Ed Foster: Loss Of A Legend

InfoWorld columnist and legendary consumer advocate Ed Foster died over the weekend. Ed was a tireless crusader for consumer rights in the digital age, and he will certainly be missed. For many years Ed has authored GripeLine, where he called companies and politicians to task for abusive anti-consumer practices.

I’ve written before about how Ed exposed and publicised shamefully lopsided software license agreements, including Autodesk’s and Adobe’s. Recently, Ed commented about the May, 2008 Vernor decision (see my CAD/Court web site for more information about the Vernor case).

It will be no easy task to fill Ed’s shoes. We can be certain, though, that his work must go on.

Vernor Decision Making a Splash

From the NewsFeed on my CAD/Court web site:

“The court today issued an order denying Autodesk’s motion to dismiss the charges in the Vernor lawsuit. Normally such a denial is perfunctory and mundane, but in this ruling the court performs a breathtaking analysis of whether the AutoCAD software was a sale or a license, and reaches conclusions that, if not reversed, are certain to change the face of software sales in the USA. Technically, the scope of this order is limited to simply refusing to grant Autodesk’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but the implications of the judge’s analysis are almost stunning in their rejection of Autodesk’s legal claims. I’m sure you will be hearing much more about this order in the coming weeks, as the entire software industry will certainly take notice of this case.”

Rational Ignorance

Reading the discussion about the reluctance to move to 3D/BIM in the latest issue of upFront.eZine reminded me of the principle of rational ignorance. The principle of rational ignorance applies when the perceived cost of obtaining knowledge is greater than the perceived benefit. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, where individuals rationalize their decision to remain ignorant based on their perception of the (lack of) benefit in the very thing they are ignorant about.

It is interesting to think about the 2D to 3D paradigm shift in terms of shifting the balance in the rational ignorance equation. I think there’s also another principle at work here: Newton’s Third Law. The harder the collective movers and shakers try to push, the harder the end users resist. Maybe if the software companies stopped pushing so hard, the shift would occur naturally with much less resistance.

By the way, I noticed a familiar theme in the upFront eZine discussion: those resistant to the paradigm shift lament the lost art of drafting and fail to believe that the new paradigm no longer needs artisans. Obviously there are other factors at work here — factors over which no amount of logic will prevail.

Egyptian Pyramid Scheme

Deelip Menezes asks what got me started on lamenting the sad state of the CAD industry in my previous post. Good question.

It all started with a Fox News story about a French architect’s claim to have solved the “Pyramid Secret”: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,262981,00.html. The article links to Dassault Systemes’ web site: http://khufu.3ds.com/introduction/. My snake oil alarm went off when I saw the site. I’ll admit I didn’t read it, but it looks like a slick marketing ploy. I was irritated that I fell for it. It reminded me of how insideous and incestuous this industry has become, now reaching out to mainstream media in search of new victims.


In some ways the CAD software industry is a lot like the fashion industry. The movers and shakers are trying to establish new fads that are just recycled from older fads, while guiding the unwashed masses into adopting new trends that have been carefully molded to ensure perpetuation of the system. Meanwhile the up and comers try desperately to get a share of the action, while an entire industry of hangers-on tries to eke out a living from the scraps left behind by the big players.

It’s a tired old symphony played on the world stage, with pretty much the same players today as twenty years ago. The same seamstresses making the same old faux fluff, dressing it up a bit, draping it over a new model, and parading it down the same old runways.

Bah! I’m going outside, maybe that’ll cheer me up.