Dassault Systèmes has just introduced a new release of 3DSwYm, its social innovation application.
You can be forgiven if you don’t know what a “social innovation application” is. The best description I can cobble together is that it is a web framework, similar to a content management system (think WordPress, Drupal, Joomla), designed to manage communities of interest, and support business needs, such as ideation or knowledge sharing. Social networking with a PLM twist.
The name “3DSwYm” is a CamelCase acronym for “3D See what You mean.” It’s a play off of “3DS,” which is Dassault Systèmes’ trademark, combining “3D” and “DS.” Sometimes, DS uses the term “SwYm” to refer to sites built using 3DSwYm technology, and “SwYmers” (pronounced “swimmers”) to refer to the people who use those sites.
According to the DS press release, the new version of 3DSwYm (which I understand to be the V6R2013 version) incorporates semantic search, business processes and information intelligence experiences, and unleashes the power of communities for innovation. More precisely, DS has incorporated Exalead semantic search, and Netvibes widgets, and provides integrations to Enovia, and other enterprise systems. 3DSwYm is offered as software as a service (SaaS), and is hosted on a cloud infrastructure, by Outscale (a company in which DS has an investment.)
Probably the biggest user of 3DSwYm is Dassault Systèmes itself, along with its partners and customers. DS runs a number of 3DSwYm communities, for internal use, for partners, and for customers, under the www.3dswym.com (or swym.3ds.com) URL.
Here, for example, are some screen shots of screens that a DS employee might see when in 3DSwYm:
3DSwYm has a lot of capabilities, including custom dashboards, newsfeeds, wikis, questions, media, and quite a bit more. It’s a powerful system, and I suspect that it’ll be even more powerful when the V6R2013 version is deployed (apparently, in May.)
I’ve had a personal account on www.3dswym.com for some time now, since it’s the place where DS supports DraftSight, their free AutoCAD clone application. All totalled, I’m a member of 8 communities: SwYmer’s Hall, DraftSight, n!fuze, eCar Design Challenge, Open Source eCar, Realistic Human Simulation, Simulia Learning, and DaVinci 3D Experiences. I can only see 15 communities total on 3DSwYm, and the ones I’m not a member of are locked, and require permission to join. There are many more communities that I can’t see, as my login credentials (“DS Passport”) don’t authorize me to see them. (I imagine that were I a paying customer, I’d get access to much more.)
One of the irritations of 3DSwYm is that it is completely locked down: You can’t see or do anything without logging in first, and it doesn’t have the option of remembering you by saving a cookie. If you navigate to swym.3ds.com, you’ll be faced with a plain login screen. If you log in, and leave the site open for awhile (I just did overnight), it logs you out.
The last time I logged in, the website took about 18 seconds to initialize, and bring up the main page. That was on my 8GB quad-core Linux box, with a 20Mb/s internet connection. I thought that was a bit much, so I tried it on a big honkin’ HP Z1 workstation that I’d received to review. It took only 10 seconds. I say “only” with some irony: If Facebook took only 10 seconds to load its home page, the company would be in deep trouble. Remember Friendster? Performance problems ultimately contributed to its death.
3DSwYm has similar performance issues throughout the site. When navigating, it builds pages as you visit them. You can see the pages visually build up, element by element. When I went to the DraftSight page, for example, it took about 15 seconds for it to fully load up – despite the fact that its last update had been 7 hours earlier. Refreshing the page actually took sightly longer than loading it the first time. There appears to be no server caching.
One thing I’ve been curious about is whether 3DSwYm will have mobile clients. In the past, it hasn’t, and, even today, it won’t load on my Android phone’s browser. Since the site has a mechanism for asking questions (or, as they are called, “iQuestions”), I posted one. I got an answer back in about a day. 3DSwYm V6R2013 will be supported on the iPad, but with some restrictions.
I also asked Derek Lane,, DS PR manager for North America, about mobile clients. Here was his response:
There are mobile apps on iOS and Android. First, the two iOS apps are internal only. The first is an iOS version of our SwYm phonebook capabilities. Browse by photo (as you do albums in iTune or on iPhone/iPad), as well as all the other search capabilities and contact information our employees have come to expect. The second is a beta version of our internal SwYm solution ported to iOS. In case you didn’t realize, we use SwYm for our own social enterprise solution. Media, blogs, phonebook, discussion forums, detailed personal data, etc. Images attached to give you a sense of how we use it.
The third app is an award-winning Android app dedicated to “social shopping” developed by a third party partner using 3DSwYm. Link to a story about it here: http://www.thinkandgo-nfc.com/index.php/news/item/64-thinkgo-nfc-unveils-nfc-retail-solution-as-the-last-meter-influencer-at-wima-2011.html
Not all questions get answered quickly on 3DSwYm. Last November, when I was previously on 3DSwYm, I asked a couple of simple questions and never did get answers.
At the time, I thought I’d follow the iQuestions activitiy via RSS, since there’s a link to do that.
It didn’t work. I just tried it again, and got the same results: Google Reader can’t get to the RSS feed, because DS has the site locked down behind a password wall. I don’t know why 3DSwYm would offer an RSS feed if it doesn’t work.
Being obstinate, and slightly irritated, I decided to work around the password wall, using Yahoo pipes. The following URL lets any RSS reader login to 3DSwYm, to get an RSS feed:
Is this the best DS can do?
There is no doubt that 3DSwYm has powerful underpinnings. But, as a social networking tool, it seems to be a failure.
Consider the DraftSight SwYm community. Despite there being on the order of 2 million downloads of DraftSight, and despite the DraftSight SwYm community being promoted by DS as the place for no-cost DraftSight community support, it appears to have a total of only 76 members, most of which are DS employees. It may be that there are many more members, and that I just can’t see them—but why create a community with no community?
Once people visit 3DsWym, they don’t seem to come back very often. Perusing the member lists, it seems that the only people who visit regularly are those who are paid to. Even many of the DS employees who are members of various communities seldom seem to visit.
I want to like 3DSwYm, but I can’t muster a lot of enthusiasm for it. There have been plenty of social networking websites that have promised much, and then flamed out. Remember Friendster? How about MySpace? Both of these showed how a few rough edges were enough to drive users away. And 3DSwYm has some serious rough edges.
The management at Dassault Systèmes likes to point out that they use 3DSwYm internally, with great success. That certainly makes sense: it’s an internally developed tool, and they can dictate its use by employees.
While individuals, such as myself, might find some use for 3DSwYm (such as in getting support for DraftSight), it’s really more of an enterprise tool. DS licenses its use to their customers, on a named-user basis.
I have no idea exactly how much DS charges their customers per-user to use 3DSwYm (In typical DS form, pricing is not published), it’s not likely to be cheap. The mere fact of named-user licensing makes 3DSwYm unsuitable for social product development use, where a company might want to engage with the public.
Monica Menghini, EVP Industry and Marketing for DS, says this about 3DSwYm:
“At Dassault Systèmes we care for delivering the right experiences to all industries, but we especially care for the ‘human’ behind the business process. Unleashing the power of each individual and connecting people in a more ‘social’ way within an organization is one of the key transformations facing industry this century. We are offering customers a value creation platform. Many disciplines within a company create value. All industries, from banking and insurance to retail, fashion, construction, energy, life sciences, transportation or aerospace, need to break down barriers and ensure value is created by all. 3DSwYm lies at the heart of our Social Industry Experience strategy.”
This sort of empty marketing-speak seems to be more and more common at DS these days. Rather than actually addressing the functional capabilities of their products, they talk about things such as “unleashing the power of each individual.”
If 3DSWyM is the heart of DS’s social industry experience strategy, they may be in trouble. It’s kind of a dull tool.