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WordPress and EDA Software, How Do They Compare?

WordPress and EDA Software, How Do They Compare?
by Daniel Payne on 03-09-2014 at 8:34 pm

I first started using WordPress in 2008 after having written my own Content Management System (CMS) to build and manage web sites. WordPress is the number one CMS in the world, is just 10 years old, and is used by over 70 million users. What got me thinking about WordPress and EDA software companies was a recent book by Scott Burken, The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work. In the book Scott talks about his experience working at Automattic (the company that owns WordPress) as one of the first-ever engineering leads and contrasts it with working at Microsoft, a traditional software company.

Let’s start off with a quick comparison between WordPress and most EDA software companies:

[TABLE] style=”width: 500px”
|-
|
| WordPress
| Most EDA Companies
|-
| Pricing
| Freemium
| Expensive
|-
| Licensing
| Open Source
| Proprietary, Leased Software
|-
| Users
| 70+ Million
| About 200,000
|-
| Release Cycle
| Every 2 weeks
| Maybe twice per year
|-
| Cloud-based
| Yes
| Limited
|-
| Schedules
| None, really
| Bureaucratic, elaborate
|-
| Sales & Marketing
| Word of mouth
| About 30% of total revenue
|-
| Web volume
| #19 in the world
| #61,421 in the world (mentor.com)
|-
| Adding Features
| 29,827 Plugins
| Scripts – Tcl, Skill, C, API, etc.
|-
| Customer Support
| Team Happiness
| Thankless job
|-
| Management Decisions
| Bottom up
| Top down
|-
| Employee locations
| Remote
| Centralized offices
|-
| Communication
| IRC, Skype, Blog
| email
|-
| Formal Meetings
| None
| Often, unproductive
|-
| Rating, Ranking
| Not used
| Annual spectacle
|-

OK, I know that WordPress is not as technically sophisticated as a formal analysis tool in EDA, however it does contain 248,090 lines of code and installing it uses some 1,100 files. Did you see how often they release a new version of WordPress, every two weeks! Now that’s what I call being responsive to customers.

When I worked at Mentor Graphics in 2003 our product team worked on a FastSPICE circuit simulator and released a new version every month, or 12 times per year. I think that many EDA start-up companies release frequently because they are adding new features at a rapid rate, and customers are thrilled with the added automation. What tends to happen at large EDA companies is that products can get stuck into dependencies on other products or a framework, so that all products must be released at the same time instead of being autonomous.

If you need a feature not included in WordPress then you quickly search from a centralized repository of Plugins, however in the EDA world we really don’t have a place to share our scripts, mostly because management doesn’t want to share any automation with a potential competitor. I figure that most large EDA users have a way to share their own scripts internally, but not for the world at any price.

At Automattic, all new employees work their first month in Team Happiness, a customer support role in order to find out how real users are using WordPress and finding bugs or just having trouble learning how to get their work done. In the EDA world I recall how Model Technology (acquired by Mentor Graphics) assigned their developers to answer the customer support phones each week in order to stay close to the customer, and better understand how ModelSim was actually being used and what users really wanted in their functional simulator.

What shocked me most about WordPress was that the founder Matt Mullenweg sets general directions about what should be done, but doesn’t order any person or team to go out and do it. Teams were formed, and they simply divided up the work and got it done, all without using formal scheduling or deadlines. I’m not sure how the chaos style used at WordPress would work in an EDA world, however I bet that most EDA startups follow a similar approach of informal project management.

Transparency was another huge part of the success at WordPress, where they use internal blogs to document what is happening within each team, so that the entire company is privy to your development progress and requests for help. The culture at Automattic is certainly unique and maybe the stodgy folks in EDA could loosen up a bit and get back to their start-up roots and become more productive at the same time.

Summary

I recommend Scott Burken’s book about the inner workings of WordPress because it answered many of my questions about what the culture at WordPress was, how they got started, what they believe in, and how working at a software company can be fun and rewarding. The only negative point I could think of about Scott Burken, is that he used to work at Microsoft on the team that created Internet Explorer, the most un-compliant web browser on the planet and loathed by web developers.

lang: en_US

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