Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Maplesoft Thank You

Ok. So it's been an interesting day. And by interesting I don't really mean "fascinating", but more "interesting" like how it can be sorta interesting when you get a blister someplace that you don't usually get one. So there are a number of things I'd like to rant about. I'll choose to rant about the thing that is least likely to get me in trouble.

I'm still going through some of the snail mail that accumulated while I was away for seven weeks. The last piles I'm going through are those items that I immediately identified as being junk mail and/or not requiring any action on my part. One of the things I went through today was an 8.5 x 11 envelope from Maplesoft., a software company that makes the program Maple. Maple is a computer algebra system that I use for many of my math classes. It's a pretty good program. Overall, I'm quite pleased with it. I wish there was an open source alternative to Maple, but there isn't, at least not one that's sufficiently user-friendly for my introductory students.

Anyway, I believe we recently upgraded our site license. I think this cost us around $2000. Our site license is small because we don't have many students. I'm sure Maple costs a lot more at bigger schools. Anyway, this letter was a thank you note. Included in the envelope was a free poster detailing the history of the western units. It has information about inches and centimeters and furlongs and such. The poster is ok, but not particularly snazzy. Hardly a collector's item.

So we spend $2000, which means Maple gets $2000. And they thank us with a poster about the metric system and other units? Why bother? A small thank you note would be more than sufficient. But if you're going to give a gift, give a real gift. It doesn't have to be anything expensive. Perhaps a keychain or a T-shirt or a little flash drive or some free socks or something. Maybe it's just me, but a poster about units of measurement just doesn't seem right. And ironically enough, the date on the letter coincides with my birthday.

The letter states, in part, "In appreciation of your support, I have included the latest addition to the Maple Poster Series: "A Short History of Western Units" poster which examines many common units of measure used today, and traces a timeline on the modernization of the study of units." Ummm, ok, I guess. It's kinda interesting to know that there's an entire series of posters. I wonder what the other posters in the series are. "A Short History of Mechanical Pencils?" (Actually, that would be kinda cool.)

But then the letter continues, "If you'd like to obtain more posters, I'd be more than happy to send extras to you at no charge." On the one hand, this is nice. But on the other hand, it does nothing to convince me of the preciousness or specialness of the poster. Here, have a very special poster. They're so very special that we'll give you unlimited additional copies for free. Somehow this doesn't leave me feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

In fairness to Maplesoft, (and in case anyone from Maplesoft reads this blog) I should mention that they've been great to work with. Their salespeople are helpful, knowledgeable, and extremely pleasant. And I think their product is a good deal and has worked very well for us. So despite this rant, I don't harbor any ill feelings toward Maplesoft. But I do think they might want to rethink their "spend $2000 and get a poster that is so special we can't give them away fast enough" policy.

That's enough of a rant for this evening. Writing this while listening to a dumb Alice DeeJay CD at wall-shaking volume seems to have lightened my mood. Sound intensity is measured in decibels. And if I want to learn about the history of decibels, now I have a poster that will tell me all about it. Yay.

No comments: