Author Topic: Why is it so hard for us?  (Read 4977 times)

G8B4Life

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Why is it so hard for us?
« on: June 17, 2017, 08:23:40 AM »
This post is really just some pointless idle chatter; I have a cold but don't want to go to bed yet.  :-[ however.....

I was just over on the MRH forums for the first time in a month and read through the posts on the ProtoThrottle beta video thread. Link for those so inclined  to look if they have not read it. http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/30265.

While the thread goes on forever about Drive Hold (which I'm not debating here in this post) what I did take away from the thread is this.

The guys developing ProtoThrottle are:
  • Actively on a major forum updating the development.
  • Actively on a major forum explaining choices in the development.
  • Actively on a major forum listening to ideas.

While we have:

  • A product whose only contact with users or potential users is either phone or email
  • A lot of times a generic "we're not going to tell you" response when asking about or for information.
  • A list of requested features going back years that have not been fulfilled.
  • A list of bugs going back years that have not been fixed.

The last new product, the CI-1, was released last September (nearly a year ago) and before that the LM-3 and last proper HC software update in July last year (for all practical reasons 1 year ago) so given that others can very proactive about their products and their user base and given the time past since Ring did something major why is it so hard for us?

- Tim

Alan

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2017, 06:49:58 PM »
It is worthy to note that it is Scott Thornton, not a DCC system manufacturer, collaborating on MRH to build the throttle stand.

You do bring up a good point. The rule of thumb is 10% of readers post on forums meaning the audience is 10x what it appears to be on any given forum. Considering the number of eyeballs one would think any manufacturer would benefit from engagement on the forums. Minus posting time it is free product awareness and free market research. Look how much goodwill Joe Fugate gets for MRH by being active on his own forum. With Bill being generous in setting up this forum dedicated to RP, without cost to Ring, it almost seems like a slap in the face that Tim doesn't at least pop in once in a while with a comment.

I bought RailPro because I didn't want to control my trains with the technology equivalent of a 1970's calculator. I am a satisfied RP customer. That said, I am less than impressed with Ring Engineering as a company. Not unhappy but not impressed. Kudos to Tim for being extremely responsive to email communication however the responses are always light on content. His responses leave me feeling like Tim isn't the one actually doing the work, as if he has only a superficial understanding of the product. His message phrasing doesn't give one the sense you are speaking to someone with a deep thorough understanding of the product's innards. Maybe I am expecting too much or maybe he doesn't want to reveal anything technical. The RP documentation clearly demonstrates the latter. It is so weak.

The inaction on reported software bugs supports my suspicions. I do a little PHP MySQL web app work myself for select clients of the company I work for. When someone reports a bug I fix it. Because I wrote every line of every script I have a complete understanding of where to look and what is likely the issue. Even if the problem is so tangled it will take considerable work to rectify it I at least temporarily fix it with an ugly collection of if else statements.  :-[  I can't understand why Tim doesn't do the same unless, as I suspect, he isn't actually writing the code himself and instead is reliant on someone else to get around to it. Perhaps at a cost. Or it could be the revenue is coming in so why bother! Another piece of evidence... consider Ring's first product was a blinking end-of-train device. The second product was a complete DCC replacement control system. That's one hell of a leap in product development. Not the course one expect an evolving product engineer to take. Unless, the leap was purchased instead of developed.

I'll stop rambling as I am starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist.  :-X
Alan

LK&O Railroad website

When I was a kid... no wait, I still do that. HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, RailPro

G8B4Life

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2017, 10:25:50 PM »
I think those sentiments mirror many peoples feelings Alan however we can confuse it some more.

A look at the internet archive gives us this about us page http://web.archive.org/web/20070629083816/http://www.ringengineering.com:80/AboutUs.htm so TR does have the background for it and it seems the EOT came about because he wanted one (how many products come to market) so it's not far fetched that RailPro came about because the DCC system he got wasn't up to snuff for him.

All the FCC approvals for RailPro are dated 2009 so we can imagine considerable development time before then so it's possible that RailPro was being developed concurrently with the EOT's, at least in the EOT's latter stages of development anyway. BTW, you should see the photo's of the first HC, it's not like we know it now, and yes, the batteries were under the screen then too.

As to responses and documentation being weak, It can only think it must be paranoia that any technical details, no matter how small and regardless if it's something that people should know will leave RailPro exposed to the competition.

Getting back to the topic at hand, you are right on forum readers and posters etc and I don't understand why a manufacturer wouldn't use the best in the world marketing tool available to them (social interaction), considering I can't see the customers or money "rolling in" on the back of RailPro but I guess manufacturers have their reasons.

I find it more a slap in the face that TR doesn't even recognise us. I'd bet he's not ever pointed one person here. It seriously makes me wonder how we can promote this group better ourselves.

- Tim

Alan

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2017, 09:25:59 AM »
It is safe to remove my tin foil hat. As with all conspiracy theories, facts prove them wrong. Thanks Tim for supplying the facts and the follow-up PM info.

I think it is safe to conclude Ring Engineering is simply a bit weak when it comes to marketing and a bit slow with product development. I can live with both. My trains are running just fine.
Alan

LK&O Railroad website

When I was a kid... no wait, I still do that. HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, RailPro

nodcc4me

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2017, 10:26:05 AM »

I think it is safe to conclude Ring Engineering is simply a bit weak when it comes to marketing and a bit slow with product development. I can live with both. My trains are running just fine.
I concur on all counts. Having spoken with Tim on several occasions, along with many emails, I believe he is a brilliant man. I also think that RP is basically a one man operation most of the time. Whenever I have called, Tim always answers the phone, and not someone else.

The fact that RP is so unknown in the industry supports the weak marketing statement. Because they have such a small segment of the market, there may not be much money to invest in marketing while trying to invent and manufacture new products or features. He has kept new features under the hat, most likely because they have not been patented as yet. He is very responsive to us loyal customers and will go out of his way to make something right, if possible. As of now, there are several new things in the pipeline that we can look forward to, but it all takes time and money.  ;)
Al

Run your train, not your brain. Get RailPro. It's a no-brainer.

KPack

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2017, 10:35:44 AM »
Quote
I think it is safe to conclude Ring Engineering is simply a bit weak when it comes to marketing and a bit slow with product development.


This is why I've done the few videos I have, and have been promoting Railpro on various forums.  When I was looking into Railpro there was literally no information available, so I decided to take a risk and get it myself to see first-hand what it was.  I didn't want others to be in the same boat as myself, so I made videos to explain it.

At the same time I went on various forums to correct the misinformation and answer questions.  It'd be great if Tim did some of that, but if he spent all his time on forums he wouldn't be spending any time on development. 

That being said, I'd love to see a much faster software release schedule.  Ring has had a stack of new recordings for a while that have yet to see the light of day.  Is release of these waiting for a new sound handling architecture, or is it just taking longer than expected to get them edited?  A little transparency goes a long ways.  It'd be great to have Ring at least give us a heads up as to what's going on. 

I do think Ring is paranoid about releasing technical details.  The responses we have all gotten from him to various questions seem to confirm that...very vague answers.  That doesn't bother me that much.  I just wish we had little more transparency of what is going on....I'm sure we'd all love to hear about possible upcoming features, rather than one or two people knowing about them and being told to not share the information.

-Kevin

Alan

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2017, 10:54:14 AM »
Quote
I didn't want others to be in the same boat as myself, so I made videos to explain it.

Your effort was well received here. It was your videos and later Ring's own videos that sealed the deal for me. Thanks KPack.
Alan

LK&O Railroad website

When I was a kid... no wait, I still do that. HO, 28x32, double deck, 1969, RailPro

darryl.trains

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2017, 11:36:02 AM »
 As for myself, I am very happy to have discovered RP as I was not happy using what few brain cells I have left and spending far too much time trying to play with the trains using DCC. Really can't remember how I found out about RP but it definitely was not an ad. I probably stumbled across some post on one of the various websites that I haunt?  I never had any complaints for it is what it is. Could it be better?  Sure, most likely but in time..

Hot in Yuma  8) but cool inside.   Darryl the old fardt  :)
« Last Edit: June 18, 2017, 11:03:00 PM by darryl.trains »

TwinStar

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2017, 11:39:04 AM »
Quote
I didn't want others to be in the same boat as myself, so I made videos to explain it.

Your effort was well received here. It was your videos and later Ring's own videos that sealed the deal for me. Thanks KPack.

Same here. I was considering the radio DCC thing, the now defunct Layout IOE, and then came across Kevin's videos. I definitely owe you a beer in Evanston Kevin.
Jacob Damron
Modeling late 1950's Dallas Union Terminal in Free-mo+ modules

Texas Railway Modeling and Historical Society trmhs.org
trmhs.org

KPack

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2017, 11:45:20 AM »
Thanks Jacob, but I don't drink  :).

Perhaps we can take some footage while running on Lee's layout for new videos?  My struggle with making new videos right now is two-fold....first I don't have my own layout at the moment so I'm relying on others, and second I need to get higher-quality video equipment.  I'd like the videos to be much more professional.

I don't know about you guys, but for myself I will usually hit Youtube for reviews before I purchase something.  Written reviews are good and all, but I'm a visual person and prefer to see it with my eyes before I make a final judgement.  I imagine many model railroaders are that way as well.

A lot has changed since that first "Railpro Review" video I made.  It's definitely time for an updated one.  I kind of want to wait until Ring releases the new prime mover sounds before I do it though.

-Kevin

nodcc4me

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2017, 11:52:59 AM »
Add me to the "Owe Kevin" list. Over five years ago I was looking to get back into the hobby. DCC seemed (and still is) too complicated. I believe I saw an ad for RP on MRH. Then Googled RP and found Kevin's video. That pretty much clinched it for me. Regrets? None! Thanks Kevin!  :)
Al

Run your train, not your brain. Get RailPro. It's a no-brainer.

Morebassman

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2017, 12:17:10 PM »
I too owe Kpack a lot of thanks. I also don't remember how I stumbled on RP. Lot's of research I guess. programing in DCC was too much for me.

carrson

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2017, 12:19:14 PM »
I waited a long time and ran old DC junk before I decided to convert to DCC. I didn't want to but it was the to only way to advance. Then I saw the Railpro ad in Model Railroad Hobbyist on line magazine, watched the video from the magazine and thought that was the way to go.  Watching the limited number of youtube videos that you guys made convinced me. I thank you for the time and effort.  I am in the Niagara area, asking any dealer or hobby store if they have the product and you get a blank stare ! and a question what the heck is Railpro? They get irritated because they want to sell you a DCC system and of course DCC decoders. I looked on EBAY but found the best way for me was to order from Bill.  I was also surprised and just a little bit concerned to learn that Railpro  has been in existence for quite a while and still there appears (via this forum) to be a limited Railpro community. I have only had Railpro for two months. I sincerely hope that Railpro can sustain itself and not fizzle out of the marketplace.
Larry

KPack

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2017, 03:21:29 PM »
So I think what we've established is that Ring Engineering's marketing isn't exactly the cat's meow.  A few basic ads in MRH (and possibly others) really doesn't cut it. 

I've learned through running a dental practice (and this applies to most businesses) is that the most effective type of marketing is internal marketing....happy customers spread the word and refer friends and colleagues.  The best part is that it doesn't cost a thing to the business and it's highly effective.  For example, in my practice we spend hardly anything on advertising apart from the standard yellow pages ad and a few charitable things.  Yet we still see an unbelievable amount of new patients.  Why?  It's all from internal marketing....people are happy with their experience and want others to have the same. 

So, applying that to Railpro I think the lesson is fairly obvious.  We've all seen that most modelers or model train shops have never heard of Railpro.  I'd rather the we be the ones to tell them, and not have Ring Engineering drop a bunch of money on more advertising when that money could perhaps be better spent on product development.  Each and every one of us here has great things to say about Railpro.  None of us would ever go back to DCC.  Therefore we are Railpro's internal marketing. 

What can we do to help spread the word?  Forums?  Videos?  Pictures of installs? 

-Kevin

TomO

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Re: Why is it so hard for us?
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2017, 08:31:11 PM »
I have to thank Alan and his blog for leading me to RailPro and  Kpack for his videos after that.  I know I replied to some of Darryl.trains questions in 9/16 on Railroad Line Forums when he was looking for a new system.

The forum that seems most positively responsive IMO is MRH but of course there are naysayers. I think if Ring would do demos (like Matt does for Loksound) that would help. Maybe get on Ken Patterson's "Whats Neat" program on MRH. Videos are great (I have no clue how to put one together or how difficult to do) but they can be posted anywhere).

I run 3 systems. CVP miniair on battery (5 engines, 2 throttles), Blue Rail on battery (2 engines) and 4 engines on RailPro. I am most interested in sound but RailPro is by far the easiest system to pick up and run. My B-I-L loves running with RailPro and dislikes anything else.

TomO