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Symbolics customers have an interest in getting high-quality software,
meaning at least these three things:

  1. useful for customer software projects
  2. conceptually clean (= not kludgy, but widely applicable,
          easy to understand, ...)
  3. working correctly

I admire the work that Symbolics has done especially w.r.t. number 2.
However it seems to me that number three has not always received
enough attention, and for some products it has taken several years
to become stable (``production quality'').  I absolutely understand
that developing researchy software such as the presentation system and
joshua takes a great effort and that we have to live with
buggy software for a while, one way or another.

It has been a goal of SLUG to push for mechanisms that efficiently deal with
this problem, for mechanisms that reduce cost and trouble for both
Symbolics and their customers.  There are two questions:

  1. What should these mechanisms be?
  2. How should they be payed for.

I propose the following mechanisms:

 1. There should be a way for customers to send in bug reports.  Many
    customers have been willing to help Symbolics firm up its software
    by reporting bugs.

    This facility should be free for customers.  Symbolics should
    encourage this activity - e.g., by putting a prize on the best bug
    report/fix sent in each year.

    (The important message from software support made it appear as if
    a cooperative client who is not on software support would have to pay
    $270 to be allowed to send in a bug report????)

 2. Customers need to learn about bugs that have been reported
    already.  Nobody want's to waste the time to rediscover a bug
    and rereport it.  Customers need to know the status of the
    bug and whether there are fixes or workarounds and when a fix is

    Symbolics could make available a bug database that can be
    inspected by customers.  The simplest solution would be just a
    textual log, maybe one log for every major system.

 3. Patches should be sent out in a timely manner.

    E.g., a bug fix server could be installed on every machine.  Bug
    fixes would be sent out by Symbolics via Internet or Dialnet.

The question of how the latter two mechanisms should be payed for is
an interesting one.  In an earlier message I argued in effect that
they should be payed for by Symbolics (i.e., should be included in the
price).  However, Chris Lindblad pointed out that some may be willing
to live with a software product ``as is'' and pay a lower price for it.
A problem with this latter approach is that there is no direct
incentive for Symbolics to make bug-free software.  They will put more
resources into developing many buggy products than into fewer mature
ones.  I would vote for a policy that keeps this issue in mind.

Any comments, suggestions?

... andreas ..:-).