Some advice for Flex Management

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  • Updated 6 months ago
  • (Edited)
1. Correct all known defects before releasing new functionality

2. Ensure that every release is upward-compatible with its predecessor

3. Maintain one release stream by charging for access to new functionality, not for access to new releases

4. Enforce the standards you say govern posting here

There is nothing wrong with releasing new functionality that only a portion of your user community considers interesting. However, if you do that without first repairing the known defects that plague many users, the result will be resentment, frustration, and anger - as we've seen. SmartSDR v3 should not have been released before first correcting all known defects in SmartSDR v2.

SmartSDR v3 is not upward-compatible with v2. If recruiting and retaining complementary 3rd party applications is an objective, never make another non-upward-compatible release.

Maintaining multiple release streams in parallel - like SmartSDR v2 and v3 - does not scale. SmartSDR v3 should have been a free upgrade bearing defect repairs and new functionality (e.g. multiFlex), with access to the new functionality mediated by the presence of a license key for which users must pay. Had you done this, most users would have quickly upgraded to v3 for the defect repairs, whether or not they found multiFlex to be of interest. That would have enabled you to retire SmartSDR v2, to the benefit of both your engineering and support teams. It would also eliminate the need for 3rd party developers to continuously flip their transceivers between v2 and v3. Icing on the cake: providing users with a free 1-week multiFlex license key would likely produce far more multiFlex revenue than you’ll get with the current all-or-nothing scheme.

This community’s descent into “cheerleaders vs naysayers” toxicity will drive away prospective customers and damage your brand. I cannot overemphasize the urgency of addressing this.
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Dave AA6YQ

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Posted 6 months ago

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Gerald - K5SDR, Employee

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Official Response
Dear Flexers,

Thank you all for your management advice.  It saddens me that we are not able to meet everyone's expectations or desires including our own. Fortunately, I learned long ago that it is not possible. We have an incredibly smart and hard working team that puts their heart and soul into their work.  We do your best every day to provide value to customers while at the same time providing a good place to work. I am incredibly proud of the work our team has done over the years including SmartSDR v3 to continue to add value for our customers. Each value add by nature will be of interest to some and not at all to others. 

I truly wish that Ham Radio were a larger market that could support a much larger organization to do all the things we and you want us to do. Unfortunately, if we controlled 100% of the entire worldwide amateur radio market for HF equipment, we would still be a very small business in today's world. Just over 20 years ago I ran a business that was larger than the entire ham market so I know first hand. It was still a "small" business. The only reason to be in the ham radio business is because we love what we do. The appreciation we receive in person and by email from so many customers who find enjoyment in the work of our hands is the thing that keeps us motivated to get up and come to work.

Every single software release we have made over our 16 year history has come with some level of public criticism. This includes the first 14 years of our history where all updates were free. I can tell you that software development is not free by any stretch of the imagination.

Radios shipped in 2013 have significantly more capabilities today than they when they shipped because of our continuous improvement process. This is a different model from what existed before where your radio pretty much stayed the same as was when it came out of the box. That means a FLEX-6000 radio gets new features that make it a better radio than when it was first manufactured. Yes, because we are human new bugs come along with that. There is no such thing as bug free software. I wish it were not so but we have to triage and make hard choices on where to spend our finite resources. Not everyone will be satisfied with our choices but we have to make them.

If I may indulge myself, on Saturday I discovered a cool capability that was not possible before multiFlex and SmartLink. It is actually something we imagined when we first started work on on the FLEX-6000 Series and SmartSDR in 2012 but just became possible. That is the ability to be in two places at once. On the wide scree PC monitor below I have W4AX in Atlanta and on the right my home station K5SDR.  I found that I could easily hear stations at one location and not the other and vice versa.  You can see the higher atmospheric noise on my station due to an incoming weather front. Think about the value to a net control station or for chasing DX. I bet you can think of other applications as well. I was able either ping pong or mix the audio between the two locations and could transmit on either as desired.  All I did was to bring up to instances of SmartSDR and logged into the two respective stations - boom - one station in each ear - 800 miles apart. 

The bottom line... Within the resources you provide us as our valued customers, we will take all constructive criticism to heart and do our best to improve. It will not be perfect and we will have to make compromises. And yes, we have to pay payroll and the rent. 

I want to thank all of you who purchase our products and provide constructive support to our team. Without you, we would not exist. We hope to continue to bring innovative and ever improving products for years to come.