I’ve seen this podcast-episode link recommended a few times by fellow software developers over the last couple of weeks. I finally listened to it, and I can see why. The podcast hosts, who are screenwriters, interview the CEO and product manager of Final Draft, the industry-standard software for writing screenplays — which the hosts aren’t fond of.
I don’t know anything about screenwriting, but I’ve heard people complaining about how much they hate Final Draft for years. It sounds a lot like the complaints about many other pro apps: customers dislike its design, quality, rate of progress, pricing, or all of the above.
I guess, being in the software business (sometimes), I’m supposed to identify with the Final Draft CEO. Application software faces a tough market these days, and the hosts weren’t entirely fair at times.1 But all I heard from the Final Draft CEO was an incredibly defensive, emotionally manipulative barrage of excuses and assaults against his customers. He makes his problems their problems, and any valid criticisms or hard questions are yelled down and distorted with argument-ending guilt trips about feeding his staff.
It’s quite something to hear, perfectly illustrating the dysfunction that can result from a complacent software vendor being out of touch with its customers’ needs, unwilling to listen to negative feedback, and unable to adapt to a changing market. Developers can all learn something from hearing this. And if Final Draft is a reflection of its CEO, I can certainly understand the widespread resentment.
Update: This post by a competing developer and the follow-up in the next episode are also quite good. I had no idea Final Draft was so antiquated — QuickDraw? No Unicode? — and it makes the CEO’s excuses even worse.
The hosts spent far too much time at the end berating the CEO for not asking anyone they know for feedback. But before that, their questions were quite reasonable. ↩︎