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Vuuch: The Marriage of Social Media and Product Design

Last week, I hijacked someone’s blog topic (with the original blogger’s blessing).

In my post titled “Product Development in the Post-Twitter Era,” I picked up the discussion started by PTC’s Tom Shoemaker in his post titled “A Day in the Life of Product Development.” In Shoemaker’s imaginary scenario, the fictional engineer, Bob, is equipped with a futuristic product development system. Shoemaker anticipates such a system would send alerts when failures occur, reveal a prototype’s revision history, identify those who’ve worked on the project, and let Bob get in touch with a potential collaborator.

In my post, I explored how Bob might accomplish all of those mentioned above through a patchwork of social networks and file-sharing tools already in existence (like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and others).

Let’s add something else to the mix. If Bob’s employer uses SolidWorks or Pro/ENGINEER, he might also consider using Vuuch, a plug-in that lets you initiate, monitor, and manage design discussions right from your CAD environment.

Vuuch, a new CAD add-on, shown here in Pro/ENGINEER, lets you launch discussion threads from the design environment.

Vuuch, a new CAD add-on, shown here in Pro/ENGINEER, lets you launch discussion threads from the design environment (image reproduced from Vuuch's demo video).

“With Vuuch, you create discussions associated to anything in your design files,” according to the company. “As people reply, you follow the discussion from within your design, you no longer need to search or manage your inbox.”

I think Chris Williams, the founder of Vuuch, may have found a way to inject a dash of social networking in 3D design. On Facebook, some of my friends would occasionally chime in when I post a vacation photo or a status update. Then I start responding, which attracts more comments, which in turn prompts more responses, more comments, more .. (OK, you get the picture).

In the past, these exchanges took place in group emails. As the discussion picked up steam, it became nearly impossible to make head or tail out of the string of responses. Besides, these emails were scattered in my inbox, making it difficult for me to sort them according to relevance as separate threads. (I often found myself doing keyword searches in the text of my messages to dig up what someone had said about a certain topic. But that had obvious limitations too. The search often returned more than what I was looking for.)

For these reasons, I now prefer Facebook’s approach, which gives you a collapsible view of the comment string, attached to the original photo or statement that has prompted it. Looking at Vuuch’s interface in its demo video, I realized that’s how the application manages design discussions. In a recent interview, Vuuch’s Williams said, “Vuuch is about the unstructured. The design process is filled with unstructured activities.”

If you are a programmer or just happen to have a knack for cutting code, you might check out Vuuch’s open API, set to become available soon. “If you are interested in working on a WordPress, PHPBB, or vBulletin add-in, then get in touch with us. Anyone can build Vuuch clients using our Open API,” the company wrote in its blog Vuuch Voice.

Vuuch is also available as an add-on to SolidWorks.

Vuuch is also available as an add-on to SolidWorks (image reproduced from Vuuch's demo video).

Taking the social media integration further, Vuuch is currently developing a feature to let you send posts directly to 3DCAD Forums, Eng-Tips Forums, or other popular online destinations for CAD users and engineers.

“If blogs and forums are not your fancy, then how about a Web 2.0 widget or a Twitter widget?” Vuuch suggested. “[If] you would rather build a JAVA, HTML, or Flash-based widget for Vuuch public discussions, then let us know.”

Among big-name manufacturers exploring the benefits of social media is Proctor & Gamble (P&G). The company’s most recent initiative is the Loads of Hope campaign to promote its Tide detergent brand. Tripple Pundit, a business trend site, reported, “The company flew over a hundred social media experts to Cincinnati headquarters to meet with brand managers, divided them into four teams, and kicked off a fund raising competition via Twitter, blogs, social networks, etc., to drive traffic to one of the four tracking sites (tide1.com, tide2.com, etc.).”

To Bob, the imaginary engineer brought to life by Tom Shoemaker, I’d like to say, “Welcome to product development 2.0.”

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.

10 comments

  1. Ken if you have not seen this post it is worth a read http://www.stress-free.co.nz/using_microblogging_to_record_architectural_design_conversation_alongside_the_bim. Before you click go get BIG cup of coffee, it is a bit of a novel and with all the links to follow you will be reading awhile. What got me jazzed is the fact he described Vuuch for BIM but he was totally unaware that anything like Vuuch was available.

    Come by our booth at PTC User for a demo.

  2. Great post. Chris from Vuuch pointed me to your article as it deals with very similar concepts to a one I recently published. The difference being I’ve approached things from the perspective of a distributed architectural team:

    http://www.stress-free.co.nz/using_microblogging_to_record_architectural_design_conversation_alongside_the_bim

    David

  3. Chris, David: I’m a caffeine addict, so I was happy to indulge in a big cup as I read through the article. 🙂

    I once thought “real-time” collaboration would be the trend of the future. But I now see that the general public actually prefer asynchronous collaboration. (In other words, you leave me a short message or inquiry. I’ll respond promptly, but in my own time, at my own convenience.) It makes so much more sense — the greater the size of the team, the more difficult it is to find a time slot that would work for everyone involved. So asynchronous work flow is the way to go.

    David, your observation that collaboration has to be decentralized is a good one. In the type of brainstorming I’ve seen on social networks, the main discussion tends to spawn sub-topics, which attract their own sets of participants — something a centralized collaboration system can’t easily accommodate.

    Thanks for the comments!

  4. microblogging is really useful when you want to broadcast short updates. i am still leaning towards traditional blogging.`~~

  5. Kenneth, great article! I think vuuch is showing how to re-define “collaboration” in product development. Other options to leverage social software are user experience and value of social networks. http://plmtwine.com/2010/02/16/social-plm-options/. Best, Oleg

  6. Marriage is one of the most sacred ceremonies that we humans experience. Being married also gives us happines.,;’

  7. microblogging is nice but it also limits how much you can say about your daily activities-*~

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