What’s up at Figure 53? I’ll tell you.

July 31st, 2009 by Christopher  

Gentle Readers,

I feel I owe you something in the way of an update.

It’s not that we’ve been out of touch, exactly. I released QLab 2 six months ago, and in that time my inbox has been graced with thousands of messages. Some days I’d get up at 6 AM, respond to emails until 6 PM, eat a quick dinner, get back to writing emails, and still have more mail at the end of the day than when I woke up that morning.

In a time of global recession, our sales have exploded. Yes, we raised our prices, but it’s not just the revenue that has gone up, it’s the sheer number of licenses sold. The combined result looks like this:


Truly it has been a stunning six months. Every day we hear from new venues, new customers, new schools. We hear from people who are just starting out and people converting from years of using other software. It’s exciting, it’s exhausting, it’s an honor, and at times, it’s all just a touch chaotic.

Which leads me to today, and my feeling that we owe you a status report. Because this explosion has left us scrambling. Scrambling to respond to every inquiry with the full attention and detail it deserves. Scrambling to pounce on every bug report, feature request, and sales inquiry. For a company that’s built a reputation for fast release cycles and attentive customer service, we haven’t been able to keep up with everything in the way we are accustomed. Sometimes an email will take an extra day to answer. Sometimes a bug sits in the fix-it queue longer than I like. Nothing terrible, mind you, but just enough that I sat down at my desk today and thought “You know what? Let’s give everyone some more information about what’s going on over here.”

So here we are! And here’s the update:

New Support Desk

Routing all support requests exclusively through Mail.app works okay for just one person, but we’re not just one person any more. (More on that in a moment.) Now, when you write in to support@figure53.com, you’ll be routed through our new support software HelpSpot.

What does this mean for you? Basically, better support. We can have more eyes looking for incoming questions, and more fingers to type out the answers. The system also keeps a full archive of our correspondence which you can review at any time.

New Employees

As you already saw in this space, we welcomed Sean Dougall to the team on June 1st. If you recently wrote an email to support@figure53.com about a sales inquiry, a license question, or other basic QLab questions, there’s a good chance Sean took care of you.

Less widely known is that Sean is not the only new person on the Figure 53 team. We also just brought Jesse Kriss onto the team as a part-time contractor. Jesse’s work spans everything from The History of Sampling to the New York Times Visualization Lab to the original version of QLab. Yup, he was there at the beginning, working with me over iChat at three in the morning while I avoided my grad school research. Then he went off to build amazing things at IBM Research. But now he’s back. And he’s brought his kung-fu gear with him.

New Office

The Maryland branch of Figure 53 (i.e. me) outgrew our previous space. Setting up test machines was excruciating and time-consuming.

That’s all changed now, as I’ve just completed moving into a nice big office where I can set up a proper test lab. This is great, but as with any move, the process has taken time and attention that I would otherwise have spent on, say, coding. But it’s done now! This is good.

New Features

I have pages upon pages of feature requests sitting in my inbox. Many of them are excellent ideas. We will be adding some of them as fast as we can. We promise. We just can’t guarantee when, exactly.

New Products

It’s time for Figure 53 to grow beyond a single product. Having one killer product is awesome, but to make sure we’re here for the next thirty years, we’d like to have more than one.

In the coming months you’ll see announcements for several new OS X products going into beta testing. These will range from specialized utilities for the entertainment industry to a new, full-featured application we have affectionately code-named “Big Screen o’ Buttons”.

We’re also working on something even bigger, which is not an OS X application at all. We are very excited about this. No, you do not get to know what it is yet.

New Website

I love our current website, but it doesn’t really handle more than one product very well. In order to release these new products, we need a better structure for the site. So we’ve got that on the plate too.

New Branding

Finally, it has been high time for Figure 53 to have a beautiful, professionally designed graphic brand. I commissioned award-winning designer Eric Kass to develop a brand for us, and I’m thrilled with the result. You’ll see his work featured on the new website, in our new invoices, quotes, and receipts, and through any physical paper you may get from us in the mail.

And what else?

Ain’t that enough? It has felt like a ton on this end, let me tell you.

That’s what’s up at Figure 53. I thank you for your patience as I’ve worked on making this company better. And if it took me a few days to get back to you instead of a few minutes, I do apologize. I’m doing my best to set things up so I will again have more time to do what I love, which is working with all of you to make great software.

Thanks for reading. I mean it.

9 Responses to “What’s up at Figure 53? I’ll tell you.”

  1. Nico Says:

    Wow, Chris, you’re on a roll! Congratulations! I mean, the first hit for ‘Chris(topher) Ashworth’ on google is now no longer a male porn star. You have gone above and beyond. Congrats!

    I hope you’re well :)


  2. Filip Vandueren Says:

    I’m excited about new products coming ! 53 FTW!

    And with regards to that graph… when you released Qlab 2.0 I knew I wouldn’t need to use this 52 weeks a year. Hell, maybe not even 10 weeks a year. I’ve been using Qlab for a few years in our community theater now and then. Could have done perfectly with rentals.
    But still I got a full license. Because in this time of .79 euro Apps on the iPhone I think it’s important that hard work like you do, does not start devaluating.
    We owe you for the passion you’ve put into this product, and I think what you’re seeing on that graph is a lot of designers who thought: “Chris deserves my cash.”
    Eitherway, the fact you got to hire some more people is a good thing in a recession: it’s not just about making money, you’re creating jobs. Good on you.

  3. Christopher Says:


    All of us deeply appreciate that support. It means we can keep improving the software, which of course is a win-win for both of us. Thanks.

  4. Søren Knud Says:

    Ahhh you rock as usual.

    I love what you do. Thank you. I wish i lived in the US and could work with you. But its nearly as good to work with your software.


    i cannot sleep until you publish more information.


    please… will you tell me what it is if i donate 1 million US $ ??

    best regards,

    soren knud

  5. Christopher Says:

    Dear Søren,

    I will happily HIRE you if you donate 1 million US $. You won’t even have to do anything! :-)

  6. Søren Knud Says:

    Arghh shit- i forgot i dont have 1 million… please!…. is it hardware? Is it dmx-controlsoftware for osx? Is it a rocket that will travel to mars?

  7. Nile Griffith Says:


    After many years away from the Mac and managing to nurture the world of PC’s into something useable on a live event. I have been drawn back to the orchard and a shiny new MacBook Pro. With Motu 896 and 828 unit’s champing at the bit. time to find a piece of software that will allow me to fire audio cus for the simplest of awards gigs through to something a bit more developed.

    Well with all the glowing praise that QLab gets from the bulletin boards, i thought this sounds like the product for me.

    I can only assume that those who made such praises don’t actually use QLab in a serious money making concern. Because as a twenty year professional audio engineer. I really wouldn’t want to stake my pay check and reputation on having to use this “workspace” on the fly. Sure if I was putting together some Theme park attraction that I could sit down with and pre-program and tweak for a couple of days then this software might be the kiddy… But for live use with live performers and presenters, then this package has some serious holes in it. Instead of doing things because it can, maybe you guys could concentrate on doing things because it should. The British expression is “All the gear and no idea”. This is what Qlab says to me…. Just relieved not to have splashed out on the full license.

  8. Christopher Says:

    Hi Nile, thanks for your thoughts. It sounds like perhaps QLab was simply the wrong tool for the particular job you were trying to perform. However, we certainly welcome feedback on ways we can improve it. Please feel free to join the conversation on the mailing list or the request tracker:

    Mailing list:


    Request Tracker:


    We certainly can’t fix it if we don’t know what needs to be fixed!


  9. Philipb Says:

    Nile, without trivializing your feedback I would argue that there are many QLab users who would also describe themselves as professional audio engineers and who have even longer careers in the industry. We use the software on a daily basis in what can only be described as serious money making concerns at the highest level, and do stake our paychecks and reputations on using this workspace “on the fly” with live presenters and performers. Personally I have been with the Q since beta releases and in that time have had far less crashes and hangups than the many previous years with certain hardware based playback systems.

    Perhaps if you supplied more information on where you felt these holes exist you could get some support from the incredibly active QLab community.

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