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Where are Manifold GIS users?

Some time ago, a Dutch technologies’ guru told me this phrase:

“Honestly, I am surprised about what Manifold’s page says” “What happens is that I’ve never seen running it on a machine”

This week, Patrick Webber – from Spatial Knowledge – has made a reckless statement that is sure it has been shaken the same creators’ beard of this tool. Although they… don’t believe have beard, but I bring it as a reflection to track my predic – tions about this year.

Which is the problem of Manifold?

Patrick is based on the theory of Geoffrey A. Moore, which in his book “Crossing the Chasm“, posed about life cycle that happens in the adoption of information technology products. One of these crucial stages is called by him Chasm, where software requires sustain steady growth while is being embraced by buyers of early will, to avoid the risk of never reaching a market’s representative segment.


Patrick speaks clearly about his satisfaction caused by the innovative level of Manifold creative business, the pricing model and the user’s cooperation in the forum. But criticizes a rather sensitive issue in business format, because this emphasis in not having resellers or representatives rather than on its own page, although helps to have an acceptable price, may be a funnel that is slowing its growth.

For this he brings statistics from Manifold forum, which proves what we all assume: People who have a 7x version don’t find any reason to switch to 8x and is waiting to see what happens with the dreamed 9x to decide whether to move or no. It can be fully satisfied, but if a migration accounts just $ 50 per license, they would have to think about other drastic implications such as reformatting irreversible, because, as an example, you can not pass a .map from version 8 to 7 and this implies migrating all existing licenses. Nor saying about the constructed development or the user manuals, which are due to develop because Manifold only offers the “help me” in its own way.

What may be happening, then, is that Manifold will remain being that nice space rocket for egeomaters (Spanish Idiom: “geofumados” in this case means: the “geek” users) but it will never be attractive to ordinary users. It can be justified on the grounds they want –which surely exists– but scratching nuts to ESRI requires more than having a better software than ArcGIS, –which in many ways it is and many are-. It needs a community, to have allies who also earn, a geographic location in another language, support not based on tokens, including “technical evangelists” and piracy, ironically.

At no time the software is diminished, but all in a certain moment have worked in normal companies in which to place an order requires a human contact, from there it demands a process of support, training and renewal of licenses (all paid of course). The same Bentley Systems has its barrier to handle their sales on a regional basis, which works but delays transactions because of not being local currency tend to have extra processing. Nor saying Manifold’s case, which sale should be online with credit card, realizing that no standard municipality and not all companies have one; and, for those who have lived through, we know that purchases via bank transfer have their level of complexity in conventional environments.


Ah! I forgot about the support. A Manifold license comes with two tokens, for only two unique questions to support. If you want more, you pay for it; the idea is not bad, but we have to see whether it’s functional. The fact isn’t to spoil (Spanish idiom: “chinear”) people, but it isn’t sufficient the three invitation words to buy software: “Install – Launch – Learn“, because it’ll be difficult to convince a boss that in the operational plan for the new year, it is required to leave a budget for 15 tokens or pay to the Geofumadas’ editor for an assistance via chat :).

In conclusion: Manifold is a great software, but it is not growing. Although version 8 already exists in the torrents, sign that is becoming popular, very few people on the Web are talking about its capabilities, less about satisfaction with care model customer. If this remain so, it will continue as an exclusive expert’s group toy, and will lose popularity as a GIS practical solution – which is what it really is-. And all of us know the final chapter of this type of novels.

What to expect

Well, on one hand it would be better for Manifold’s friends to low their arrogance. In particular, without discrediting the software which seems a wonder for me, that I use constantly and from which I have spoken too much (Spanish Idiom: “hasta por clip_image003las orejas”), I have read in the forum answers to queries that don’t have the warmth of a seller but of a President of the Bolivarian Alliance saying “This is my government, I’m the boss here, and the one who don’t like it, must change channels”).

With the apologies, of course, for those who like that sort of treatment and visits me from the Southern Cone’s countries. But, if in Gabriel Ortiz’s forum – a free one – we have lost friends for bad responses, some words must be said about a space where software developers respond- and is not for free-.

One day I questioned its advertising department, another its business ethics, and today, I insist on what some assure: a good coach, not necessarily is a good manager, a great genius is around to be a lousy businessman. There are specialties, and any guru of technologies that aim at software vendor will require a basic course in customer service and that his marketer will give him early lessons of what is not in the API of .NET.

What will happen with Manifold? That definitely depends on its creators. In my opinion, I think Patrick’s warning should have a positive echo.

One comment

  1. James


    Great read. I think I do more reading of blogs than blogging these days? Have I missed that boat? Seems every man and his dog has a blog. Most I read a bit and then I usually get distracted. Those that require my minimal effort to share my mind and have earned their way to the last words read….get my response. So congratulations :)
    I actually searched Google for the words Manifold GIS + Arrogance and stumbled across your blog. Very informative read btw.
    Myself I am an ex ESRI employee, so many people cringe at me and/or fanboy me asking endless questions like I am some form of (excuse the pun) Oracle or something; kinda weird eh?
    I diverse….ok 1 thing I have to say for the sake of blog improvement before I go on to speak my mind sorry I mean “share” is when did you write this? I cannot see the date anywhere? Tip date functionality to embed in your blog posts.
    Ok so…where was I, oh yeah that’s right…EX ESRI employee. I went on to do other more ESRI related things an pretty much pushed things now into the development world spurred on by my other interests in IT and mobile technologies.
    So with that I have stepped across the line….to the darker side (in who’s eyes?)of OpenSource. How could I not? I have looked into all sorts of methodologies now days to solving my spatial needs not just those in the ESRI toolboxes. I have found surprisingly that many things can be done without the costly expense of ESRI license, but they generally ‘lack’ luster and the “prettiness” of the ESRI brand.
    I guess I do still like using what is familiar…however I enjoy the challenges of developing tools now that can replace some of these things that either Arc cannot perform or can only perform when a single toolbox from a very expensive license is required. I am also working for a spatial solutions company that revolves around solving spatial problems, developing automated tools and embracing both ESRI and Opensource (yes there are places around like this? Are you surprised? :D It ticked a few boxes for me hence I have a job!)
    Today I went looking into solutions for conversion of Surpac 3D string conversion into ESRI format. Guess what? There isn’t one as far as I can tell? There are no datainteroperability functions, no “Safe Software” FME functions, there are like two very clunky looking OpenSource apps that require expensive licenses like that of ESRI (one of which turns freakin MS Excel basically into a 3D viewing platform – boy did that shock my eyes! Search it!)Anyway I digress again…nothing seemed to offer the real deal. Most I could see where a few very basic hack-ish tutorials that offered a LOT of manual manipulation of data. Delete here convert these to columns,then to CSV and then DBF and then it wasn’t even certain that it produced what I wanted?
    So I will get to my point now. I stumble across a georeference.org forum thread for Manifold. I was quite surprised they were still around and had all but forgot about them. I read the thread and was like BAM! Bingo exactly what I need by the sounds of it? Right….where do I download this free software again?? eeerrm….hang on wait….oh…
    and then I decided to read this guy’s (I believe it is one guy that heads this thing up?) opening statements. Far out it screamed arrogance! I am not one to even try push ESRI or anything anymore, but I could see that if I posted anything on his forum it would be an open invitation to attack…so in the same fashion I declare “No Thanks!”
    These days I am completely open. That means I am open to opensource or ESRI, (or “capable” of MapInfo – see I have endured using that crappy application for many years and become good at it but I rather dislike it for my own reasons)…Q-Gis, CAD etc and everything like that, I will give them all a go.
    I was instantly turned off by the guy’s attitude and arrogance. What the hell is he thinking? Does he want to shoot him self in the foot? Far out! The guy sounds like a fruitloop with all the hatred of ESRI pouring out of his writings and texts. It is such poor form! I’d expect better from a communist dictator (which is the Vibe he puts out upon visiting his website/forum). Sounds like he has a lot of very intelligent users though and that is a great asset. People seemed very obliging and informative in their posts. Real shame.

    I started thinking towards the end of the first page “Yeah buddy you think you so good, but you still ain’t made it yet? If you’re so good why aren’t you the best in the industry?…oh oh I know why! It’d be SELF proclaimed! haha” And I literally did laugh. Anyway, I have a perfect solution for converting what seems to be dataformat that I am going to be dealing with on a regular basis and tomorrow I am going to report to work that I have a possible solution and that I recommend that we DON’T use it!
    Put it this way, I will will go to the extent of obtaining a copy of Manifold just to translate the scripting in it to another language like AutoIT and then throw it in the bin in spite of poor “businessmanship” and extreme distastefulness.

    So thanks for sharing your thoughts, I enjoyed reading your blog. I may stick around if I get a response ;) I hope you enjoyed my response as much as I did this topic.

    James (Aust)

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