Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Going Forward with the Software

My personal opinion about the software is that the basic design we see in the product before us is not up to the level of bearing the 'Pro' label.  Not even close.

But, that is OK.

Those of us that have the current product will ultimately end up having a real Pro product.  And, the current product, that we now have, will end up being quite useful in a very short period of time.  Once it's cleaned up, it would be great 'Lite' product to be included in the box as long as they fix and keep the ability to bring in SVGs.  I can be content with using a 'Lite" version until the real Pro product becomes a reality.

But, to become a true "Pro" product, a lot more functionality will have to be envisioned and implemented.  It's hard to tell from this product whether a real "Pro" vision exists.  And, that is where we, the owners of eCraft cutters come in.  We have a lot of work to do if we are to ensure that there is a vision for a true Pro product that beats anything else out there, including Make the Cut, Sure Cuts Alot and Funtime. And, it is not work simply for Craftwell's benefit.  It is work for OUR benefit.

Yes, communicating our needs and encouraging Craftwell to expand its vision for the software to support the eCraft WILL help Craftwell's bottom line.  But, in the long run it will help US produce the kinds of products and projects that we have envisioned for ourselves as eCraft users.

The first step is to find and communicate the bugs in this product as it has been designed.  There are many.  But, bugs can be exterminated one-by-one and they will be.  The order in which they are attacked is important and that is why we must find a way to communicate the order we hope the fixes will be done as well as what the bugs are.  And, this requires some organization that isn't all that easy to accomplish without a dedicated web site.  I'm hoping that Craftwell will eventually set up a system for bug reports that includes some sort of triage methodology that brings the developers of the software closer to the people for whom they are writing the software.  More on this later in this post.

Among the many things I've done in my life, is that I was in the TV news business, with White House correspondent Forrest Boyd, out of the National Press Club Building in Washington, DC prior to getting into the video game and computer fields.  So, I naturally have a nosey streak. It's interesting what you can find if you snoop around.  :)

For instance, if you look in the CraftShop.exe.config file in the directory where eCraftShop.exe is installed you will find this line.

endpoint address="http://stage.digitalavenues.com/craftshopweb/CraftShopService.asmx"

This reveals the name of the company that is responsible for developing eCraftShop Pro for Craftwell.  This company is in India.  As you can see, their web site is http://www.digitalavenues.com and it is well worth exploring.  It appears to be a company with a successful track record.  But, they also seem to be quite large and quite broad in the service they provide.  That is a two-edge sword.  On the one hand, this made Digital Avenues a good choice for Craftwell because they clearly have the expertise to deliver quality software.  On the other, it hints that there could be too many layers between the end user and the developers.  And, that is never good.

You see, while eCraft is paying the development bill, we, ultimately, provide the income that covers those costs.  And, while nominally eCraft is setting the standards and the specifications, we, ultimately are the final arbiters of whether those standards and specifications are attractive enough to convince us to buy.  So, like it or not, the REAL customers of Digital Avenues is us.  And, if that is not recognized very early by both Craftwell and Digital Avenues it will end up hurting the end product and it's respect in the marketplace.

The reason why we read about failure after failure of huge government development initiatives is that the honchos of Oracle and other monstrous IT companies talk the to the honchos at the IRS and other government agencies.  The honchos are interested in reports and management tools.  The end user is only interested in how easy it is to use and whether it makes his job easier.  These different goals are generally at odds with each other and the systems go unused, crushed under their own weight.

The ONLY way to ensure that software is successful is to make the layers between user and developer as flat as possible.  This is why, for instance, that beta testers from OUTSIDE the company's infrastructure are so important.  Even a company as large as Microsoft recognizes this.

The great news is that no matter what the structure between Craftwell and Digital Avenue, we CAN have an active and vibrant role in the development of eCraftShop Pro by simply making our critiques and requests available in the open forum of the web.  Critiques should be constructive and requests should be clear and communicate WHY a certain feature is desired.  Sooner or later the lowliest developer will stumble across what we have to say and it is THAT person that really has the grunt and grind role of bringing us any and all features.

So, I would like to help make sure that there is the potential for peer-to-peer communication at every level of software design and development for products that support the eCraft.  The best way for us to report bugs, until Craftwell sets up a formal system, is to gather the information in a way that it can be posted on the internet.  And, the best way to do that is to set up email addresses that are based on the various functional areas in the software itself.  If I set these up using the createandcut.com URL the Examples would be:
TextTools@createandcut(dot com)  (Text and Keyboard Tools)
LineTools@createandcut(dot com)  (Line and Curved Line Tools)
ModTools@createandcut(dot com) (Eraser, Flip, Kerning Tools)

ShapeTools@createandcut(dot com) (Shapes and Library Tools)
SVG@createandcut(dot com)  (SVG Issues)
Rendering@createandcut(dot com) (Cutting and Drawing)
Performance@createandcut(dot com) (General Performance Issues)
Interface@createandcut(dot com) (General Interface Issues)
Having separate email areas allows us to set up individual passwords so that a volunteer can be assigned the task of collecting a particular area's submissions so that the weight is distributed among owners.  It's just an idea for now.  So, I need to know what YOU think of it.  The submissions would be placed in either a single post or multiple functional posts that would continually be updated for the Craftwell and Digital Avenues staff should they want to see what you are saying directly.

So, let me know what you think.


Ruthie said...

Hey Tom - sounds good to me - bung me down for the text one if you like!


Tom Meeks said...

I'll do that. Thanks!

Carolina said...

Hi Tom

I like to help too.
I am not very good with my english but I want to help.

Carolina Mejia

Tom Meeks said...

Your English seems fine to me!

I've been so busy that I've not been able to set up the email addresses as yet. But, I will try to get to that this weekend.


Bernie said...

Hey Tom

I would be delighted to help - put me down for any address you feel you need help on!

Great idea
Bernie x

Tom Meeks said...

Thanks! Email me directly and I'll set you up!