My Contribute Purchasing Experience

By Deane Barker on February 4, 2006

There’s a class of product that fits into a crappy pricing slot. It’s a slot where a purchaser isn’t going to make a purchase right away, because they’re going to have a lot of questions. But at the same time, individual sales of the product aren’t expensive enough for the vendor to court the customer with a dedicated sales rep.

Things were different when I was working for a company that was looking for a very high-end content management system. The price was in the six figures, so we had companies like Documentum and Interwoven fly sales teams in to demo the product. We had a dedicated “sales engineer” that we could call any time with questions, and he would find us the answer. It was great.

On the other end of the scale, I’m working with the local Christian school (K-12) to try and get a handle on their Web site. We’ve stumbled along so far with a combination of Movable Type and FrontPage. (They had to have FrontPage because they had a high-school class built around it, but – as I’ve ranted about before – it’s time for that to end.)

So after quite a bit of contemplation, we’ve decided to implement a Dreamweaver / Contribute solution. I played around with Contribute quite a bit a few weeks ago, and I was really, really impressed by it (in fact, it prompted me to write this post about static HTML).

But this isn’t a small expense. Even with the academic discount, the pilot program is going to be about $1,500, and even more if we decide to roll it out school-wide. This is a lot of money for a private Christian school.

So, I had a couple of questions that I felt I needed to get answered before we commit to trying this. (Note that I did RTFM – I have consumed about every Contribute resource Macromedia has published on their Web site.) I wandered over to Macromedia’s forums and posted a question. No response. Not from any other user, or from Macromedia, even though I stated that I was considering a multiple license purchase. Do they not monitor their own forums? Bummer.

So I figured that maybe I needed to talk to someone with a current installation – a reference implementation. So I posted again, and again stated that I was considering a a multiple license purchase. I just asked for a reference I could talk to. I got one response...seemingly from someone who was looking for the same thing I was.

I went over to Usenet, but I quickly figured out that the forums on their site were just a Web interface to the Usenet groups, so that was no help.

Macromedia had a contact form, so I thought I would give that a try (I would link, but I can’t find the exact form anymore). I filled it out three times on three consecutive days, each time stating that I was considering a multiple-license purchase, but I had some questions. I never got any response beyond the auto-responder “Thanks for your interest” email.

So I decided to call Macromedia. It seems absurd, but I just went to their contact us page, and called the corporate headquarters. How...quaint.

It took seven transfers (and each new person wanted to know my name and phone number, for some reason), but I finally got to Contribute technical support. The rep told me that she couldn’t get a “product specialist” on the phone until I actually owned the product, but she could open a ticket with my question and someone would call me back.

It’s been four days now, and I’m still waiting.

So, this post is three things:

  1. A method for me to vent my frustration.

  2. An attempt to point out that software that fits into this slot of complexity and price can be tough to buy. It’s expensive enough where you’re going to have lots of questions, but not expensive enough that you get dedicated sales support from the vendor.

  3. A request for a contact with someone who has a decent-sized Dreamweaver / Contribute install that would be willing to answer a few questions. Preferably, I’d like someone with experience with Contribute Publishing Server, but I’ll take anything at this point. If you don’t have such an install, do you know someone who does? Thanks.

Comments (10)

Joshua Illichmann says:

Hi, i’m very interested to see what has happened and your progress on it. I work at a private Christian school here in Australia, as an IT Tech, and we dabbled a bit in contribute 3 and Contribute Publishing server. This was just before it came out, and was playing around with it alot, trying to get it to work with our active directory. I ended up being invited to join the beta testing team for contribute. Well we didn’t end up using contribute. But I would like to hear what you have done so far and how far you are going with it.

James Higginbotham says:


Check out my high-level view of a success story at our church using Contribute + Dreamweaver:

Basically, we found that it worked great and allowed our church to scale the ministry without a bunch of HTML experts. I know this isn’t a full CMS solution, but keep in mind that a lot of people that volunteer won’t get CMSes – they get the MS Word approach. So we want those that should lead to lead, and train others to use something as simple as Contribute to, well, contribute.

John Dowdell says:

Hi, I’m sorry for the hassle too, but I appreciate that you posted your actual experience – I know that your post has been making the rounds of internal emails with people on the Contribute team, and you should hear a followup soon, if you haven’t already.

For context, Contribute has a different social context than the design & development tools Macromedia traditionally offered – the Contribute content is usually set up by someone using Dreamweaver or another HTML authoring tool, and the majority of Contribute users may never visit the Macromedia site. The User Forums are more User-to-User than pre-sales, and Product Support is really for basic up & running support for licensed customers... that’s sort of how that unfortunate experience of “falling between the cracks” occurred, if that context helps in any way.

For the two specific questions in the one forum post, it’s hard for me to give an exact answer too. For the sitemap/linkdump issue we’re not really there, because the Contribute client is aimed at browsing and editing web documents, rather than automating the creation of web documents which know about other documents. The “ping” issue is harder – that’s properly a function of the server, but might be able to be duplicated with your own server if you follow the documented SOAP protocols which the Contribute client follows, but such multi-user coordination is set up to require more pieces than just the client editor. I can appreciate how this is a real issue in your situation, and regret that I can’t provide more useful information at the moment, but I do know that people more qualified than I am are aware of the problems you’ve suffered through here.

I"m sorry for the hassle, but better folks than me are on the case now, if that background is of help.


Deane says:

The “ping” issue is harder – that’s properly a function of the server, but might be able to be duplicated with your own server if you follow the documented SOAP protocols which the Contribute client follows,

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

What I get from your comment is that the ability to ping a URL when a page is published (ping in whatever form – with a Web service request, or just a simple ping) is an inherent function of the standalone Contribute client, without having to have CPS installed. Is this right?

If so, where is this functionality? Where do you specify what URL the client should ping? I’ve looked through all the doc, and all through the client, but I can’t find it anywhere.

This is the specific question I’m trying to get answered right now.

John Dowdell says:

Apologies for my delay in reply... this week has been a series of worldwide engineering meetings at the new Adobe, and I’m off my stride with my online correspondence.

For “How can I make a remote call from the Contribute client?” , then I don’t know the answer myself. But I do know that this request is being escalated internally this week, through the new engineering structure, and I anticipate a public response on your blog from a staffer more informed than I am on this issue . But it’s Friday, a travel day for many, and I’m not yet able to offer a better estimate of the delivery time for this reply.

You point out a real problem for us – even though Contribute is aimed at consumers, there are still questions on it from developers, and so we need better coverage from technical staff in the Contribute forum where such questions would naturally arise. With the merger and restructuring we’ll likely have a number of such gaps. I know it hurts to be the discoverer of such a flaw, but if it’s of solace, then the pain you went through in researching this issue should reduce pain for others subsequently in this position, now that you’ve identified an area we have to fix.

Summary: I expect a better reply here soon from another staffer, but please accept my apologies in the meantime for the runaround we gave you in trying to get your work done.


Deane says:

Thanks for your attention, John. My enthusiasm for Contribute and my desire/need to get these questions answered has not wavered. I look forward to a response, either on this blog or via email.

John Dowdell says:

Just checking, because I don’t see a reply in the public record here... did someone else on staff contact you privately on this, are we still seeking a resolution...?


Deane says:

John, I just checked the first forum post, and – sure enough – there is a new response that answers my questions.

Thanks for following up.

sldesigns says:

Talk about frustration! I’m going to need to learn Contribute, but needed to get a quick answer to a client about what it would require on their end – do they need to buy something from Macromedia/Adobe, what the cost is, etc. All sorts of marketing and technical crap on the web site, even the FAQ does’t discuss. Called Adobe, a half-hour and many transfers later, I got an answer. Had to pretend to be a client in order to get the answer – the client does not need to do anything or pay extra to use Contribute. Why was this so hard for Adobe to tell me as a designer?? I just payed an awful lot of money for the suite. I apprciate the help on technical questions, but Adobe can’t handle the simple ones.

Bruce says:

Hi Guys, So bottom line: 1) Is Contribute a good solution for a not-for-profit to self manage their content after a designer like me builds a site? 2) Can they get by with just the Contribute client to make the updates they want to sections of the pages I designate? 3) Will they have to own Contribute client? (I’ll be donating it if they do.)

-I have been an instructor in Photoshop and Dreamweaver for over 9 years and getting any help from Adobe or Macromedia has always been a big pain. I have spent thousands with them; promoted their products and can’t get any help either on this...would like to know where Deane’s post is on the Adobe site... Mark me as an other nightmare install of CS3 Master Collection- don’t waste your $$$$$. I find all the post here interesting. Good Work! thanks.