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Buckman on SLUG: What do users REALLY want?

    Date: Fri, 5 Jan 90 11:41 PST
    From: Eric Buckman <BUCKMAN@ALAN.kahuna.decnet.lockheed.com>

    Are all these comments / suggestions on what Symbolics should or shouldn't do
    really worth anything, or are we as users just talking among ourselves.

    What I mean here, is that it seems we have a really good technical community
    that is participating on SLUG, that is, users as well as Symbolics employees.
    However, all of these business discussions really should concern
    Symbolics Marketing (that is if they have one) and whatever other folks they
    have making marketing decisions (like Wurtz).  My guess is that at best, those
    types take a once in a while look at what all us users are saying about what we think
    is important. I have never seen any responses from Symbolics Marketing or Sales
    on SLUG, to me, it seems like Symbolics has a pretty good non-communication
    flow going on between their technical folks and their business types.  Tell me
    I'm wrong, tell me that we're going to see great marketing moves and decisions
    from Symbolics on anything close to the same level that we see great technical
    accomplishments from them.  Tell me that their Marketing people read this list

I'd like to comment on this, as an individual who cares about the user
community, not as any kind of official statement from Symbolics.

A lot of times people make comments on SLUG and feel like they might be
ignored because (a) they don't see a reply from some official Symbolian
saying they saw the comment and agreed with it, or at least heard it,
and (b) Symbolics doesn't send out a press release the very next week
announcing a change in corporate strategy as a result of that particular
comment.  I think we have to be realistic and realize that talking on a
mailing list is one thing, while making decisions that really change
what thousands of users can and cannot do with their computers is a
different thing.  I'd hope that Symbolics' actions are based on more
thought and concern than typically goes into a mail message, at least
the messages that I send myself!  However, that still sounds like I'm
saying that the SLUG mailing list is just users talking to each other.
It's not.

I know for a fact that several people in the Symbolics marketing
department receive the SLUG mailing list and read most of the messages
carefully.  The same is true of most of the technical leaders in the
company.  I also believe that the entire marketing department sees SLUG
messages that are considered particularly illuminating, either in
electronic mail or in hardcopy or both.  Quite a few of the people who
receive these messages consider them a very valuable and useful window
into what people are thinking.  The people who are vocal on SLUG don't
represent the user community as a whole, but their perspective is very
useful because they have typically been Symbolics users a long time,
really understand the technology, and have good insight into what is
important.  SLUG isn't the only source of information about what
customers care about, but it's one of the important ones.

Symbolics people don't usually respond to SLUG messages about what
Symbolics ought to be doing (as distinct from SLUG messages that are
requests for technical information) the way that another SLUG member
might, namely to fire off a reply and then forget about it.  Usually
they don't reply at all, because anything they say might be interpreted
as an official commitment by the company and they'd have to spend a lot
of time thinking about exactly how to say it, time that could be better
spent doing something more directly useful to the company and its
customers, like figuring out how to solve the problem that the SLUG
message has pointed out.  Of course, replying to a message by delivering
a solution to the problem raised by the message takes a lot longer than
firing off a reply message; but I hope that in the end it's a lot more
useful.  I think if you reflect on past history you'll be able to think
of plenty of cases where an issue was raised on SLUG and later on
Symbolics acted in a way that really responded to that.

There's another side as well.  Sometimes messages on SLUG will suggest
that Symbolics ought to be doing some particular thing, but as it
happens the people who make the decisions in Symbolics will disagree.
Sometimes the SLUG message is obviously not well thought out (Symbolics
should give away all hardware for free and not be concerned about ever
making any money); more often it's an honest disagreement about what's
important.  Sometimes the people inside Symbolics have a broader view
and more sources of information than the SLUG member, and they can see
that the SLUG suggestion is not really right.  Occasionally the people
inside Symbolics are just plain wrong and make a bad decision.  It
happens.  In any case, when there is a disagreement we -could- get into
a big flaming discussion on the mail and fight it out.  Most people here
really don't like to do that on SLUG.  There's little to be gained from
it, and a lot to be lost if it ends up making people angry with each
other.  From your end it may seem like you're just being ignored, when
really it's that what you said was listened to and respected, but
disagreed with.  In your hearts I doubt that you want Symbolics
marketing spending half their efforts arguing with you, instead of
spending all their efforts making Symbolics and Lisp more successful in
the marketplace.  We shouldn't be fighting each other anyway, we should
be working together against the hordes that think that Unix is the
ultimate achievement in software and the end of history is at hand.

So keep telling us your opinions even if we don't always react
instantly.  It doesn't hurt to tell your opinions to your sales
representative too.  The sales channel's opinions on what customers
really care about and what really makes the difference in purchasing
decisions carries a lot of clout (the reason for that is pretty obvious,

    Tell me
    I'm wrong, tell me that we're going to see great marketing moves and decisions
    from Symbolics on anything close to the same level that we see great technical
    accomplishments from them.

Yes, you are going to see that.

    While I'm flaming........ what's the story on Symbolics coming out with great
    new technical products, but not following up on them.  

This is a personal view, not an official comment from Symbolics:  We have had
some significant problems with follow-through on some products, largely for the
obvious financial reasons.  Nonetheless Concordia, Statice, and Joshua are very
important for the company and are getting a lot of attention.  It might be that
you're not aware of what's happening until a new release arrives on your
doorstep, but it is happening and has been happening for a while.

Your guess that the long-term plan is for CLIM to replace Dynamic Windows is a
good insight.  It seems to me (and I think to a lot of other people) that, as a
reimplementation based on a better understanding of the problem, and as a
portable standard, CLIM is going to be a lot more useful to customers than DW,
and it would be a mistake for Symbolics to take anything away from investment in
CLIM even to fix the many known bugs in DW.  You won't see CLIM as an integral
part of Genera 8.0, because the timescale isn't right, but CLIM is definitely
one of the most important ingredients of the future.

    .....  Coming from a lab that develops software for those
    application groups, we have so far been very pleased with the power that
    Symbolics provides, both in terms of their development environment (where we can
    turnaround applications a lot faster, and with a much much lower head
    count, than other groups working on other platforms/languages.  Some of this
    success can be attributed to using Symbolics software as pre-written code.  i.e.
    Building up from Concordia to create a  hypertext based help system for an
    application, or using Statice as the substrate on which to build database

I'm glad to hear that.  Making people like you a lot more productive in what you
do was always the big idea behind Symbolics.  I admit that in the past not all
elements in Symbolics understood that; some people used to think the big idea
was to make minicomputers that would put DEC out of business.

I'm sorry this message was so long and verbose.