Wednesday, April 16, 2008

COFES Crashers

Just like in Wedding Crashers, I had a back story and headed up to COFES 2008 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. But security was tight. Every attendee had this giant name plate placarded to their chest via a lanyard around their neck. Anyone without one really stuck out. No penetrating that security.

So instead, I just hung out at the hotel bar hoping to see a face I recognized and maybe buy a Margarita or Bloody Mary. That didn't work out either. Instead, I decided to be happy with the original reason I made the drive up to North Scottsdale.

I had arranged a meeting with Mr. Paul Grayson of Alibre, Inc. The intent of the meeting was just to put a face to the names of the people who have been conversing online for years. It was a meeting between user and Director on the state of the program and where it should be headed. Since I never told Paul that I would be writing about our meeting in my blog, nor did I set it up like an interview, I'm not going to quote anything specific from the meeting, but I will give general highlights.

Alibre is in good hands.

The meeting was a lot of casual chit chat to get to know one another and really get to understand the two sides of the software: developer and user. Occasionally, we did tackle some current topics with Alibre Design.

If you read my signature file on the Alibre Forums, you will see that I list two things that could make Alibre's future brighter. The first one is more development in the 2D tools of Alibre. I am happy to state that Alibre is focusing on improving the usability of 2D as well as making it align with ASME and ISO drafting standards. The second item in my signature file is to focus on Alibre's unique features. To me, Alibre's unique features are it's online collaboration, peer-to-peer team design, and repository. Any solid modeler can go head-to-head on a feature per feature comparison, and in a version or two will be tied again. Why not focus development on something that makes a software unique? This is where Paul and I agree, but alas Greg Milliken, who happens to be in charge of the development plan, disagree, and rightfully so.

Greg has focused heavily on developing new features for Alibre. I whole heartedly agree that it was needed. Let's face it, having more streamlined workflows and more & better features means I can create my design faster and subsequently improve my bottom line. It's great, and it was needed. But the features that make Alibre unique have taken a secondary importance lately, and I feel that it is time to put a new focus, at least one version's worth, on improving those tools.

Shortly stated, Paul and Greg have gone a few rounds on which direction Alibre should head. I am both happy and sad to say that Greg is currently winning by TKO. (Apparently, Greg is much more athletic than one might expect at first glance. Then again, I've only seen his head shot on the Alibre website - can't judge too much from that.) Either way, with two heads-of-state both firmly entrenched in the "proper" direction of the software and company, I can rest assured that all aspects are at least being considered. Tunnel vision is not a problem. And, sooner or later Paul will win one match and we'll see a version that makes improvements to Alibre's unique features in addition to enhanced solid modeling features. I continue to look forward to each new version of Alibre.
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