Applying social media to product development?

Published 21 December 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: solidworks, proengineer, collaborate, non-linear conversations, social media, twitter,

It started with a blog comment. A name pops up you know. Guy that used to be CEO of one of the most interesting 3D tech companies in a while. They sold to Dassault last year. He disappeared shortly there after. Then he pops up again. This should be interesting.

Chris Williams was CEO of Seemage for a stint as they sold to Dassault some time ago: that product got reassessed in the DS portfolio, and is now sold through both the SolidWorks and Catia channels as 3DVIA Composer. Job Done. So what’s he up to next?

The answer is What is it? I had no clue, so I did a little digging. It turns out that its a new organisation at the very embryonic stages of developing a service. What does that service do? Well, I’ll tell you.

Look at the Social Media landscape. Facebook, Twitter, Brightkite, all this stuff. It didn’t take long for someone to figure out that similar things can be used within the Product Development community (and I don’t just mean LinkedIn) - someone had to build a service that would take those core concepts and apply them to the 3D-based professional realm. Sort of.

What social media, particularly something like Twitter, is all about is: Communication. Informal communication (that’s my take on things anyway). If you get into it (I’m on there, as are a lot of other 3D alpha geeks) and use it for something other than simply uni-directional broadcasting (which is pretty common), then it quickly becomes clear that the simplicity of the service makes informal, non-linear conversation a very effective communication method. You have a conversation with someone, in small 140 character chunks, other people can see that and jump in. Sure, they could add a lot more, but the devil is in the details.. or lack thereof. So, WTF has that got to do with CAD.

Design is a team effort. Full stop. People work on a product, converse, communicate, adapt and refine. how is that communication done? In person, by phone, by email, by data management or PD… no. Wait. let’s stop there. At the very formative stages of design, PDM gets in the way.

What if there was something less rigid, less formal, less time consuming that would enable discussion around a dataset, a part, an assembly, that you could just… use?

This is what is trying to build. Integrated into your CAD app (current documentation shows a working Pro/E plugin) that give you tools to connect to the server, link to a part, add discussions, comments and such. Then, whenever anyone else works with that data, that same data is available, can be swapped between team members. Because its a web-service, non-CAD users can work on with it too. Essentially, it allows a conversation to happen, without too many barriers.

It’s super early days for both the company and service but they have the potential to do something interesting here. Let’s see where it goes. I’ve got a few ideas for things they need to build into this, to make it more community led as a means to reach more people, but these are smart guys. If you’re interested, they’re looking for testers. Go on, you know you want to.

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Funny what you have described here is the second phase of SolidJott. <BR><BR>Better pull up my socks and get on with the coding

Posted by Ben on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

Presumably this all happens in a secure workspace environment? In which case what is unique about this as compared to say via the "share my screen" commends in creative Suite 4 apps and Acrobat 9 for informal reviews, or something like the original OneSpace before PTC got their claws on it?<BR><BR>The other issue is how do they intend to handle teams that don't use the same CAD system?<BR><BR>The problem I see with all these "systems" is that as soon as you tie yourself into a system you limit yourself to that system's working methods.<BR><BR>In larger organisations such systems are often already in place (doesn't CATIA v5 have this team working already using the old ImpactXoft stuff?), but for the SMEs working with say a small design company, a few suppliers and various agents and sales staff offering input the system has to be completely flexible and easy to access and cross platform (Mac and Windows).<BR><BR>This is maybe the reason that many people already working with these tools use a lot of different ones for different tasks. eg. screen sharing I use, Glance, iChat and Gotomeeting depending on the task. Similarly for general communications email works fine for most tasks (why - it gets archived) with things like skype and similar for immediate responses.<BR><BR>I read your bit about email Al and twitter etc, but the problem I have with all the interactive stuff is that it kind of requires interaction to work. I used to have the IM on all the time but you feel compelled to respond when you get contacted, unlike email which you can ignore. Email lets you filter and respond as and when....and with Spotlight on a Mac you have instant search and retrieval wink

Posted by Kevin Quigley on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

Let me clarify a bit. First the screen sharing application out there are not at all what we do. We connect people through messages and automaticly filter the message based on your working context. This come to my second point of clarification, you say email allows you to filter... Well this is true but I think just as many people jump at a mail as you did with IM. I would also say your IM didn't work due to there being to many platforms and no great way to connect them... So what you like about mail, faster, gets to all and can be filtered, are all things we do within a design context. Imagine being able to open a CAD file and have the server tell you all conversations about the part or a specific feature. Imagine another team member who is not a CAD user being able to go to a page that represents the part being design and have the page filter all messages. Now poeple will not need to manage an inbox.

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