When you installed Surfer 13, you might have noticed the request to be part of our customer tracking program. What is this? This isn’t where we track your personal data or use any personal information from your computer. What this entails is Golden Software checking to see what commands you use in Surfer. That’s all. We want to see what you click and how many times you click it. 

Why is this important? This tells us which features are used the most, and which features are used the least. The more times a feature is used, the more weight it carries when the time comes for us to discuss which new improvements to include in the next upgrade. For example, if the results show that most people create contour maps and very few people use vector maps, we may favor new features and enhancements for contour maps over vector maps. 

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Customer tracking helps us determine the most popular commands and map types used in the program so we can focus our upgrades on features that matter to you the most.

I recently reviewed the customer tracking results for Surfer 13, from its release date in July 2015 until now. I was looking at all the commands and their numbers and thinking to myself that there must be a good way to graph this, so I can visualize the separation of the popular features from the not-as-popular ones.  It is much easier to draw trends from a graph than by simply looking at a table of raw data.  I realized I just recently read an excellent newsletter article about solving this exact problem using a Pareto plot! The Pareto plot was just what I was looking for. The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) can be applied to say 80% of requests can be solved by “fixing” (or enhancing) 20% of the features. 

So what features in Surfer are used 80% of the time?  By massaging the data, I created two Pareto plots in Grapher: one showing the most commonly used commands (not including delete, copy, paste, and zoom commands), and a second showing the most commonly created map types.   

The first graph of the command usage shows that the Grid | Grid Data command is miles ahead of any other command used in Surfer. Of course I could see that from the raw data, but the discrepancy really hits home when plotted and viewed on a graph.  The Grid Data command was clicked over 28,000 times, while the next most popular command (File | Export) was clicked on only 13,000 times.

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The most commonly used command by far is Grid Data, represented by the tall bar at the far left, with over 28,000 clicks!

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The most popular command is Grid Data, followed by File | Export. The first 31 commands in red above are the commands used 80% of the time.

I used the same graph type to determine what map types are created 80% of the time in Surfer 13. The image below shows that contour, base, and post maps were the most commonly created map types. After years on technical support, I know that these map types are what users create most often and so this was not surprising to me.

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The usage tracking data shows that contour, base, post and 3D surfaces are the most commonly created map types created in Surfer.

What was surprising (at least to me) was that very few users create classed post maps. I create classed post maps often. Classed post maps are an excellent way to depict classes of data points, whether they are well types, sample types, or the name of the individual taking the sample, and they are also a great tool to use for quality control when checking grid results. Another recent blog article discussed using classed post maps for visually verifying grid results (see: Visually Verifying Grid Results).

Create post maps to display different classes of points.

Overlay a classed post map of the original data over generated contours to assess accuracy.

Now using these tracking results is not an exact science, and creating plots like the one above certainly doesn’t mean we are only going to add improvements to only the most popular features, especially since it only shows the usage of existing functions and cannot account for new functionality that doesn’t exist yet. However, the tracking data is another tool for us to use to see what current functions our customers actually use.  This information is used in conjunction with growing trends in the industry, customer requests on our suggestion file, and the time a request takes to implement to create our feature lists for an upgrade.

So what does this mean for you? It means that if you want the features you use most to be enhanced, please enable customer tracking! We want to see how you use Surfer and what features you use. The more numbers we get, the better we can design new features and improvements that help your workflow. You can enable (or disable) customer tracking within Surfer by:

  1. Clicking Tools | Options.
  2. On the General page, checking the Track usage option.
  3. Clicking OK.  

Again, no personal information is sent about you, only about the commands you use. If you have a specific request for something you’d like to see in Surfer, please email it to surfersupport@goldensoftware.com!