave in the documentation. Frequently, developers do not see functionality through the eyes of end users.I’m not very familiar with Sycode’s business model, but my impression of it is that you write smaller applications which augment the functionality of larger tools like Autocad and Rhino. Evals of smaller applications can be valuable, because they are much easier to understand than things like Autocad, SolidWorks or even Spaceclaim.From a user’s perspective, larger applications usually require the user to adopt a certain modeling philosophy, which helps the user understand the workflow. Modeling philosophy is rarely articulated in documentation, and is very difficult for users to “reverse engineer” out of the software without more usage than a trial version allows.From the reseller point of view, eval versions of large applications are a complete waste of time. In my 7 years of working for SolidWorks resellers, I never lost a deal to free giveaway software, because I took the time to help the potential customer understand what he/she was looking at. Even optimistically assuming that giveaway software gets used for two hours, no one could possibly gain an understanding of SolidWorks upon which they could base an informed decision to buy or not to buy with two hours or even two days of self directed wandering through the software. Spaceclaim is not as complex as SolidWorks, but for someone coming from a parametric background, the Spaceclaim philosophy is even more difficult to understand than the individual tools (“why” vs “how”).To summarize my position, evals are more valid for smaller, easier to comprehend tools, such as those provided by Sycode. Large comprehensive tools cannot be sold this way (SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, Catia, Unigraphics, etc.) Some players like VX, Rhino and others offer trial versions, but I’ve had a trial version of Rhino since it was available, and have never bought it. I use it as free software, without even the least question of wanting to buy it. I think they are just fishing, and might occasionally get a bluebird due to a free copy. Serious evaluators always get help from experts.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Matt, you make some valid points. However, I believe that people wanting to evaluate a software like AutoCAD and that too in just two hours are really just “fooling around”. It will be in Autodesk’s best interest to ignore these people. But people who are really serious will spend much more time and will eventually contact Autodesk with their questions or search for answers on in the internet. It happens all the time. The AutoCAD trial actually acts as filter that removes these kind of people.

    It is an entirely different matter that software vendors use the downloads from such people to pump up their numbers and that’s what ticks off the CAD press, who sometimes end up bashing trial versions.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Matt, you make some valid points. However, I believe that people wanting to evaluate a software like AutoCAD and that too in just two hours are really just “fooling around”. It will be in Autodesk’s best interest to ignore these people. But people who are really serious will spend much more time and will eventually contact Autodesk with their questions or search for answers on in the internet. It happens all the time. The AutoCAD trial actually acts as filter that removes these kind of people.It is an entirely different matter that software vendors use the downloads from such people to pump up their numbers and that’s what ticks off the CAD press, who sometimes end up bashing trial versions.

  • Kevin

    I spent a month teaching myself Rhino and I thought I was getting to a good intermediate level. Then I spent a day manning a trade show booth with Scott Davidson and learned more about Rhino use in that day then I did in the previous month.

  • Kevin

    I spent a month teaching myself Rhino and I thought I was getting to a good intermediate level. Then I spent a day manning a trade show booth with Scott Davidson and learned more about Rhino use in that day then I did in the previous month.