My Contribute Purchasing Experience

By Deane Barker

There’s a class of product that fits into a crappy pricing slot. It’s a slot where a purchaser isn’t going to make a purchase right away, because they’re going to have a lot of questions. But at the same time, individual sales of the product aren’t expensive enough for the vendor to court the customer with a dedicated sales rep.

Things were different when I was working for a company that was looking for a very high-end content management system. The price was in the six figures, so we had companies like Documentum and Interwoven fly sales teams in to demo the product. We had a dedicated “sales engineer” that we could call any time with questions, and he would find us the answer. It was great.

On the other end of the scale, I’m working with the local Christian school (K-12) to try and get a handle on their Web site. We’ve stumbled along so far with a combination of Movable Type and FrontPage. (They had to have FrontPage because they had a high-school class built around it, but – as I’ve ranted about before – it’s time for that to end.)

So after quite a bit of contemplation, we’ve decided to implement a Dreamweaver / Contribute solution. I played around with Contribute quite a bit a few weeks ago, and I was really, really impressed by it (in fact, it prompted me to write this post about static HTML).

But this isn’t a small expense. Even with the academic discount, the pilot program is going to be about $1,500, and even more if we decide to roll it out school-wide. This is a lot of money for a private Christian school.

So, I had a couple of questions that I felt I needed to get answered before we commit to trying this. (Note that I did RTFM – I have consumed about every Contribute resource Macromedia has published on their Web site.) I wandered over to Macromedia’s forums and posted a question. No response. Not from any other user, or from Macromedia, even though I stated that I was considering a multiple license purchase. Do they not monitor their own forums? Bummer.

So I figured that maybe I needed to talk to someone with a current installation – a reference implementation. So I posted again, and again stated that I was considering a a multiple license purchase. I just asked for a reference I could talk to. I got one response…seemingly from someone who was looking for the same thing I was.

I went over to Usenet, but I quickly figured out that the forums on their site were just a Web interface to the Usenet groups, so that was no help.

Macromedia had a contact form, so I thought I would give that a try (I would link, but I can’t find the exact form anymore). I filled it out three times on three consecutive days, each time stating that I was considering a multiple-license purchase, but I had some questions. I never got any response beyond the auto-responder “Thanks for your interest” email.

So I decided to call Macromedia. It seems absurd, but I just went to their contact us page, and called the corporate headquarters. How…quaint.

It took seven transfers (and each new person wanted to know my name and phone number, for some reason), but I finally got to Contribute technical support. The rep told me that she couldn’t get a “product specialist” on the phone until I actually owned the product, but she could open a ticket with my question and someone would call me back.

It’s been four days now, and I’m still waiting.

So, this post is three things:

  1. A method for me to vent my frustration.

  2. An attempt to point out that software that fits into this slot of complexity and price can be tough to buy. It’s expensive enough where you’re going to have lots of questions, but not expensive enough that you get dedicated sales support from the vendor.

  3. A request for a contact with someone who has a decent-sized Dreamweaver / Contribute install that would be willing to answer a few questions. Preferably, I’d like someone with experience with Contribute Publishing Server, but I’ll take anything at this point. If you don’t have such an install, do you know someone who does? Thanks.

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