But is it? There seems plenty of reason to doubt whether the approach is either new or open source. My original concept when proposing CRE Loaded commercialization was to charge a standard fee per copy distributed with a 30 to 90 day support window, following which support could be obtained on a contract basis. Revenues would be further augmented by internally developed documentation and education offerings made available both directly to the public on Chain Reaction’s own site, and via a distribution network of existing community vendors. The value of the software would be increased by ongoing addition of new features designed and built in house, and refactoring of the core code to bring it into alignment with the current PHP and MySQL feature sets and changes in the security environment.

What has emerged appears to be little more than SaaS without the second S. Here is why.

The “manual” posted on the latest incarnation of their website is a thinly disguised knock off of Kerry Watson’s 6.2 Users Manual. They may argue that there are few other ways to state the programs use, and that just may be. But why can’t the ‘designers’ of the software do any better? They should for example, have access to and include information on input formats and boundaries, and systemic capabilities and limitations which are not readily available to the non-programmer. Such information is not, as of the date of this writing, available in their “users guide”. Their “educational program” consists of a page buried 3-5 levels deep in their site which asks the users to inform Chain Reaction of their educational needs so that content can be developed. So much for educational and documentation support.

Their new releases are “subscription” based. But there is some room for question as to just what users would be subscribing. What does Chain Reaction deliver in return for its charges?

Development? Please. The order API and forms systems were laid down before I left the company in July of 2007. An improved design for warehouse management was also in place and ready for development. Instead, Chain Reaction has chosen to proceed using the Multi Vendor shipping contribution from osCommerce rather than entrusting their own development team with producing a simpler more maintainable system. Refactoring? None to be found. Instead development has focused on piecemeal plodding changes which have made the software arguably more secure, but no more than PHP 5 tolerant and addressing persistent holes in systems left by ill thought out efforts to bypass a flawed attribute system rather than rebuilding it.

Support? It is to laugh. Their forums have an arguably better record of problem solving than their support department, which is hampered by their lack of commitment to fully documenting their systems development and educating their support staff. Manuals? Well, we’ve already covered that.

Leadership? Where has that been? You can’t lead people when you are either not interested in talking with them or actively attacking their livelihood.

Hosting? Most telling here is the reported closure of Chain Reactions hosting sites to new customers. If Chain Reaction can’t successfully drive a hosting operation forward based on their own software, who can?

Where then, the service?

Chain Reaction no longer has nothing to offer that their potential client base wants. There is no model here.

The issues here are legion. For a good outline of what has been going on with Chain Reaction check out Laura Wheelers posts on her blog at http://frumpyhausfrau.com in these posts:

CRE Loaded’s Bad Business Example

CRE Loaded Just Flushed Itself
More About CRE Loaded

Some good stuff here, and Laura really hits the nail on the head.

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