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Buckman on SLUG: What do users REALLY want?

    Date: Wed, 17 Jan 90 18:52 EST
    From: David A. Moon <Moon@STONY-BROOK.SCRC.Symbolics.COM>
	Date: Fri, 12 Jan 90 23:58 PST
	From: Robert S. Kirk <rsk@SAMSON.cadr.dialnet.symbolics.com>
	I have a hard time understanding why everyone who works at Symbolics and
	who has e-mail access does not receive SLUG mail.  Do they have a choice
	and elect not too?  Don't they know about it?  Or are they restricted
	from seeing it?

    No one is forbidden from seeing whatever they want.  It takes a lot of time
    to read the SLUG mail carefully and not everyone wants to spend their time 
    on that.  Particularly choice messages usually get distributed more widely.
    People vary: some people here spend several hours a day reading mail and
    use electronic mail as their main organizing device for their work.  Other
    people don't want to spend much time dealing with mail.  For myself, I
    read it most of the time, but let it go when I'm really busy and can't
    keep up.

I understand and do the same as you, in fact lately the amount of SLUG
mail is getting out of hand.  I never suspected that they Symbolics
employees were forbidden from seeing mail, rather I was wondering to
what extent Symbolics encouraged people to read it.

	Some time ago I was quite puzzled when our local service people were (or
	claimed) ignorance of the IFU hardware problems and we had to print out
	all the SLUG mail on the subject for them so they could see that other
	customers were having the same problem.

    I don't know whether service people in the field see much electronic
    mail.  It may be the case that the customers keep them jumping enough
    that they don't have time to read mail.  (Here's a bad idea: we would
    have SLUG mail distributed on audio cassette so customer service
    engineers could listen to it in their cars while driving to customer
    sites.  It could be complete with sound effects (shouting, pounding
    shoes on desks, whining.)  

Ha! I love it!

    I don't know enough about the hardware
    service organization to know just how information on systematic hardware
    problems is distributed and what are the chances of such information not
    always getting to the people it needs to get to.  In a geographically
    distributed organization like that communication is usually a problem,

I think that its more of a case of 1) knowing about it and 2) being
encouraged to obtain access.  With dialnet (or at least a PC and a
modem) most field people should have very little trouble accessing

    The IFU is a particular sore point as that project was never competently
    planned or managed.  At least one engineer did some really good work on
    it, but the net result was still not really satisfactory.  Individual
    IFU systems do work reliably, but the percentage of unreliable machines
    is too high and the performance advantage is not enough to justify the
    complexity of the IFU.  Symbolics would have been much better off if
    there had never been an IFU.  There's little that we can do about that
    now, other than to do our best to service the IFU machines remaining in
    the field.  The good news is that there is an equivalent to the IFU
    inside the Ivory chip and it works 100% completely reliably.  At least
    we got it right the second time around.

Oh, I understand, every one has an Edsel now and then... the issue
really is that the user community was very in tune with the problem due
to SLUG mail, and the Symbolics service people were (in this case) not.
If I was responsible, I would not feel good about that kind of

	It would seem that SLUG mail provides some very powerful feedback that
	all developers in Symbolics should be aware of, even if they elect to
	gloss over it.

    The pieces of SLUG mail that aren't just complaints about things that
    developers have no control over do, in fact, have an effect on most
    developers, I believe.  

Well good.

    There are other sources of feedback from
    customers too, of course.

I know, $$$ being one of the biggest.

	Gee wiz, are you saying Symbolics is a CASE company?!  I can never seem
	to get your sales and marketing people to admit it -- but I'm at a loss
	to provide any other (honest) description of what LispMs all about.  And
	while Symbolics sits around trying to figure out what market its in, the
	rest of the world is busy duplicating Symbolics' functionality and
	calling it CASE!  Its not a nice feeling to watch this happening.

    Well, Symbolics is certainly in the business of Computer Aided Software
    Engineering, taken literally.  Using the term CASE for what Symbolics does
    is a bit dangerous since that term has been co-opted for various other
    things, including things as simple as programs for drawing flow-charts.

Co-opted being a nice term for watered down or inflatted.  I agree with
your statement, but never the less, Symbolics is and has been A COMPANY

Our top brass is always squirmish about Symbolics because they have no
idea what market you guys are in.  If you are not selling into a market,
then they have no way of knowing if the market is growing or shrinking,
profitable or otherwise.  They aren't even sure who your competitors
are.  And have your ever heard of a successful company that has no

Because of this single point, its very hard to sell Symbolics to our

Instead of dodging this market (CASE) and that market (AI), why don't
you guys firmly commit to being in one or more markets.  Then people
will know where you stand, and I think you can rightfully say that you
are the high-end or premier supplier in that market.

    I'm not sure it's bad for either the world in general or Symbolics in
    particular that elements of the rest of the world have decided that our
    ideas are good and are trying to copy them, in many cases adapting them
    to other environments or languages.  

Exactly, but its their gain and your loss, *because* you are not
capitalizing on your successes.

    It does mean increased competition
    and inability for Symbolics to succeed without making an effort, but I'm
    not sure that's so bad either.

Well, you can't ever rest on your laurels.