Sunday, February 07, 2010

Why Elecraft should terminate its reflector

I have been a subscriber to the Elecraft email reflector almost continuously since 1999 when I ordered my K2, and for most of that time have found it useful. But over the last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that the best thing the company could to do would be to close it.

The reflector has been a good forum for communication between Elecraft and its customers. But postings about the K3 have swamped postings about other Elecraft products, making it a frustrating forum for kit constructors. Now that the K3 has reached maturity there are very few useful suggestions for improvements to be made about it. Instead, most postings now seem to be nit-picking complaints, which often result in ill-tempered responses from others who feel there is nothing to complain about, which generate further ill-tempered replies suggesting that some people don't use their radios and don't even understand the problem.

The overall impression conveyed to any would-be K3 purchaser who subscribes to the reflector is that the K3 is a very flawed radio with some serious problems. That isn't how I see it. The K3 isn't a perfect radio but I don't think there is anything better around at the moment.

The obvious thing to do would be to unsubscribe. Except for the fact that the reflector is the only way to keep up to date with news from Elecraft. If you want to know about new firmware releases and what's in them, or know when new products like the P3 panadapter are ready to be released, the only way to get that information is to subscribe to the reflector. I have repeatedly suggested that Elecraft should create an "elecraft-announce" mailing list that contains only news from the company, and they have equally repeatedly ignored my suggestion.

Because the Elecraft reflector is an email list, every subscriber receives a copy of every posting, including every complaint, whinge, gripe and fanboy denial of the criticisms. This tempts everyone to have their say in topics regardless of whether their contribution is useful. Even if you resist the temptation to comment, reading of these "issues" sows seeds of doubt that perhaps there really is something wrong with the radio after all.

I think the reflector is turning into a public relations disaster for Elecraft that also serves to unnecessarily alarm its current and would-be customers. I think the best thing to do would be to put it out of its misery. But I doubt they will take my advice on this either. :)

8 comments:

goody said...

Years ago I built my K1. It just works. No reflector, no software updates, no late-breaking news, no shipping issues, no disabled functionality, no must-have mods, no more accessories, no vaporware features, no drama, no advocacy, and no religion. It just works.

While it's noble that you want to improve things, you're not going to change the Elecraft culture. It is what it is....

Ed N4EMG said...

Julian,
Have you ever taken a look at Nabble.com and looked at the postings for the Elecraft reflector? I believe that it mirrors the Elecraft mailing list, but you don't have to subscribe to anything in order to read postings. That way you could stay up to date, just on your own terms. Just a thought.

73 Ed

S.o.a.I said...

I jumped ship on their reflector a few months back. It just to got to be a pissing match between pro K3 and anti-K3 guys.

I signed up way back when cuz I bought a KX1 and at that time had a ton of great info.

Now it's degraded so much it's hardly worth the time it takes to click to delete it.

Jay aka KD8EUR

Paul said...

Nabble is indeed the best method for reading and searching the reflector, and it separates the traffic regarding each of their products fairly well so you can just view, say, KX1 related posts and not have to weed through the K3 posts.

The nit-pickers, gripers, and fanboys become unbearable at times. Such is life in the internet age. On the other hand, the fact that Wayne, Eric, Lyle, et al, are active on the reflector and respond to just about all meaningful issues is a powerful counter-balance which outweighs any possible negative impact of grievances (real or imagined) being aired so publicly. So I disagree that the reflector being a public relations disaster; on the contrary, I think it's PR value is something money can't buy. The reputation of customer support and easy access to the company's principles has been a major selling point for Elecraft, something that pretty color ads in QST can't match. Even though it's become a bit of a cliché of late to say, "Try talking to the president of YaeComWood," it really is true. If anyone gave the list archives a honest, thorough going-over, I don't see how they'd come away with anything other than a positive notion that Elecraft listens to it's customers.

The fact is, there will be an Elecraft reflector in one form or another with or without the company's involvement -- hams love to talk about their equipment, thus we have email reflectors, Yahoo groups, and web forums of all sorts for every radio and manufacturer, past or present, and they all come with the inevitable fanboys and malcontents. The Elecraft crew is wise to embrace the medium and display a strong public presence, as the alternative scenario -- the gripes and complaints going unanswered, the rumors and innuendos snowballing -- would be far more damaging to them. And for us as well, since so many of the improvements to the K3 over the past two years have been a direct result of real issues which first came to light on the reflector. You know this first-hand (see your post of 24-Nov-2009). ;-)

As for the complaints about K3 posts outweighing the K2/K1/KX1... no one is stopping anyone from posting on those topics. I don't see how increased K3 traffic is the cause of decreased traffic on the other models.

Cheers & 73!
de Paul WW2PT

g4ilo said...

I'm well aware of Nabble and use it myself, but most people don't, and even if you do it's hard to resist seeing what people are arguing over.

I would be the last to deny that raising issues on the reflector has led to improvements to the K3. On the other hand I think it is also led to Elecraft fixing issues that don't exist. Yesterday I had an email from my friend Dave G4AON who had just installed the new LPF board (and updated his DSP to Rev D spec.) In his words: "Does it make any difference? Well not really."

I think it has now reached the point where people are nitpicking. Issues are being raised quite aggressively with the suggestion that something "needs work" but no-one has stopped to think that hey, there are nearly 4,000 K3s out there already some of which have been used in contest and DXpedition environments so if these "problems" are so major how come no-one noticed them before?

If these issues are genuine then I would expect many more people to be complaining of them. Unfortunately the preponderance of these type of threads on the reflector could lead people to believe that the K3 is a fundamentally broken radio.

Sure, no-one is being stopped from posting K2/K1/KX1 topics, but I believe the email overload that most people suffer from subscribing in the traditional way simply deters non-K3 users from participating. I don't seriously expect that Elecraft will close the reflector. But I remember what it used to be like a few years ago when it was a friendly group of hams united by a common interest. Since the K3, that camaraderie has just been lost.

g4ilo said...

This hilarious post makes the point much better (and a lot more humorously) than I did.

goody said...

That should earn the 2010 Reflector Post of the Year award. It's perfect satire because there's an element of truth to it...a huge element...

Thanks for posting this!

73
Goody

Jorge Luis - ki4SGU said...

I agree with you, I seldom ever read it these days. I do not own a k3, and the k3 news is really boring. -- Maybe the k3 gang should get their own, and leave the legacy list for the rest of the elecraft products. - ki4sgu