Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BIG A... little r

I use a software program at work. We’ll call it “Software R.” “Software R” is owned and developed by a large company we’ll call “Company A.” I actually use a few pieces of software from “Company A” but this post is more about the actual name of “Software R.”

“Company A” has an online forum for its users. I have a valid/active username in that forum and visit it only rarely when I need help from other users with “Company A’s” software. Over the years, they changed their format and it’s now very difficult to use and find information if you need help using their software. “Company A” also holds an annual conference where users can gather and learn about all the software that “Company A” offers. I’ve attended the conference for 7 years; several years, on my own dime because I felt the education I received there was worth it to me and my career.

Another online software-user-based organization actually has the name of “Company A” in its name; they also claim to be “International.” I also have a valid/active username on that site and use to use it primarily for all my software help requirements. (Recently, this organization shifted from a free online organization to a fee-based membership. I’m not sure I see enough benefit from switching my username from a “Basic Member” to something that would require an annual membership fee.) This online organization was (mostly) friendly and helpful and somewhat easy to use.

In 2010, while at “Company A’s” annual conference, “International” user group had a foul up with their site and data and lost YEARS worth of user-based help. Upon returning from the conference, needing additional help using any of “Company A’s” software, “International” user group simply had nothing to offer. It took months for “International” to gain access to all the legacy data that they had lost.

“Software R” was hot and (relatively) new. Users were coming on line with “Software R” in droves. Those users were searching for help and couldn’t find it in the usual places. So, a good guy in Denmark, an architect got fed up with “International” and their lack of duty to their users; he enlisted a group of pals that shared a passion for “Software R” and they created and footed the bill for a new online resource called “” The castaways from “International” found it when they were searching for the help they needed with “Software R.”

(By this point, you may have figured out that “Software R” is in the domain name of the new online resource.)

“” has grown over the past 2 years to a community of “Software R” users 17,500+ members strong. They don’t advertise. They don’t sell their product. They are completely non-profit, running a completely voluntary fund-drive just before the web-hosting fees are due. Once they’ve collected the amount they need, the fundraising drive is closed.

Now, along comes “Company A,” hiring a group of lawyers to send off a letter to “” and any other website that has the name of “Software R” in the name saying, “Give up your website name. NOW!”

Hmmm. Those 17,500+ users that signed on to “” looking for help and guidance? Those are ALL customers of “Company A.” Those 17,500+ users all got an email today to let them know what “Company A” and their lawyers are doing.

In the Architectural and Engineering world, the name “Software R” has become so commonplace, sometimes it’s used as a verb; “hey, that conceptual plan? Will you revit-ize it for me?” Meaning, place the information into a Building Information Modeling (BIM) program so we can better visualize it. In our industry, the “Software R” name has become common like Xerox, Kleenex, Coke and FedEx; all brand names, but used in common language to indicate copy, tissue, soda and shipping.

So, “Company A” wants “” to give up their name because it has “Software R” in it. What do you think?

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