Story of the revival of SolidWorks Yahoo! Group

The story of the SolidWorks Yahoo! Group revival began way back in Feb 2006. I was looking for new macros to improve work flow on SolidWorks at my company. I looked everywhere online. One of the places I found was the SolidWorks Yahoo! Group. It was fairly active, with professional participation in discussions about SolidWorks. There was a problem, however.

I tried to contact the group owner, but never got a reply. Eventually, I started looking into why the group was unmoderated. The owner had disappeared; bouncy, bouncy. No one else was assigned to run the group, so the group was left to the elements, those dreaded spammers. Well, the rule with Yahoo! Groups is ownership cannot be transferred except by the owner. Since the owner was bouncy, there was no hope. I forget about the group for awhile. Then, in November 2006, I checked it on a whim. It appeared that SolidWorks users where still actively using the group to post questions and answers.

This got me thinking that maybe, just maybe I could take ownership of this group to revive it. So, I contacted Yahoo! Groups with the following feedback comment:

Are you a… Member

Subject: Other

Type your feedback here: The moderator of SolidWorks yahoo group is not maintaining it, and has a bouncy email address. How does one claim control over a group that is experiencing this kind of neglect [but] still has large potential value to its members?

I waited for a few days before receiving this boiler plate response:

In a message dated 11/28/2006 11:49:36 P.M.
Pacific Standard Time, egroups-feedback@cc.yahoo-inc.com
writes:

Hello,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Groups.

I have received your email and you are asking on how does one claim control over a group. I appreciate you contacting us and I’ll be glad to assist you on this matter. I have checked the Yahoo! Group “solidworks”, and it shows that the owner’s account was bouncing. However, in as much as I would like to accommodate your request, I cannot appoint a new owner or moderator to the group as specified in the terms of our Privacy Policy. What I usually suggest is for you to contact the Group owner regarding this issue of handing over group’s ownership. You may send an email to: SolidWorks-owner@yahoogroups.com In the event that the owner can no longer be contacted, one alternative is for you to create your own group and send out invitations to those people who you would like to join your new group. I appreciate your utmost patience and understanding with regard to this matter. If you have any other concerns, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

Regards,

Shelley, Yahoo! Customer Care

Well, the bureaucratic wheels are churning. There was even double-speak that was self-referencial. At this point, I know I have one chance at getting what I want. My reply will have to be forceful and direct, including points that cannot be argued. Here’s my Hail Mary:

Yahoo,

Thank you for your reply.

I do realize that there is a Yahoo policy against the transfer of ownership
for yahoo groups. However, in light of this situation with SolidWorks yahoo group, I (as a Yahoo customer) feel that such a rigid and absolute rule on the matter is counter productive to members of Yahoo Groups in general (not just in regards to SolidWorks yahoo group). Though I don’t speak for the SolidWorks Corporation, the name “SolidWorks” is a trademarked name whose customers would benefit from having the only Yahoo Group that bares that exact name being made active again. Customers are users that are working, educated professionals that seek convenient interaction with other customers of SolidWorks. A new group creates confusion and increases the lack of interest in using Yahoo Groups at all for this purpose.

Also, if the current state of SolidWorks yahoo group is an indicator, with so many groups without reachable owners or moderators, Yahoo Groups appears to be cluttered, which makes Yahoo Groups less valuable as a service. As a matter of customer service, I request that you reconsider your policy in regards to the transfer of ownership for groups whose owners are bouncy for more than six months. Moderators should be able to claim a group at that time. If no moderators exist, members should be able to petition for ownership directly to Yahoo. To avoid spammers from taking charge of groups for professional purposes, set criteria for the approval of those petitions.

Matthew Lorono
Santa Clara, CA

The reply I then got surprized me. Yahoo! Groups staff stepped up the plate.

Hello Matthew,

Thank you for
writing to Yahoo! Groups.

We appreciate your comments on this matter and can understand your concerns.

Because your group is not currently moderated, we may be able to appoint a new moderator for the group. If you would like a new moderator for the group, please start a poll using the group’s polls feature and list the member names of a few members, who would like to be a moderator, as choices for the poll. Please announce the poll to your group and ask the members to vote on who they would like to be moderator. Once the poll has closed, please email me back and I will appoint the “elected” moderator. I do apologize for any inconvenience.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.


Regards,
Gidget, Yahoo! Customer Care

The squeaky wheel gets the grease! This is how we do it! And I even got a reply from some girl with an overly cute name.

So, I left a message on the group asking for volunteers. Two people piped up. Of those two, only one had a history of contributing to the site, Chris McCormack. So, I put him up, and myself as the two options in the poll. A month later, I closed the poll and notified Yahoo! Groups staff. I wondered if I would hear from this “Gidget” again?

Gidget (Customer Care),

Per your requirements (see Customer Care email below), I have run a poll for the SolidWorks Yahoo Group to determine a new “elected” group moderator, because the group is not currently being moderated. Two individuals with a history of contributing to the site were self-nominated for this poll. The person with yahoo id maccormackc (Chris McCormack, who is cc:’d on this email) won the poll results. Please appoint maccormackc as the new group moderator for the Yahoo! Group SolidWorks as soon as possible.

Thank you for your prompt action in advance.

Matthew Lorono

Well, Gidget did not respond back. However, Derek did respond back with the happy news.

Hello Matthew,

Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

The situation you describe has been completed.

We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused you. Please be assured that we’ll do our best to prevent such problems in the future. If you continue to experience the problem, or if we can be of assistance in another matter, please let us know by replying to this email. If you can describe in as much detail as possible the problem you are having, any steps you take leading up to it, how frequently it occurs, and the exact text of any error messages you receive, it will help us to provide a solution more quickly.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

Regards,

Derek, Yahoo! Customer Care

Derek was no Gidget, and his response didn’t make much sense, but he gave me what I wanted, and that’s all that mattered! ūüėČ After a couple of days, Chris and I began to revive the group, adding content, removing spam, banning spammers, approving new members, etc. And
it appeared to be getting the attention it deserved! Icing on the cake was when Richard Doyle joined the group soon after the revival.  Kudos!

Issues presented to SW Developers at T-VSWUG Meeting

At the T-VSWUG¬†Sept 10th meeting, the forum was open to whatever happened to be on the people’s mind regarding SolidWorks.¬† Being face to face with members of the SolidWorks developers team brought out the inner need to express our frustrations. ¬† Just some of the points brought up included:

  1. On drawings, dimensions and centerpoints to hole wizard holes should not detach when the type of hole is changed in the model.
  2. “Link to BOM” does not appear to be useful; or¬†it is not obvious that this is the option to pick when it is needed.
  3. Make fly-out menus and menu bars more consistent (RMB clicks, LMB clicks, etc).  One problem is that the same function (such as Open Part) appears in so many different locations, depending on what is currently displayed in SolidWorks.  Make common functions appear in a more predictable fashion, relying less on context and more on general user interface consistency.  SolidWorks development team has started improving user interface inconsistencies since 2007.  2009 will further address these issues.
  4. Allow the user to use a logical center of rotation while in sketch mode.
  5. Generally, let the user choose a fixed point center of rotation within a model or assembly.
  6. Limitations preventing cropping and breaking out of detail views continues to annoy users.
  7. Create a weldment-like system for handling sheet metal parts with hardware, so that sheet metal parts can be a single file instead of an assembly.  My addition to this is that there should be a focus on creating a library of features for standard insert hardware (instead of a library of discrete parts for that hardware). 
  8. Support some sort of silkscreen function that will allow users to apply images to a part without jumping through hoops, and will not screw up a model when exported to other formats.  Maybe even develop this so that silkscreen documentation can be produced right from the model.
  9. SolidWorks Corp is attempting to apply ASME and ISO standards accurately for documentation relying of 3D models (instead of drawings), such as DimXpert.  However, the current 3D model standards (such as ASME Y14.4-2003)  are inadequate to address the growing reliance of solid models and the move away from drawings.  SolidWorks Corp should take a more active role in influencing the ASME and ISO bodies to implement useful future 3D modelling standards.  I suggest SW Corp work directly with these groups, and should even gain representation on their decision making boards.

These points, among others, were well received by the developers.  Some other points brought up already had solutions.  Some solutions involved functionality that which some may not have been aware.  Other solutions have been resolved on newer versions of SolidWorks, which some users are not yet using.

One point not received well (though politely) was the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that SolidWorks have a “What’s Lost” section to their manual to alert users to keystroke changes, menu changes, and any functionality that has been “removed” in the new release.¬† Perhaps, more detail about actual changes can be addressed in the “What’s New” section for each release.

I will address the discussions regarding SolidWorks release cycle, backwards compatibility, and running SolidWorks on Macs in up-coming articles.

T-VSWUG Sept 10th Meeting in Review

The Tri-Valley SolidWorks User Group Sept 10th meeting is one of those inspirational events that (upon reflection) seems bigger than perhaps any of us knew at the moment.  We had a productive face to face discussion with SolidWorks developers that really seemed to humanize the often corporate SolidWorks Corp.  Many topics were covered in this personable exchange.  In the end, I had the impression that these guys understand our needs and seem eager to fulfill our expectations.  Was I snowed?  Well, maybe, but I doubt it.  I will break up the discussion about this meeting in to several articles.  Stay tuned.

Tri-Valley SolidWorks UG Meeting – Sept 10

The next quarterly meeting for the Tri-Valley SolidWorks User Group is on Sept 10, 2008 at 6:30pm, held in¬†the Holiday Inn Express (6275 Dublin Blvd., Dublin CA 94568).¬† If any SolidWorks users are¬†within any kind of driving distance at all, I recommend they attend this event!¬† It will start out¬†with Kenneth Barrentine’s presentation on weldments, deconstructing a vacuum cleaner and tube frames.

After that, Kenneth offers us a rare treat in the form of a¬†SolidWorks Developer Round Table (hosted by Richard Doyle), where users will be face to face with SolidWorks developers.¬† Topics to be addressed include discussion about surfacing and free-form consumer product modelling, geometric editing, SolidWorks functionality that is nice but just not good enough, and areas where SolidWorks seems to be of lower quality and reliability.¬† I’m sure they will be open to other discussions as well, time allowing.¬† This is your time (as the user) to rant at them to let them know what bugs you the most about SolidWorks.¬† Of course, I’m also sure they will respond well to any raves you might have about SolidWorks as well.¬†

This is one of those events you’ll not want to miss.¬† Even if you don’t have any rants or raves, you’ll get a chance to rub elbows with SolidWorks developers and Richard Doyle.¬† My thanks goes to Kenneth Barrentine, who selflessly puts these User Group meetings together.