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How to handle a mess-up (kudos to Steven Slate...)

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  • How to handle a mess-up (kudos to Steven Slate...)

    I just got this email today, and it really impressed me. Explanations, but not excuses. Address the problem, don't pass the blame. Promises of weekly updates on the status of the situation until it's resolved... anyway, for those of you who aren't Slate Digital customers, this (along with the quality of their products of course) is one of the reasons why I think they're a very cool company - they take responsibility, and they honestly try to fix the problem. It's not going to be solved overnight, but instead of feeling like they don't give a rip about their customers, this kind of thing reassures me that they do.

    Anyway, I thought this was a good example of customer service and support, even though they dropped the ball - and we all do so from time to time. The great companies use those screw ups as opportunities to improve and excel.

    Feel free to use this thread to talk about Slate and the update situation, or customer service and support in general (studio as well as MI industry), or just consider it a FYI on the situation. Whatever works for you.



    ************************************************** ****************
    Dear FG-X and VCC Slate Customer,
    This is one of the hardest emails I've ever had to write. The reason for this, is because I really love what I do. But one of the main reasons I love what I do is because I get to make products that make people happy. But clearly, there are a lot of you out there who are quite unhappy, due to the missed deadlines of our VCC and FG-X updates.

    First, and this goes without saying, I feel terrible about this. I never intended for this to happen, and I read all the negative comments, and it breaks my heart. Because I failed you guys.

    This company means the world to me, and I have always strived to make mindful decisions that would ensure that it remains healthy. But unfortunately, despite the fact that I am often seen around Hollywood Blvd wearing a cape, I have no super powers and am just a mere mortal who makes mortal mistakes. And clearly, I've made mistakes this past year. Let me tell you about them.

    As many of you know, we work a long time on our products. Two years ago when AAX was announced, we were just beginning the development of some pretty intense new products, which are all as of this email, unreleased. Two of them you know about, the Virtual Mix Rack, and the Virtual Microphone System. Both of these were new and exciting products that required a lot of effort from the entire team, and so we began to start the R&D. And then, we get hit with AAX.

    We were not prepared, nor did we have a big enough team to simultaneously develop big new products while updating old products. My first mistake was realizing that fact too late. What should have happened is a pause in all production to hire more developers to help with our new 64bit AAX framework, pause all new development, and then proceed with full force on all of our legacy updates. Instead, I became fearful. This fear was derived from the fact that we are one of the newer games in town as compared to our competition, and I felt like new product development was crucial enough that we had to keep some part of the team on it while another part worked on the framework and updates. This compromised the productivity of both teams since neither side had enough manpower.

    When the framework was complete, we had to decide where to start. So let's just get this out of the way and say it was an obvious choice with VBC and VTM. VBC was written INTO the new framework. Converting it to AAX would be the easiest and more straight forward. Than came the VTM. This was in our old framework and had an insanely complex algorithm, but several of our very talented team members were able to get the port done in the Winter. And now we are left with the VCC and FG-X. Oh boy. Here it goes.

    I think it's fair to say that the algorithms, meaning the audio processes, of the VCC and FG-X are some of the best out there for what they aim to do. Well, at least I hope you think that since you bought at least one of them. These were the very first two plugins that Fabrice and I worked on and we're proud of them. But as great as these algorithms sound, the way the code was written back then had a bit to be desired. Ok, they had a lot to be desired. Alright fine, they're a mess.

    There was no way we could use the same code for these plugins in our new framework, because we owe it to you, the customer, to improve them. With a cleaner code, they would be bug free, and use dramatically less CPU. Furthermore, there are aspects of our new framework that the VCC and FG-X code is not 1:1 compatible with so it would have taken just as long to convert the old code into the new framework. So the choice was obvious. We started last year to rewrite FG-X and VCC with fresh code, new features, and new algorithms. But again, going back to my first points, the team was overloaded. There were members bouncing back and forth to all the projects… one week it was VMR, then VTM AAX update, then VBC bug fixing.. it was insane. And to top it all off, we parted ways with two of our team members in the Spring, making a bad situation even worse.

    I do NOT expect sympathy from you. I do NOT consider any of this an excuse. I will stand here in front of you and say we messed up. But rather than drown in our sorrows, I'm going to tell you what we are doing to make things better.

    First and foremost, with the exception of the few members finalizing VMR, the entire rest of the team is focused on FG-X and VCC. We will do NO OTHER DEVELOPMENT ON ANY PRODUCT until these two AAX updates are done. Second, we are hiring hiring hiring. We are going to put ourself in a position to be able to execute faster, more efficiently, and we'll be able to meet deadlines and schedules.

    So some of you are saying "Enough of the drama, when the hell are we getting our plugins?". And just in case you didn't hate me enough already… I can't give a date YET. Because unlike last time, I will not give you a date until I'm ready to put my life on the line because I'm so sure we'll make it. But what I am going to do is make you a promise: You will have an inside look at the productivity of these two projects with weekly emails of information. And I also promise that as soon as I have the confidence to give you a release date that I know is a reality, I will state it in one of these weekly updates.

    Last, I'll say that we are working on a possible temporary solution that could get you guys up and running in Pro Tools 11 while we finalize VCC 2.0 and FG-X 2.0. And to end on a positive note, these 2.0 updates will be amazing. Please keep that in mind. With the VCC, it's goiong to be simpler, have new options, and include a new console emulation that I predict will be your new favorite and most used console emulation yet. The FG-X will have a new metering algorithm but that will likely get overshadowed by the new FG-LEVEL algo. This new algo has been over three years in the making and utilizes a brand new loudness process that is so ridiculously transparent that you'll think it's defying the laws of physics.

    Ok, so that's all I have for you today, but you'll be hearing from me again soon. I know this is not the email you really want, but I hope you'd agree it's better than silence. You can email me at slate (at) stevenslate.com. It might take me a bit to get back to you because it's so busy here, but I promise I will. Have a great weekend,

    Steven Slate
    **********

    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

  • #2
    i have FG-X... VBC and VTM... as well as SSD4 with the CLA pack... all good stuff

    I can't use FG-X with logic X as it's not 64 bit, but i kept an old copy of wave burner i got with logic 8, so i just use it with that.. no big deal... but i can understand why the wait for VCC has been frustrating for some

    It's good to see they've ponied up and admitted their priorities were out of line, simply because they made promises.

    Comment


    • #3
      His stuff is incredible and the customer service is second to none. I use his drum replacement software extensively and it just gets even better with every release. A tremendous product for home studios where having a large, designed, acoustic space for recording professional drum sounds is difficult or impossible.

      Terry D.
      Telling Stories releases 2nd CD, see our WEBSITE! Please check out my GROUPIE STORY and Tales from the Road.

      Comment


      • #4
        And true to his word, he sent out another email update today. Passing it along FYI for anyone interested who isn't on the mailing list...

        __________________________________________________ ___________________
        Dear FG-X and VCC Slate Customer,
        I first want to thank you for the overwhelming support that you've given me after last week's email. I can't tell you how great it felt to see so many of you writing back to show us how understanding you are of the situation. This reaction has given the entire team even more motivation to turn things around and give you guys what you deserve.
        I received several thousand emails to slate (at) stevenslate.com, and I've gone through about half of them. Please know that if you wrote me, I will be writing you back, and I apologize for the delay.

        Now, on to the good stuff. As promised, Slate Digital is taking some serious action. The first thing is with hires. This one strategy is probably the most important, because it will not only help speed up the progress of the current updates, but it will also ensure that no matter what gets put on our plates in the future, we'll be ready for it. We met with very promising candidates and soon I'm confident we'll have some great new additions to our development offices in France.

        Next, is structure and timeline. Having dropped ALL NEW DEVELOPMENT from the calendar has allowed us to fill in more blocks that are solely dedicated to VCC and FG-X updates. We're still in the process of getting this together, but it'll be done soon and allow us a nice 'new and improved' roadmap to follow so we can get these updates out as soon as possible. It will also allow us to define a release date that we can be confident about.

        Finally, no news on any temporary solutions, unfortunately. We did try to evaluate several options, but none of them seemed to be a trustworthy solution that would be without issues. We will continue this investigation as we work on the actual updates.

        That's it for now. Thanks again for the support, and have a wonderful and creative week.

        Steven Slate
        Last edited by Phil O'Keefe; 09-08-2014, 03:47 PM.
        **********

        "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

        - George Carlin

        "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

        - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

        "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

        - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

        Comment


        • #5
          I just received the latest email update... here it is FYI:

          __________________________________________________ ______________
          Dear FG-X and VCC Slate Customer,
          I've got some good news to share with you all. Fabrice is here in Los Angeles and we have locked ourselves in the lab to finalize the new FG-LEVEL algorithm for the FG-X2. This algorithm is in its final stages (we've been working on it for years, slowly improving the algorithm with new ideas), and I think you'll be really happy with the outcome. The FG-LEVEL module is the biggest obstacle in the update, so finalizing it will be a major step forward.
          In other good news, we've fixed some big bugs in the framework that the VCC 2.0 module will be working with, and now you'll see a massive CPU reduction with VCC2.0, and it'll also be more convenient and simple to use. I've got all the old sessions that we recorded through the initial consoles (we recorded at various gain stages) and we're redoing the oversampling so that it is automatically matching the precise tone of the modeled desks. Therefore, you won't have to constantly mess with oversampling settings.. it'll be done for you.
          So, we are making progress. Having Fabrice and I on the same side of the pond makes both of us more productive as well.
          I'm way behind in the emails... very sorry about this. But I'll try to catch up soon. Thanks for your continued support and patience.
          Steven Slate
          **********

          "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

          - George Carlin

          "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

          - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

          "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

          - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

          Comment


          • #6
            And the latest update - it sounds like they're making real progress...

            __________________________________________________ _____________
            Dear FG-X and VCC Slate Customer,
            I'm back in town after a week of business traveling and I return to some good news from Fabrice who has been testing the new FG-X algo.
            Basically, he discovered a part of the level algo that was unnecessarily causing some huge CPU increases, and he was able to optimize it so the CPU spike is gone. Our goal with the new FG-X algo is not only to make it sound even better, but also to make it far less CPU intensive. I think we'll achieve this goal.
            We could use your help too.. If you have a problematic mix that didn't agree with the FG-X, for instance some mixes will yield some minor crackles at some parts when trying to push it too loud, please send me a link to the wav file at slate@stevenslate.com and also tell me what the sample rate is. So my email client doesn't get overloaded, please don't attach the file to the email, but instead host it on a free file hosting site and include the link.
            The purpose of this is simple.. we want to ensure that the new FG-X algo is by far the best, most useful, and most transparent processor that anyone has ever heard, and confirming that it works on files that were problematic for the previous algo will help this cause.
            Some other good news in VCC land: The framework for the new VCC has been tested and is working well without bugs, and I'm awaiting a prototype of the new console so that I can give it a thorough testing.
            Last, we made a great hire as promised, and I'm confident this is the first of many that will help us execute more efficiently. So I've caught up on a lot of emails but there are still a few thousand to go, and I do plan on going through all of them, so thanks for your patience and expect a reply soon.
            Steven Slate
            **********

            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

            - George Carlin

            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

            Comment



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