At 05:28 PM 11/12/2002, Fabian Hartery wrote:
Flaming Altium in this list appears to be useless. Altium never
forced any of its user's to pay for undesired upgrades right away. It did
apparantly appear so for a while. Henceforth, they cancelled ATS and in my
eyes this was an apparent apology.
When I bought my first Protel license (it was Protel 98), it seemed like Protel staff were behind barricades, and the mood on this list, as well as on usenet electronics newsgroups, was fairly hostile to the company. It seemed a shame to me, since the product, while it had its shortcomings, was still the best in its price range, and it was better than a number of systems that cost much more. I paid for that license, and the 99 upgrade, out of my own pocket, I was borrowing the money to refill that pocket, and PCB design was my bread and butter, so I had to be careful.

It became a bit of a crusade of mine to change the company/user mindset to one which was more cooperative in tone, which I thought would certainly be useful for all parties. Some of us seem to think that we get better performance from others by berating them, belittling their work, accusing them of stupidity or bad faith, etc. I don't think that works very well.

In any case, the mood did, in fact, shift, and one result was the astonishing responsiveness of Protel to user input, as shown by the 99SE release.

DXP does incorporate many user wishes as well as improvements from Altium internally; it also includes some ideas which may or may not turn out to be brilliant leaps forward. When 99 was released, many of us hated the .ddb system, which was at first mandatory. In response to our expressions of discomfort, Protel made it optional, which was certainly a good move, even though many of us, again, came to appreciate the .ddb system and found ourselves avoiding the Windows file system. Altium has now, once again, attempted to anticipate what we need rather than what we want; while Altium communication with users is at a higher level than ever before, that communication was not happening (at least not openly) when DXP was being planned. The traditions of secrecy continue in this business, it certainly isn't only Altium! -- but I'm not sure who benefits from the secrecy, and I'm quite sure that it is not in the users' interest.

I take it as a general principle that what benefits the users is what benefits a company which serves them, *and vice versa*. For example, it benefits users for Altium to charge a price sufficient to provide operating funds and reward for capital investment, even though it might seem to be desireable to users for the price to be low; in fact, too low would be very much a problem, because we'd invest all this time learning to use a tool that would soon be dead in the water....

In any case, I'm encouraging Altium to be more open with the users about future directions; if being publically open is considered too hazardous, then close consultation with a user advisory board under non-disclosure would be second-best.

It does do good for us to voice our concerns here; Altium staff read this list, even when personal response is rare (it used to be practically non-existent). But when we word those concerns as insults, Altium employees are simply human, and we humans tend to discount the opinions of those who flame us, even though, theoretically, there might be valuable information in them.

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