How ThoughtWorks Studios annoys me (and likely its other customers)

  1. The ThoughtWorks Studios forums are a usability and customer experience debacle. When you post something, it won’t show up until it’s "approved". This could take a few days or could never happen. It seems that they’ll occasionally forget to "approve" posts entirely and you never get notified. This means that your issue will never get heard.

    This sort of moderation is absurd and does nothing but belittle me as a customer. You don’t trust me enough to show what I say immediately on your forum? I’ve even had approved posts or replies DELETED after the fact because they contained a link to a favorable Mingle review on my blog. According to TWS this was a legal concern and has been rectified, so maybe it’s OK to link in your posts now.

  2. Mingle’s pricing is absurd. $47 per month per user after your first 5 free if you prepay for a year. Let’s do the math on this for a bit. So TWS claims that this is a fair price because of the first 5 free. So if you get 10 users, it’s really only $23.50 per user per month. But if you get 15 it’s $31.46 per user per month. Yep, the price goes up the more users you buy. I know they can give bulk discounts, but when I did the math there, I was still paying more per user per month as I went higher. Newsflash, you cannot justify high prices with free users because the users are then not free.

    Oh, and did I mention, this monthly pricing you’re paying is for a product you must host yourself! Yep, you’re paying monthly for the product, plus you’re paying for the machine it runs on. And guess what? It requires 2GB of RAM and I can tell you first hand it needs that ram, and it will peg your CPU while doing any sort of (slow) searches, so you better not need that box for much else.

    They recently introduced "perpetual" pricing which is an up front $995 + $199/yr (including the first year) and isn’t worth it unless you plan on using Mingle for at least 3 years. Even then it only saves you $88/user/year. You’re still paying $477/user/year.

    Now I assume their excuse for monthly pricing is that they release often and they continue to add value. This is partly true, except when they spend an entire release half-building something like Card Trees TM (yes, they trademarked that) and then spend another release trying to clean up the mess and make it useable for a project with more than 20 cards.

  3. ThoughtWorks’ sales team is inefficient and annoying. Just yesterday after the release of Mingle 2.1 I emailed my point of contact on the sales team asking about licensing for read only users because in the release notes it says to. It took EIGHT total emails back and forth to get them to say something that should be on their site or at least should be a canned response. I couldn’t be bothered to go through this again when I wanted to know what "light" users were (yes, they have normal, readonly, anonymous and light users, all with different licensing requirements) so I just called them. Apparently light users are read-only users that can also comment on cases. The conversation was reasonable until I asked if part of adding light users would be fixing comments so that they were not off to the side and often ignored. At this point I was called sweetheart multiple times and dismissed in a manner I considered, well, rude and dismissive.

    For those who care, read-only users cost 1/3 the price of normal users (Yep, $17/mo/user so one person can look at web pages on a server you own), anonymous users are "an enterprise feature that [ThoughtWorks charges] for separately and in order to have anonymous access added to any license and it requires a conversation around an enterprise or site license agreement" and light users do not yet exist, though I’m guessing they’ll probably be something awesome like 2/5 price a normal user.

    I think that’s enough for now. I’ve got a few complaints about the product itself but I can save those for another day. Despite these annoyances, Mingle is the closest match to the product that we need here so I’ve put up with it thus far. If another product came along that met my needs, provided a better customer experience and more reasonable pricing I will jump ship in a heartbeat.

    And now for your moment of Zen:

    --------
    You're charging for read only users? Is that per user? And how do
    anonymous users work? Is it per concurrent user logged in?
    
    Quite honestly I can't believe you're charging for anonymous or read
    only users. Mingle is expensive enough for normal users.
    -------
    --------
    Hi Aaron, 
    Thanks for your feedback.  We are responding to our customers who have requested 
    this capability.  We understand it may not fit your needs but for many of our 
    customers this fills a requirement they were seeking. 
    Best Regards, 
    ...
    -------
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  • Aaron Jensen

    Totally depends on your use case, but my default answer would be AgileZen.

  • Chris

    I have just downloaded Mingle for evaluation. Any suggestions for alternatives or competitors

  • http://qaqulfoz.com/ Uznitryp

    Sfotw6

  • http://colinjack.lostechies.com Colin Jack

    I’ve never used Mingle and reading this I hope I never have to. Charging for read-only/anon users is enough to turn me off, thats the sort of thing MS do and it really works against you in the medium-long run.

    What amazes me is the reaction, if we in the IT industry can’t blog about something that others are sure to be interested in without comments like “Goodness sakes….moveon.org” then we deserve what we get.

  • aaronjensen

    ShaharY,

    There are plenty of other sites (nearly all, actually) that manage just fine without the preapproval process. Sorry, but this isn’t a valid enough reason in my opinion.

  • http://www.dev102.com ShaharY

    About you first point: I think that they nust approve your post in order to filter spam! From my experience, even if someone posted a post which were approved in the past, he might be a spammer. Spammers learn that if they leave a “normal” (not spammy) post once, their other spammy posts won’t get filtered…
    I do agree that they should filter only spam posts and not posts that “contained a link to a favorable Mingle review on my blog”.

  • http://scottic.us Scott Bellware

    Simon,

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that moving on is the right thing to do. Where does Aaron move on to?

    To wit, why is it necessarily the right thing to do?

    Why should someone merely move on? Why is it that the people in this industry are so invested in that typically leads to avoiding the effort involved in fighting for what’s right, and fighting for the rehabilitation of the industry.

    Are we as a culture so complacent that our default behavior is to always avoid conflict at all costs as if conflict is an inherently negative force as opposed to being merely temporarily uncomfortable?

    Before we tell other people to move on, we should be looking into our own motivations for giving people that advice. Often, we’re acting in service to our own inability to engage in meaningful and ethical conflict, causing an arbitrary decrease or elimination of meaningful conflict because it’s not something we’re personally comfortable with.

    I appreciate your positive experiences with TW relative to experiences with other vendors, but we should be comparing ourselves only against excellence rather than to rampant, institutionalized incompetence in the industry at large.

    Human society deserves better treatment and consideration from this presently charlatan industry. Our society runs on software, and we as software makers and consumers need to take responsibility for the often uniformly negative human experiences we have foisted upon us by the foreign occupation force camped out in the software business pretending to be competent software developers.

    That TWS or Mingle might be better than it’s close competitors isn’t the issue, but the mindset that suggests that this is a meaningful measure of goodness is indeed a serious problem. It’s a mindset that keeps the here-and-now-available-to-all software engineering ways and means that do in fact produce positive experience from gaining more traction – even at TW. It’s the open gateway to complacency and to software and business entropy.

  • aaronjensen

    SImon,

    I’m not at all shocked to hear that your experience working with them was good as a customer with whom they stand to gain 100 users *and* you were taking consulting from them. Very large businesses with lots of money seem to be their target market, and I am quite sure a lot of Mingle’s business comes from people who use TW consulting.

    I too have had good discussions with them and they have worked well with my company even though it is a small startup. They worked with me on price and we got a reasonable deal. I shouldn’t have to negotiate a fair price though. By doing so, I’m only increasing the price by spending my own time doing so. I guess it makes me unsophisticated and immature that I’d like to be able to pull things off the shelf pay the clerk and tackle the important concerns of my business.

    Does it also make me immature that I am frustrated that two of my bug reports have been lost in the forums
    3 days now because someone forgot to approve them or didn’t and didn’t tell me why?

    Perhaps it is the community as a whole that needs to move on and set a higher bar for customer interaction.

  • Simon G.

    I have worked with TW Consulting and Studios at a very large global IB and can say they were awesome. Sadly, we got caught up in the financial meltdown, but the product and people behind it lived up to their word. You can trust them….can’t say that about most SW companies.

    We ended up getting a few hundred users on Mingle and I can say they were the most honest, ethical and above board with all the commercial discussions. They did not waste my time and I did not waste theirs.

    Sounds like a complete mismatch to me. Honestly, haven been in this business for over 30 years, they were the most professional software firm I ever had the joy, that’s right JOY, of dealing with.

    Sounds like some of the people buying Mingle are somewhat unsophisticated or immature buyers (as we used to say in my E&Y days).

    Just stop using it if it hurts so much. Goodness sakes….moveon.org

    Simon.

  • aaronjensen

    Ian,

    You’re right about the sales person, I should not have posted their name, that was unprofessional. That said, I don’t believe patronizing me is in their job description.

    With regards to monthly vs subscription pricing, subscription pricing is just monthly pricing you pay in batch. No other host it yourself apps I’ve seen have either monthly *or* subscription pricing.

    Telling me to use one of the free options on the market is incredibly obnoxious and completely misses the point of this post. I’ve already explained that its the best for us right now and we’re using it.

    Furthermore, you have no place to tell me or even suggest to me to post this on my company’s blog. These are my views, not my company’s, and they absolutely do concern the community. Customer service is an integral part of any organization, especially software. Failing on this front makes your ability to write quality software completely irrelevant.

  • Ian R.

    Aaron, You have a right to your feelings on price, but trying to embarass their sales person that is just doing their job is inappropriate. If you were not trying to embarrass her, then you would not have posted her email on the internet.

    Presumably your company is paying for the licenses and not you, so in that case it might have been more appropriate to post this on their blog rather than a dot net community site.

    On another note, to correct one of your points: I do not see anything on their site about monthly pricing. It has subscription and perpetual pricing which are pretty standard amongst all of their competitors.

    To Simon’s point above, it sounds like you would be best suited by one of the free options on the market.

  • http://scottic.us Scott Bellware

    Liam,

    Commentary on the pricing is valuable and necessary because it’s a matter of ethics.

  • aaronjensen

    Liam,

    Fair enough. I think my chief complaint stems from the pricing model, not necessarily the cost. But again, back to your point, if one cannot afford it, don’t buy it.

    Also, I’ve had a few friends I’ve tried to get to look into it but they won’t even open the box because of the price tag. But hey, too expensive, don’t buy it.

  • http://www.eclipsewebsolutions.com.au Liam McLennan

    I’m not sure there is much value complaining about pricing. The essence of your concern about the pricing is that Mingle is too expensive. If it is too expensive don’t buy it.

  • aaronjensen

    Simon,

    Like I said, it’s currently the closest match for our needs. The oss offerings are lacking. I don’t mind paying for it as long as the pricing is reasonable.

    Tobin,

    Yep, I think their target customer is the people they consult for (oh and by the way, you’ll absolutely *love* our PM tool, we’ll just add it on the bill!) and like you said, large companies that don’t care about money.

  • http://www.tobinharris.com Tobin Harris

    That’s a sad tale. I’ve always respected ThoughtWorks but this sounds awful!

    A possible explanation for this is that you’re not the type of customer they want to attract. It might be that they their target customers are big companies with large teams with huge budgets for licensing, support and training.

  • Simon G.

    Wow. That’s harsh…why not just drop it for one of the many open source options out there?

    It’s free and no sales people to deal with?

    Simon….