Autodesk at Siggraph 2010?

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  07 July 2010
Originally Posted by JCork: HUGE bummer! Thanks for the heads up. My first Autodesk party was in LA in 2008 and I want more! Stupid economy.

It has little to do with the economy. Thats an excuse. They've(AD) have taken on far more than they can chew and I think, that they think, that they really have no need anymore to support a usergroup.

I've been going to Sigraph since 1988. Atlanta that year. Users groups have changed dramatically over the last 23 years. It used to be, back in the day, that user groups were about the "users". The concept was that users of the software would meet and hear from the develper and discuss all facets of things related to the software. It was a "users" group, hence the name.

These were often well funded full track events with sit down dinners, formal presentations, multiple learning tracks, vendor exhibits, etc etc etc. But key to this event was that you were or had to be a bona-fide user of the software. In some cases you had to actually be on a valid maintenance contract to be permitted access to the event since the event was either partially or completely funded through maintenance funds. Because there were so few users, and because your maintenance fees were so high, the events were usually multi-day events with small attendance by today's comparison, but highly personal events where you often got a chance to go one on one with corporate developers and in many cases the president or vice president of the coropration.

There were many reasons for the event as it related to the user. The users were there to get more information, make contacts with others who use the same software, provide comments, concerns, complaints to the developer, etc. Very much so, these were productive events for both the developer and user. Deals were negotiated, sales were made, ideas passed back and forth, and relationships developed and fostered. It was a very different day and time.

As such it was also a very productive event for the developer. It was the one opportunity for the developer to get incredibly valuable feedback from its customers in a dynamic venue. The developer also had a valuable opportunity to provide presentations to this community, in a semi-private venue, about the future of the software and the future of the company. It was their one opportunity during the whole year to literally "pump" the user community and excite them about their mutual future and relationship which was all centered around the product.

In the late 90's and especially about the time of Y2K, this all began to change. User groups began to be viewed less in their traditional sense as "user groups" and more in the sense of marketing events. They were increasingly opened to anyone who wanted to attend. All you needed was a name. From 2000 onward this change intensified. The last decade has seen major evolution to the customer-developer relationship, some of this largely effected by federal legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley. The growing legal requirements and limitations of what public companies could do, to "pump up" their user base became highly limited. We've all seen the "what our lawyers tell us we can say" quips in recent presentations at Siggraph. Well, this has had a crippling effect on the use of user groups as communications vehicles between the developer and the user. But its not a show stopper.

Still, and in defiance of the trend, in the last 6 years or so some companies began reducing their user group size, and started refocusing on users, instead of potential users, as attendees for the traditional user group events at Siggraph. However, these events, as they have always been, were also about providing the corporation with a tactical edge over their competition by developing unique relationships with their clients, many of whom used multiple softwares. In a nutshell the user group was the corporation's opportunity to put a personal face on their software, on themselves, by offering members of their development team and or high end users to showcase what the software could do and answer questions. The bigger, better, badder, event you could throw would get all the hype and the user event eventually was merged with the separate more private party that the company would throw as a their traditional marketing event. Again, all of this was designed and implemented as a means of providing them a competitive edge during the Siggraph venue.

But then corporation after corporation began to wither and or be sold and or be acquired. Today one compay holds all the major animation software except the likes of Lightwave, Houdini, Cinema4D etc. In the manner which user groups were permitted to evolve, one might think that there is little need or requirement for AD to hold an event.

True, it would be an enourmous venue, even if it were restricted to only valid users. From a logistical standpoint it would be incredible. I've seen Maya user groups which exceeded all expectation and required 5 very large ballrooms to facilitate. New Orleans 2000 comes to mind. The Max group is just as large. Now add to that to an ever growing Softimage user group. Logistically it would be daunting.

But...the question as to why don't they just return to user presentations and forego the party espect is a good one. Things have changed. Max, Maya, Softimage are no longer in competition with each other. Does AD really need to hold a user event? I most certianly think they do, I have more than my share of complaints to provide AD at the moment. I might add that after 23 years, I'm very accustomed to using these user groups events for this purpose because back in the day, corporations welcomed our input, bad or good. In recent years however, some companies have fewer and fewer people technologically or otherwise inclined available to field these questions or complaints. Yet another causualty of the evolution of the more recent so called user groups.

I can't include Softimage in that criticism though because their last several user group events were highly personal, highly motivating, highly technical, and many knowledgable people from Softimage were available and willing for discussion at these events. It was a most refreshing and exciting time to see a modern CGI company return their user group back to it roots. You got the unquestionable sense that Softimage really got it, and was interested in playing hardball during the Siggraph venue. In 23 years, their recent event were amongs some of the best provided in recent times. Then the hammer fell and it was over. Softimage belonged to AD.

For so many reasons there is so little compelling reason to hold an event from a corporate point of view. What, if any, competitive requirements are there to drive the need to promote your software developments to your users?

There were few offical user groups last year. I knew of some but they were private or not well advertised. This year there will be a Houdini user group. So apparently someone in this industry still thinks that competition survives, the user is important, and the economy be damned. Yet the one corporation that can probably afford a simple, uncatered event, is apparently nowhere to be found except the exhibition floor.

The problem here is truly a flawed misconception and/or perception by AD of what this event is all about. I never attended the user groups for the food, or the party, or the expense of it all. I attended them to get information. To obtain a reasonable idea of the bill of health possesed by the software I use. To communicate with the developer personally and network with fellow users. If the developer of the software I use has no perception of this reality and no realization of the importance of that event, then they truly have no concept of the mistake they are currently making.

No I don't buy this lame "its the economy" excuse. I've seen the economy up and down numerous times over the last 23 years. It never prevented user groups from occuring and it isn't even doing that now. This is a choice. AD has chosen to end these events. Its just my opinion, but I think that they think, that they have little reason from a competitive standpoint to hold an event. But thats not the only reason to hold them. Maintaining good developer client relations, providing a personal communication event, exciting the user base on the future of the software, showing the user community, not just the community at large, that you are more than just the owner of 3D software, putting on the appearance that the USERS matter, not just potential customers.

From my point of view the Houdini user group will be a focused personal event and will be quite interesting. I most certianly will be there. I have little reason to be excited about Autodesk.

If Autodesk can't be forward thinking enough to realize that they need to separate the user group event into 3 distinct events and venues one each for Max, Maya nd Softimage, since it is a USER group event after all, then I have no choice but to have the opinion that their relationship with the user is something they don't take very serioulsy.

One final observation. Autodesk is a company with sales policies, channel distribution policies, maintenance policies, and a general mindset that still remains in the largesse workstation era of 20 years ago, yet it has turned it back on the basic age-old concept of the user group?

I'm sorry, I don't buy the excuse.


Last edited by JoeyP88 : 07 July 2010 at 01:22 PM.
  07 July 2010
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