My Take On Product Reviews

Just last night, Al Dean of DEVELOP3D and I were having an exchange on Twitter about software product reviews. I was making the point that you simply cannot do what people love to call an “in-depth review” of a CAD system in about 2000 words. Al was of the opinion that things were relative and depended on how deep the writer needed to go and also on the audience.

Personally, I prefer reviews where the writer shares his expereinces with the product that he is reviewing. If I want to know what’s new in a product, I can simply read the “What’s New” document, which will have far more detail. Even a company press release would suffice at times. This applies to all kinds of products, not just software. For example, take the review of a car. I am really not interested in knowing by how much the diameter of the disk brakes were increased. The brochure will definitely highlight that. I am more interested in knowing how the brakes held on curves, loose gravel and wet roads. I have yet come across a car review on TV where the reviewer only sits in the driver’s seat and points to the new stuff in the car, without actually taking the car for a spin and telling viewers what he feels about the car.

To explain my point, let me bring to your attention two reviews I recently read. The first one is a review in a UK magazine  (not Al’s) of Pro/ENGINEER WildFire 5.0 that I read last night. Basically the review was a “What’s New?” document in better prose. I am sure there are people who will find this information useful and that is probably why the review found its place in the magazine. The review was full of “there is this” and “there is that” and sprinkles of “you can do this” and “you can do that”. I don’t believe I ever saw the word “I” anywhere.

The second review is of KeyCreator 9 on the December issue of Cadalyst that I read this morning. I got a completely different feeling of this review just by noticing how many times the word “I” was used. The screenshots used in the review also gave me the impression that the writer actually used the product. Incidentally, the writer is a casting engineer and has been using KeyCreator every day for five years since V3. The writer explained in some detail how and where he used the new features, not just what the new features were. The following sentences from the review will give you a good idea of what I am trying to get at here:

“On a customer file with approximately 6,400 faces, I saw a 55.5% increase in speed!”

“This tool, which began as a SolidWorks file, was imported and healed in KeyCreator in two hours’ time. Tooling design was completed in another three hours.”

“I can personally attest to this improvement on real-world files.”

“KeyCreator and its approach to direct modeling stand out among all the modeling tools I’ve worked with over the years.”

Now this is the kind of stuff I prefer to see in product reviews.

Another thing. In their attempt to get magazines to review their products, CAD vendors often send a CD to the magazine and sometimes arrange for someone from the magazine to get trained for a couple of days at a local reseller. That’s crazy. Its equivalent to having someone who has just passed his driver’s license test write a review of a new car. In a few hours, you basically learn how to navigate around the software and are probably able to design something as simple as a Lego block, like how I recently did in my series on PowerSHAPE. There is no way in hell someone like me could actually review something as complex as PowerSHAPE. And by review, I mean do something useful and compare it with what I did earlier in an older version of the same product or a totally different product. If I absolutely had to review PowerSHAPE 2010 I would probably take the “What’s New?” section of the product documentation and simple reword it.

I use AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Rhino on a daily basis. AutoCAD and SolidWorks because they are the largest selling platforms for my plug-ins and I need to constantly work with customer’s data. I use Rhino to prototype almost all my products, since all of them use OpenNURBS, the geometry library of Rhino. But even then, I do not believe I could do justice if I had to review the next version or AutoCAD, SolidWorks or Rhino. If there is one product that I can review, it is Microsoft Visual Studio, the development platform that I use to build all my products. Basically, my soul has become one with that piece of software.

Maybe I am understanding this whole concept of product reviews all wrong. But if the point of a product review is to only let users know what’s is new in a product then what are advertisements for?

As Al so eloquently put it, “And the ultimate answer is, if you don’t like the review, don’t read it or the publication anymore – pretty simple right?“. That is precisely what I find myself doing.

  • Matt Lombard

    Deelip, I’m with you on this one. Journalists can bloviate as much as they like on the topic, but you’re exactly right about reviews in 2000 words (basic magazine article). I’ve written a little for mags, and I stopped doing it because I don’t think you can say much worth saying in that space. It does help you write more carefully, and trimming the material down does also help you develop editing skills, but it doesn’t really say much of substance about the software you’re reviewing. I did a bit on Solid Edge Synch Tech a while back, and after 3 rounds of edits, I still had over 4000 words, which meant it was a two part article. It was a very breezy overview, but I can see where if you don’t really know the software that well, it would be a relief to only have to write 2000 words.

    The Cadalyst article you cite was written by an end user, not a journalist. In the end, that’s usually the best way to get a meaningful article. But this guy is a fanboy, so any interpretation he gives is questionable. I wouldn’t doubt his facts (which are few in the article). I think he’s a little too passionate and not very objective. Journalists usually have the other problem, they have no passion for the topic.

    Al boils it down nicely. I don’t read any CAD mags any more. I prefer to get more homegrown data, directly from people who use what they write about, untainted by the influence of corporate advertising. If you’re a weekend CAD adventurer, well, there’s a big difference between that and someone who depends on it to make a living.

  • Matt Lombard

    Deelip, I’m with you on this one. Journalists can bloviate as much as they like on the topic, but you’re exactly right about reviews in 2000 words (basic magazine article). I’ve written a little for mags, and I stopped doing it because I don’t think you can say much worth saying in that space. It does help you write more carefully, and trimming the material down does also help you develop editing skills, but it doesn’t really say much of substance about the software you’re reviewing. I did a bit on Solid Edge Synch Tech a while back, and after 3 rounds of edits, I still had over 4000 words, which meant it was a two part article. It was a very breezy overview, but I can see where if you don’t really know the software that well, it would be a relief to only have to write 2000 words.

    The Cadalyst article you cite was written by an end user, not a journalist. In the end, that’s usually the best way to get a meaningful article. But this guy is a fanboy, so any interpretation he gives is questionable. I wouldn’t doubt his facts (which are few in the article). I think he’s a little too passionate and not very objective. Journalists usually have the other problem, they have no passion for the topic.

    Al boils it down nicely. I don’t read any CAD mags any more. I prefer to get more homegrown data, directly from people who use what they write about, untainted by the influence of corporate advertising. If you’re a weekend CAD adventurer, well, there’s a big difference between that and someone who depends on it to make a living.

  • Matt,

    I really have no problem with people writing reviews where they highlight only the good side of a product. The same goes with people who only offer the bad side. I can add up both sides myself and read between the lines, if required. There are always two sides anyways.

    But I have better things to do with my time other than spend it reading a review that does not offer anything more than what’s already available in the “What’s New?” document and can be freely downloaded from the vendor’s web site.

  • Matt,

    I really have no problem with people writing reviews where they highlight only the good side of a product. The same goes with people who only offer the bad side. I can add up both sides myself and read between the lines, if required. There are always two sides anyways.

    But I have better things to do with my time other than spend it reading a review that does not offer anything more than what’s already available in the “What’s New?” document and can be freely downloaded from the vendor’s web site.

  • Another thing. I do not believe that this a question about whether an end user can write a better review than a journalist/editor. Editors get to use various CAD systems and can sometimes be in a better position to compare them or offer historical perspective, as opposed to an end user whose world revolves around one or two CAD systems. But for that to happen they need to take the time to extensively use the software and get extensively trained if necessary. If that becomes a challenge they should at least spend a lot of time with people who use the product and see what they are doing with it.

    The actual review itself often gives a good idea of exactly what the reviewer did with the product and how much time he spent using it.

  • Another thing. I do not believe that this a question about whether an end user can write a better review than a journalist/editor. Editors get to use various CAD systems and can sometimes be in a better position to compare them or offer historical perspective, as opposed to an end user whose world revolves around one or two CAD systems. But for that to happen they need to take the time to extensively use the software and get extensively trained if necessary. If that becomes a challenge they should at least spend a lot of time with people who use the product and see what they are doing with it.

    The actual review itself often gives a good idea of exactly what the reviewer did with the product and how much time he spent using it.

  • Ralphg

    The purpose of writing reviews is two fold: to fill up magazine pages (so there are no empty spaces around the ads) and for the review writer to make some money.

  • Ralphg

    The purpose of writing reviews is two fold: to fill up magazine pages (so there are no empty spaces around the ads) and for the review writer to make some money.

  • Dave Ault

    Good article. It is impossible to give a good review in 2,000 words or less on something as complex as software. I can go to a canned demo of software and sit through far more than 2,000 words and can leave moderatly to seriously impressed if I fail to remember that in part or totaly this was an orchestrated situation. It’s better when you bring your own file in and give it to them unwarned and unprepared and see what happens then. The software that I have bought out of my own money has always revealed ugly warts after some use however and 2,000 words will never even touch this. But a guy who has actualy used the product and gives specifics based on true user knowledge, if not afflicted with fanboy as Matt notes, is the best you will get in a review. I agree totaly with Matt on this though, if a vendor can’t give me a list of local users I can go and interview to see how they like it I will not buy it. Either the vendor has bad software to hide or a user base so small that future job and contract opportunities are zilch. I use reviews as an initial vehicle to determine if I am interested and futher investigation is always done in person. I could have read about SE for instance in a review and did. But I did not buy it until I took my parts in and had the demo jock work with them.

    I would say an actual knowledgable user with a jounalistic bent is far superior to a jounalist with two days training. It can take weeks to really start to find out what a software is all about when it comes to problems and gotchas.

  • Dave Ault

    Good article. It is impossible to give a good review in 2,000 words or less on something as complex as software. I can go to a canned demo of software and sit through far more than 2,000 words and can leave moderatly to seriously impressed if I fail to remember that in part or totaly this was an orchestrated situation. It’s better when you bring your own file in and give it to them unwarned and unprepared and see what happens then. The software that I have bought out of my own money has always revealed ugly warts after some use however and 2,000 words will never even touch this. But a guy who has actualy used the product and gives specifics based on true user knowledge, if not afflicted with fanboy as Matt notes, is the best you will get in a review. I agree totaly with Matt on this though, if a vendor can’t give me a list of local users I can go and interview to see how they like it I will not buy it. Either the vendor has bad software to hide or a user base so small that future job and contract opportunities are zilch. I use reviews as an initial vehicle to determine if I am interested and futher investigation is always done in person. I could have read about SE for instance in a review and did. But I did not buy it until I took my parts in and had the demo jock work with them.

    I would say an actual knowledgable user with a jounalistic bent is far superior to a jounalist with two days training. It can take weeks to really start to find out what a software is all about when it comes to problems and gotchas.

  • Deelip,

    For the sake of discussion, let me take a counter point.

    We are all lacking information. You said you could do a review of Microsoft Visual Studio but could you compare it fairly to Eclipse given you know one product so much more? Maybe you could make a comparison between AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Rhino but to your point, a dedicated user is going to have a deeper understanding of any one product.

    So every author is going to have a different viewpoint, different knowledge base, and a different skill set and set of talents. And every reader has a different set of needs. I like the mix in perspectives.

  • Deelip,

    For the sake of discussion, let me take a counter point.

    We are all lacking information. You said you could do a review of Microsoft Visual Studio but could you compare it fairly to Eclipse given you know one product so much more? Maybe you could make a comparison between AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Rhino but to your point, a dedicated user is going to have a deeper understanding of any one product.

    So every author is going to have a different viewpoint, different knowledge base, and a different skill set and set of talents. And every reader has a different set of needs. I like the mix in perspectives.

  • I’m not going to get into the specifics of this, partly because I’m aware that Matt has some very strong reviews on this subject and I don’t particularly want it to go all Wolfe on my ass – but I’ll defend the professional journalist till my dying day. Why? Reach. Simple as that. While there’s a growing community on the web, there’s still an information gap for many that don’t time the time, the impulse or the desire to read online. This much I know. Otherwise we’d have got nowhere with DEVELOP3D.

    Are there more in-depth sources of information out there? yeah sure. Should someone looking for a system to buy rely on a review? Christ alive no. Should users that have invested either at a corporate level or personal level in one set of tools be able to keep abreast of development in their industry toolset without having to troll through 100s of website, forums and user groups? No. SHould have have a nicely designed magazine to flip through as they want, learn about what people are doing and how? Yes. I do believe they should.

    That’s all up for debate and it’s pointless. As Matt says, he’s stopped reading CAD magazines because they don’t suit his informational requirements and levels of trust. I can’t and wouldn’t presume to argue with it.

    Others feel differently I’m glad to say.

    But let’s get to something that’s floating around here. Journalists and how reviews are written.

    There’s one CAD magazine (yes, in the UK not the one discussed here) that charges for reviews. Yup. They charge the vendor 500 quid for their editor to turn up, rewrite the what’s new document and print it on the page. As a publisher I can understand why that makes pure business sense. As someone with morals, I’m horrified to the core. A vendor? Paying for an “independent” review? Fuck me.

    Also, when I first started writing for a living I turned up at the office of one of the big three vendors to take a look at their industrial design tools. Something I was excited about, new technology in my core area of expertise. Conversation went like this:

    “Hi Al. Thanks for coming”
    “Not a problem”
    “How much is the review going to cost?”
    “Sorry?”
    “the last review we had done in ****** magazine cost us 1,500 quid – I wondered how much you charge”
    “Ummm.. nothing. I get paid by the magazine to come and do this”
    “Oh…. you sure?”

    That was the point right there I realised how bad things were. Editor. Not a freelancer, but an Editor charges a vendor to write a review. He’s on salary from a well respected magazine, being paid a decent wage to do his job. And still, he’s greedy enough to take 1,500 pounds to write a review he’s already been paid to do.

    I took the choice, did the job properly and have continued to do it. Yes. someone people don’t like how we cover products, some people don’t like me = fair enough. But I can say, without a doubt, I do the job honestly and the best of my knowledge and ability.

    But here’s the rub, that magazine Editor still works in the industry. His magazine disappeared a decade ago and he’s freelancing for magazines you probably read. Whether he still gets 1,500 quid per independent review remains to be seen, but I suspect not – people don’t get burned twice.

    But can he hold his head up high and say he did it properly and with pride? I doubt that too.

    Al,
    Editor in Chief
    DEVELOP3D

  • R. Paul Waddington

    I find this a particulaly interesting discussion.

    I think product reviews – well written or not – will always have something of value if you are a customer looking to buy or… Read what is said, apply your own intelligence, intuition and commonsense and you cannot loose. Even if I don’t agree with what I read said about products I know very well, I will still read them simply to see if there is something I have missed about the product or to get another’s point of view.

    What I really don’t like tho’ and believe should cease – and I have said so many times – is (*****) star ratings attached to reviews. This is simply rubbish and negates the writers objectiveness immediately.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    I find this a particulaly interesting discussion.

    I think product reviews – well written or not – will always have something of value if you are a customer looking to buy or… Read what is said, apply your own intelligence, intuition and commonsense and you cannot loose. Even if I don’t agree with what I read said about products I know very well, I will still read them simply to see if there is something I have missed about the product or to get another’s point of view.

    What I really don’t like tho’ and believe should cease – and I have said so many times – is (*****) star ratings attached to reviews. This is simply rubbish and negates the writers objectiveness immediately.

  • Cadjunky

    I know how to check out a program before you buy it, but it is illegal. it also comes with a keycreator 😉

    If only all cad programs where free for personal/home use then every potential buyer could just download it and test it. This would reduce illegale downloads and get more trained students/unemployed, and eventually more buyers.

    If your program sucks then it will work the other way around, but you probably deserve it.
    Most software developers are scared for making something free, except Google, everybody knows how good free sells if your product is good.

    Btw al LOT of reviews on internet are fake, and not only software reviews every kind of review. Quantity is there fore more important then quality, except if you have a trusted source like develop3D.

    @aldean In the Netherlands there is not such a thing as an independent CAD magazine if you pay them, they will write whatever you like them to write. Even a big Dutch magazine the engineer is just one big add.

  • Cadjunky

    I know how to check out a program before you buy it, but it is illegal. it also comes with a keycreator 😉

    If only all cad programs where free for personal/home use then every potential buyer could just download it and test it. This would reduce illegale downloads and get more trained students/unemployed, and eventually more buyers.

    If your program sucks then it will work the other way around, but you probably deserve it.
    Most software developers are scared for making something free, except Google, everybody knows how good free sells if your product is good.

    Btw al LOT of reviews on internet are fake, and not only software reviews every kind of review. Quantity is there fore more important then quality, except if you have a trusted source like develop3D.

    @aldean In the Netherlands there is not such a thing as an independent CAD magazine if you pay them, they will write whatever you like them to write. Even a big Dutch magazine the engineer is just one big add.

  • Mark,

    I think I get your point. I may not be able to effectively compare Visual Studio with Eclipse. But I will most definitely be able to compare it with one of its previous versions. But my point is that by no stretch of imagination can someone, who has just done an introductory course in C++, be able to review or compare either product, or any C++ development platform for that matter.

    If push comes to shove, I would prefer to read a review of a racing bike written by a race car driver as opposed to one written by someone who has just learned how to balance himself on a bicycle.

  • Mark,

    I think I get your point. I may not be able to effectively compare Visual Studio with Eclipse. But I will most definitely be able to compare it with one of its previous versions. But my point is that by no stretch of imagination can someone, who has just done an introductory course in C++, be able to review or compare either product, or any C++ development platform for that matter.

    If push comes to shove, I would prefer to read a review of a racing bike written by a race car driver as opposed to one written by someone who has just learned how to balance himself on a bicycle.

  • Deelip, this has all to do with trust and value. Readers value opinion from people they trust…and trust is earned over time. When I read an article it’s pretty obvious if it’s biased. My views on the observations and outcome and my subsequent view on the author survive any one article.

    I’ll continue to value (and read and digest) statements from those I trust, and so too, I’d argue, will be most of the community at large. In the long run those that remain objective will garner long term followers and respect from all concerned – including the vendor communities. Bias that can be ‘bought’ is short termist – those who seek it are usually fickle with their favours.

    In fact objective views add value to the community at large and to the vendors alike (providing that they’re from people with competence). They provide feedback and encourage vendor companies to improve their deliverables. It’s all too easy to get caught up in one’s own marketing hype and indeed some companies really value the critique – although I’m sure they’d prefer to have their dirty washing hung out in private.

    More power to those who resist the influence that taints true, independent insight – keep it up Al (and others who follow the true path)!

  • Deelip, this has all to do with trust and value. Readers value opinion from people they trust…and trust is earned over time. When I read an article it’s pretty obvious if it’s biased. My views on the observations and outcome and my subsequent view on the author survive any one article.

    I’ll continue to value (and read and digest) statements from those I trust, and so too, I’d argue, will be most of the community at large. In the long run those that remain objective will garner long term followers and respect from all concerned – including the vendor communities. Bias that can be ‘bought’ is short termist – those who seek it are usually fickle with their favours.

    In fact objective views add value to the community at large and to the vendors alike (providing that they’re from people with competence). They provide feedback and encourage vendor companies to improve their deliverables. It’s all too easy to get caught up in one’s own marketing hype and indeed some companies really value the critique – although I’m sure they’d prefer to have their dirty washing hung out in private.

    More power to those who resist the influence that taints true, independent insight – keep it up Al (and others who follow the true path)!

  • Kevin Quigley

    Most readers can distinguish between PR and critical assessment. This first giveaway is usually the pictures that accompany the feature – if they are the vendor’s press release images what does that say? That the reviewer couldn’t even be arsed to take a decent screenshot or that they didn’t actually use the application themselves?

    There is a place for the good magazine that covers the overfview of the technology. I read many magazines, as I think they are still the best way to get an overview of something prior to doing your own research. If you rely on the internet you tend to get sucked into extremes and are left in indecision no mans land.

    But the best place to get all round info is, I think, still the trade show. Nearly every peice of software I have was first demo’d to me at a trade show. There I can walk from stand to stand making direct comparisons, try it out, see if it can do certain things etc. The propblem with the trade show is that they are expensive to run, expensive to be an exhibitor at, expensive to attend, and to be honest the latest trend in single vendor shows like Solidworks world and Autodesk university usually eliminates that valuable direct comparison.

    Having said all that the only time you are interested in comparisons is when you are buying something new. Once it is bought, well, how many people REALLY change CAD systems? What would be more valuable (I think) would be direct comparison of add ons for software. An example being say FEA. generally with FEA most will just trade up to the FEA package the CAD vendor has. So SolidWorks has Cosmos (OK SW Simulation now – but it was Cosmos), Autodesk has Algor etc. I’m in the market for this right now and found out the other day that a little known system called NEI Works is a NASTRAN based solver and can be had for a fraction of the cost of trading up to SW Premium, and hello of a lot less than buying SW Simulation. That is the kind of info I need!

  • Kevin Quigley

    Most readers can distinguish between PR and critical assessment. This first giveaway is usually the pictures that accompany the feature – if they are the vendor’s press release images what does that say? That the reviewer couldn’t even be arsed to take a decent screenshot or that they didn’t actually use the application themselves?

    There is a place for the good magazine that covers the overfview of the technology. I read many magazines, as I think they are still the best way to get an overview of something prior to doing your own research. If you rely on the internet you tend to get sucked into extremes and are left in indecision no mans land.

    But the best place to get all round info is, I think, still the trade show. Nearly every peice of software I have was first demo’d to me at a trade show. There I can walk from stand to stand making direct comparisons, try it out, see if it can do certain things etc. The propblem with the trade show is that they are expensive to run, expensive to be an exhibitor at, expensive to attend, and to be honest the latest trend in single vendor shows like Solidworks world and Autodesk university usually eliminates that valuable direct comparison.

    Having said all that the only time you are interested in comparisons is when you are buying something new. Once it is bought, well, how many people REALLY change CAD systems? What would be more valuable (I think) would be direct comparison of add ons for software. An example being say FEA. generally with FEA most will just trade up to the FEA package the CAD vendor has. So SolidWorks has Cosmos (OK SW Simulation now – but it was Cosmos), Autodesk has Algor etc. I’m in the market for this right now and found out the other day that a little known system called NEI Works is a NASTRAN based solver and can be had for a fraction of the cost of trading up to SW Premium, and hello of a lot less than buying SW Simulation. That is the kind of info I need!

  • Kevin Quigley

    Wish I could edit posts Deelip!

    I meant to add that I first heard of this application last year…….reading Develop3D magazine.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Wish I could edit posts Deelip!

    I meant to add that I first heard of this application last year…….reading Develop3D magazine.

  • Kevin

    That’s the bit I love, finding, writing about and exposing the applications that people haven’t heard about. That’s where I get my kicks these days. Or the little known parts of a solution set that never gets discussed. That’s the fun bit for me.

    Oh – when you get the NEi demo, get them to show you the “blowing shit up” module. That’s amazing. Useless for the vast majority, but come on, its ballistics simulation. What’s not to love. I’m currently preparing a caravan model for that Top Gear type fun.

    Al

  • Kevin

    That’s the bit I love, finding, writing about and exposing the applications that people haven’t heard about. That’s where I get my kicks these days. Or the little known parts of a solution set that never gets discussed. That’s the fun bit for me.

    Oh – when you get the NEi demo, get them to show you the “blowing shit up” module. That’s amazing. Useless for the vast majority, but come on, its ballistics simulation. What’s not to love. I’m currently preparing a caravan model for that Top Gear type fun.

    Al

  • Kevin,

    For WordPress to allow editing comments, I guess it would need to authenticate you first. Which means you will need to set up and account and all that. To keep it simple, I think the developers left the commenting system open and hence a bit rigid.

    You make a good point. Like I have said in the past, leafing through a magazine at your own sweet time and place is the best way to take in information, as opposed to doing the same thing online, in a hurry (probably). That’s why I absolutely love two things with words and pictures on them – magazines and newspapers.

    However, my point here is that if distributing PR information or creating awareness of a product is the only motive then magazines might as well adopt a format like the one used by http://www.autodeskcatalog.com. See “Advertorials for Sale (http://www.deelip.com/?p=519)”. They would actually save on paper and squeeze in far more information. I am not being sarcastic here. Readers would actually get a whole lot more information directly from the manufacturer in a concise manner. But if you want to call something a review (more so an “in-depth” review) then at least take the trouble to actually review it. Either that or don’t call it a review.

    Don’t get me wrong. I seriously believe that CAD Magazines do a great service to busy CAD users who really do not have the time to keep track of new stuff or new things in old stuff. Just that they seem to be losing that personal touch that separates them from catalog type publications that I mentioned above.

  • Kevin,

    For WordPress to allow editing comments, I guess it would need to authenticate you first. Which means you will need to set up and account and all that. To keep it simple, I think the developers left the commenting system open and hence a bit rigid.

    You make a good point. Like I have said in the past, leafing through a magazine at your own sweet time and place is the best way to take in information, as opposed to doing the same thing online, in a hurry (probably). That’s why I absolutely love two things with words and pictures on them – magazines and newspapers.

    However, my point here is that if distributing PR information or creating awareness of a product is the only motive then magazines might as well adopt a format like the one used by http://www.autodeskcatalog.com. See “Advertorials for Sale (http://www.deelip.com/?p=519)”. They would actually save on paper and squeeze in far more information. I am not being sarcastic here. Readers would actually get a whole lot more information directly from the manufacturer in a concise manner. But if you want to call something a review (more so an “in-depth” review) then at least take the trouble to actually review it. Either that or don’t call it a review.

    Don’t get me wrong. I seriously believe that CAD Magazines do a great service to busy CAD users who really do not have the time to keep track of new stuff or new things in old stuff. Just that they seem to be losing that personal touch that separates them from catalog type publications that I mentioned above.

  • Mark Landsaat

    I’m with Deelip regarding the warmed over “what’s new” articles. A lot of them even use the same images as used in the “what’s new”. No sense wasting my time reading the “what’s new” in five different ways.

    Now with regards to in-depth reviews of modeling software. I believe there is an approach that would allow reasonable comparison to other packages.

    Assume you create a base part that is using pretty much all the functionality of any particular modeling program.

    So now when an editor gears up to do a review of a new modeling package he sets out and tries to recreate this particular baseline part in the software to be reviewed. Trying to model this one particular relatively complex part will in a very short time give you a reasonable idea of how capable and how easy to use a particular software package is.

    And it also allows for direct comparison between package A and package B.

    I can clearly see this also working for simulation programs, rendering programs, etc, etc.

    the baseline parts could be updated once a year to keep the content fresh.

  • Mark Landsaat

    I’m with Deelip regarding the warmed over “what’s new” articles. A lot of them even use the same images as used in the “what’s new”. No sense wasting my time reading the “what’s new” in five different ways.

    Now with regards to in-depth reviews of modeling software. I believe there is an approach that would allow reasonable comparison to other packages.

    Assume you create a base part that is using pretty much all the functionality of any particular modeling program.

    So now when an editor gears up to do a review of a new modeling package he sets out and tries to recreate this particular baseline part in the software to be reviewed. Trying to model this one particular relatively complex part will in a very short time give you a reasonable idea of how capable and how easy to use a particular software package is.

    And it also allows for direct comparison between package A and package B.

    I can clearly see this also working for simulation programs, rendering programs, etc, etc.

    the baseline parts could be updated once a year to keep the content fresh.

  • I'm not going to get into the specifics of this, partly because I'm aware that Matt has some very strong reviews on this subject and I don't particularly want it to go all Wolfe on my ass – but I'll defend the professional journalist till my dying day. Why? Reach. Simple as that. While there's a growing community on the web, there's still an information gap for many that don't time the time, the impulse or the desire to read online. This much I know. Otherwise we'd have got nowhere with DEVELOP3D.

    Are there more in-depth sources of information out there? yeah sure. Should someone looking for a system to buy rely on a review? Christ alive no. Should users that have invested either at a corporate level or personal level in one set of tools be able to keep abreast of development in their industry toolset without having to troll through 100s of website, forums and user groups? No. SHould have have a nicely designed magazine to flip through as they want, learn about what people are doing and how? Yes. I do believe they should.

    That's all up for debate and it's pointless. As Matt says, he's stopped reading CAD magazines because they don't suit his informational requirements and levels of trust. I can't and wouldn't presume to argue with it.

    Others feel differently I'm glad to say.

    But let's get to something that's floating around here. Journalists and how reviews are written.

    There's one CAD magazine (yes, in the UK not the one discussed here) that charges for reviews. Yup. They charge the vendor 500 quid for their editor to turn up, rewrite the what's new document and print it on the page. As a publisher I can understand why that makes pure business sense. As someone with morals, I'm horrified to the core. A vendor? Paying for an “independent” review? Fuck me.

    Also, when I first started writing for a living I turned up at the office of one of the big three vendors to take a look at their industrial design tools. Something I was excited about, new technology in my core area of expertise. Conversation went like this:

    “Hi Al. Thanks for coming”
    “Not a problem”
    “How much is the review going to cost?”
    “Sorry?”
    “the last review we had done in ****** magazine cost us 1,500 quid – I wondered how much you charge”
    “Ummm.. nothing. I get paid by the magazine to come and do this”
    “Oh…. you sure?”

    That was the point right there I realised how bad things were. Editor. Not a freelancer, but an Editor charges a vendor to write a review. He's on salary from a well respected magazine, being paid a decent wage to do his job. And still, he's greedy enough to take 1,500 pounds to write a review he's already been paid to do.

    I took the choice, did the job properly and have continued to do it. Yes. someone people don't like how we cover products, some people don't like me = fair enough. But I can say, without a doubt, I do the job honestly and the best of my knowledge and ability.

    But here's the rub, that magazine Editor still works in the industry. His magazine disappeared a decade ago and he's freelancing for magazines you probably read. Whether he still gets 1,500 quid per independent review remains to be seen, but I suspect not – people don't get burned twice.

    But can he hold his head up high and say he did it properly and with pride? I doubt that too.

    Al,
    Editor in Chief
    DEVELOP3D