RonAmok!

The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Aug 21, 2008

On March 31, 2007, The Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Industry took one small step for a vendor, and one giant leap for the industry, as Synopsys published the first EDA vendor-sponsored blog called Magic Blue Smoke. Whimsically named after the mysterious blue smoke that emerges from a failing integrated circuit, the blog was designed to cover an ultra-niche topic — low power ASIC design.

The move was unprecedented because for the first time, an employee could publish content to the corporate website without being hamstrung by the least-common-denominator wisdom of a committee. Even more impressive was that the blogger was chosen from the applications engineering ranks, as opposed to a marcomm seat-warmer who couldn’t tell the difference between an electron and an electric blanket. And since he works side-by-side with Synopsys users, helping them tapeout their multi-million transistor chips, Godwin Maben was the perfect choice to write this blog.

His first post was published with little fanfare. Entitled Vt Cells Spacing Requirements, Godwin adopted an academic approach to his writing, one that he’s continued through today. 72 weeks, 44 blog posts, and 101 comments later, Godwin has become a very popular figure within the low power ASIC design community. How do I know this? Well, under full disclosure, I used to work for Synopsys. In 2006, I convinced the VP of Marketing to bring New Media to Synopsys. Between February 2007 and May 2008, I was Synopsys’s New Media Evangelist and Godwin’s blogging coach.

Over the past 72 weeks, Synopsys has quietly added seven more blogs to its stable. Together, they’ve produced 227 posts and gathered 260 comments.

* * *

I first heard of Tom Diederich on March 21, 2008 through a Web Strategy by Jeremiah post that announced him as Cadence Design Systems‘ new Social Media/Web Community Manager. I remember looking at the calendar and immediately firing off an email to upper management letting them know that the clock was now running. Synopsys had just about a one-year head-start on Cadence in the Social Media space and it was going to be interesting to see how Tom and Cadence would approach the task.

On July 14th, just five short weeks ago, Cadence became the second EDA vendor to adopt New Media technologies. And they did it in true Cadence fashion — in a BIG way. Instead of playing it safe and dipping a toe into the water, Cadence cannonballed off the diving board, splashing their new community all over the front page of their newly designed website — a virtual “Shock and Awe” campaign for electrical engineers!

To be fair, when I first looked at the website, I was skeptical. It took me a while to grasp what Tom had orchestrated.

The Cadence Community consists of three parts: blogs, forums, and resources. The forums and the resources were easy enough for me to figure out, but I had a hard time getting my head around the blogs because of an interesting twist that was put on them.

Synopsys had chosen to match a blog with a blogger, such as Godwin and his Magic Blue Smoke. But Cadence did something a little differently. They charged 33 bloggers to write for 9 different categories. At first this looks crazy, but after a month, a pattern has developed and I can see the method to their madness.

A Cadence blogger writes a post on a subject that he or she is qualified to speak about. Before posting, the blogger tags that post with one of the 9 categories, thus ensuring that the blog post is filed appropriately. By using this system, Tom has created 43 individual RSS feeds for his customers to choose from (9 categories + 33 bloggers + 1 ‘all blogs’ feed) Therefore, if I only want information on Functional Verification, I subscribe to that category’s RSS feed. Or, if I want to just follow the writings of an old acquaintance (More disclosure, I used to work at Cadence too!), all I need to do is subscribe to Adam Sherer‘s feed. It took me a little while to figure out how to take advantage of this flexibility, but now that I understand it, I’ve setup my feeds accordingly.

Note: I do however recommend that Cadence create some example “use models” to help new users, who may not be as well versed in RSS, take advantage of this flexibility.

So, how is this new community working? Well, last week, Tom released a one month report card, letting us all know the answer. He says:

Since our July 14 launch – that is, in just 30 days — 6,534 people have registered, and they’ve contributed almost 1,000 posts. Pretty good!

Pretty good indeed based on some of the publicly available numbers that I’ve tracked from both companies websites. Let’s compare apples to apples.

First Month\'s Analysys

I think that Tom has understated his progress:-)

In just five weeks, Cadence is producing blog content at a rate four times that of Synopsys. If Cadence’s blogging engine continues cranking out content at this rate, it’ll soon swamp the good work that Synopsys has been doing for almost a year and a half. Conservatively, even if they drop off a little as the enthusiasm wears off, they still have Synopsys beaten by sheer volume.

Of course, we can’t forget quality, which I believe Synopsys still has an edge with. Its strong 1.15 comment-to-post ratio demonstrates an active audience compared with Cadence’s 0.55. This lower than desired ratio may have some explanations though: 1) The Cadence blogs are only a month old and thus still building their audiences, 2) the bloggers are still finding their voice, or 3 (which is MY pet peeve) only registered members are allowed to leave comments! I don’t know the details, but I’m willing to bet that Tom fought for open comments and decided to lose the battle so that he could win the overall war:-)

I’m also expecting that the 33 bloggers will start stratify over time, as the long-term bloggers separate themselves from the crowd and rise to the top. A blog-by-blog analysis shows that of Cadence’s 33 listed bloggers, 7 have never written a post, 10 have only written one, and the highest number of posts from a single blogger is nine (might as well give an “attaboy” to Gerald “Jerry” Grzenia ). Management of these bloggers will greatly enhance the quality of the posts.

Lastly, although I’d like to compare the Synopsys Forums with the Cadence Forums, there’s really is no comparison. Launched at the same time as Godwin’s blog, the Synopsys forums continue to languish, as 259 registered users have only contributed 141 posts in 72 weeks, compared with Cadences 6500 registered users creating 1000 posts in the last 30 days. I gotta believe that the Synopsys User Community feels like General Custer at Little Big Horn.

I’m very excited that Cadence has raised the New Media bar in EDA. The more EDA vendors that jump into the mix, the better informed their mutual customers will be. Right now there are only two players in the game: Synopsys and Cadence. Are you listening Mentor Graphics or Magma?

Great job, Tom! It’ll be very interesting to see how, or if, Synopsys responds to your challenge.

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Filed under: Mini Case Studies
  • http://www.cadence.com/community Tom Diederich

    Hi Ron,

    Thanks very much for the kudos! I really appreciate it.

    But most of the credit goes to Jim Price, the project leader and originator of many of the ideas, and Suzie Im, our Web designer guru.

    These two rock stars deserve the glory. :)

  • http://www.cadence.com/community Tom Diederich

    Hi Ron,

    Thanks very much for the kudos! I really appreciate it.

    But most of the credit goes to Jim Price, the project leader and originator of many of the ideas, and Suzie Im, our Web designer guru.

    These two rock stars deserve the glory. :)

  • Joel

    Ron, As a previous Cadence Customer Support Director I’m sure part of the reason to restrict full open access in the new Forums is the issue/contention around using forums as a vehicle for technical support, so access is likely ‘restricted’ to customers under a software maintenance agreement of some kind. As for the number number of registered users, we may want to look behind the ‘curtain’ a bit. There may have been an automatic registration process for some of the very low cost (OEM) products with the intention to deflect 1:1 individual support costs from traditional support resources to a facilitated, what I call a “Customer self-help” resource through the forum. From an operational efficiency perspective a very smart move if the organization can enlist the customer community itself to answer questions from other customers lowering the net customer support costs. I’m sure this is the case with Jerry G. leading the poster list. What can I say about Jerry (he worked for me a one point in time….) is that is one of the best among the technical support team at Cadence and has a great passion to helping customers be successful. “Atta-boy” for Jerry indeed! Look for his continued leadership within the Cadence Forums.

    There a unique set of issues that I’m sure both Synopsys and Cadence share as they explore this first step in applying social media at the corporate level. These involve the potential of forum contributors exposing sensitive or competitive information. It’s nice to have a vehicle where the community can share and help itself, but if I’m the designer of a leading edge chip or system and a competitor is having a problem, it’s really not in my best interest to help my competitor nor is it my company’s best interest to speak to openly about some of the techniques and issues I may be dealing with. So the technology presents a highly contentious situation that will be interesting to monitor as new media continues to become adopted. To be really successful this new media will require a give and take by all participants but it will be very interesting to assess what that net give/take ratio might be in a highly competitive environment compared to a non-competitive community.

  • http://www.StrategyPortfolios Joel

    Ron, As a previous Cadence Customer Support Director I’m sure part of the reason to restrict full open access in the new Forums is the issue/contention around using forums as a vehicle for technical support, so access is likely ‘restricted’ to customers under a software maintenance agreement of some kind. As for the number number of registered users, we may want to look behind the ‘curtain’ a bit. There may have been an automatic registration process for some of the very low cost (OEM) products with the intention to deflect 1:1 individual support costs from traditional support resources to a facilitated, what I call a “Customer self-help” resource through the forum. From an operational efficiency perspective a very smart move if the organization can enlist the customer community itself to answer questions from other customers lowering the net customer support costs. I’m sure this is the case with Jerry G. leading the poster list. What can I say about Jerry (he worked for me a one point in time….) is that is one of the best among the technical support team at Cadence and has a great passion to helping customers be successful. “Atta-boy” for Jerry indeed! Look for his continued leadership within the Cadence Forums.

    There a unique set of issues that I’m sure both Synopsys and Cadence share as they explore this first step in applying social media at the corporate level. These involve the potential of forum contributors exposing sensitive or competitive information. It’s nice to have a vehicle where the community can share and help itself, but if I’m the designer of a leading edge chip or system and a competitor is having a problem, it’s really not in my best interest to help my competitor nor is it my company’s best interest to speak to openly about some of the techniques and issues I may be dealing with. So the technology presents a highly contentious situation that will be interesting to monitor as new media continues to become adopted. To be really successful this new media will require a give and take by all participants but it will be very interesting to assess what that net give/take ratio might be in a highly competitive environment compared to a non-competitive community.

  • http://ronamok.com ronploof

    Great points, Joel.

    I think of User Forums as different than blogging. In the Cadence New Media model, however, they’ve tied them together. I’d prefer to see rules like Synopsys has, that: a) anyone can read a blog posting or a forum posting, b) anyone can leave a comment on a blog, and c) you must register to leave a comment on a forum. Lastly, all user-generated content must conform to the TOS/guidelines setup by the community manager, or risk being taken down.

    As for the proprietary nature of chip design, you are right. If I’m Intel and my chip isn’t simulating correctly, I don’t want to blab that to the user community. Those type of conversations need to remain behind the firewall using the more traditional form of customer support. User Forums don’t replace customer support, they augment it.

  • http://ronamok.com Ron

    Great points, Joel.

    I think of User Forums as different than blogging. In the Cadence New Media model, however, they’ve tied them together. I’d prefer to see rules like Synopsys has, that: a) anyone can read a blog posting or a forum posting, b) anyone can leave a comment on a blog, and c) you must register to leave a comment on a forum. Lastly, all user-generated content must conform to the TOS/guidelines setup by the community manager, or risk being taken down.

    As for the proprietary nature of chip design, you are right. If I’m Intel and my chip isn’t simulating correctly, I don’t want to blab that to the user community. Those type of conversations need to remain behind the firewall using the more traditional form of customer support. User Forums don’t replace customer support, they augment it.

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  • http://www.mentor.com/ Ron Fuller

    Ron, we are listening.

    http://www.mentor.com/blogs

    Ron Fuller
    Web Manager, Mentor Graphics

  • http://www.mentor.com Ron Fuller

    Ron, we are listening.

    http://www.mentor.com/blogs

    Ron Fuller
    Web Manager, Mentor Graphics

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    i used to work for a fashion company where 1/2 of my day was spent writing on other blogs in the form of fake comments. my boss would come in and say “google emoda and see what comes up on blogs, make sure you combat all the negative ones, just sound like a happy customer”. needless to say it was awful and i eventually quit. the truth is, if you produce a quality product and perform with quality service, you wont need to worry about anyone else. :)

    first of all,there have so many people come from different country,for example,me .i come from China.Not the every body can use English to leave the message ,they even can not read any words,but they can understand something from the pictures ,the original links or somewhere.if they want to know what’s you want to tell them know ,they need spend time to check the dictionary .so ,i think it’s too hard to leave a English comment here.

    and secondly,the frequency you update is too high .we are so excited of that .maybe cause that we forget to comments..:)..

    and finally, i feel that everybody will think that NO body will reply the comment that i leave here..and maybe nobody care the comment i leaved .this is not a personal blog ,and it’s a public place.it’s too serious to discussion some thing like “how do you feel this project?”

    and here is not a kind of SNS website (Social Networking Services).
    so nobody think that’s necessary to comment here..

    but .from now on ,i know that ,there still have some one care of the comment which have wealth of information.

    am i right?

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