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The Lightroom Shuffle

in Unsolicited, rabid opinions , Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hey ho. Key Lightroom cheerleader Michael Reichmann today posts: "...It is said that these will all come when when Beta 4 is released, at which point both the Windows and Mac versions will have parity. In any event, the few small missing items are not critical for anyone wanting to become familiar with the new software, which is likely to become one of the most popular raw image processing programs on the market." (my italics) Interesting bit of spin buried in there: as first heard on Lightroom Podcast 8, v1.0 at least is being subvervisely spun away from being a DAM-based product to "just" a RAW developer. Call me a conspiracy theory nut, but I just don't believe it is an accident. More like a clever bit of expectation management engineered by Adobe marketing. It also seems to be taking rather a long time to get to market - Beta 3 expires in Jan 07, and it seems a little unlikely that the expiry date would be set beyond a commercial release date - especially as their is a Beta 4 on the way. From what I know about software product management - which is quite a lot, actually - I'd say that they are suffering from considering far too many inputs and listening to far too many opinions. The product manager should not devolve the responsibility for a clear product vision to a forum of beta testers. I'm sure I would get tarred as totally negative if I posted this anywhere with high visibilty, but still, if this product was from anybody but Adobe, I cannot believe that it would attract quite such unquestioning praise and devotion from the "old boy" network. I wonder how they've diviied up the books ? Scott Kelby seems to have jumped the gun in a rather unsporting manner with his doubtless zany "Lightroom for Digital Photgraphers". (er, yeah ... so who else would it be for ? Fly fisherman ? Traffic Wardens ? Small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri ??) Anyway, bad news for whoever drew "DAM with Lightroom" out of the bag.


You may have noticed that M. Reichmann is already making money with Lightroom, selling tutorials for using this unfinished product. M. claims to be independant. The more he claims it the less I believe it. Why did he not do an update on the latest (and said much improved) version of Aperture 1.1? His business really stinks.

I’m afraid the champagne bubbles of that trip to Antarctica with all the old boys are still stuck in his head. You are most definately not a conspiracy theory nut. Just have a look at this page to get the actual picture of what is going on: <a href=“” rel=“nofollow”></a>

By Erik, on July 21, 2006

Remember that Michael is in the business of making money, especially since he has to fund $50,000+ digital camera purchases! Personally, I use Aperture and LOVE it! I can only afford to buy Olympus E-1s and lenses, so I’m certainly not in Michael’s league, but for the rest of us, pro and avid amateur alike, there are far better products out there than Adobe’s BETA. Too bad the lemmings will blindly follow Adobe and Michael and remain trapped in their suicide-like behaviour. Photoshop and Lightroom are NOT the end all products for photographers! Just my 2 cents.

By Rob White, on July 22, 2006

I have to say I’m not enthusiastic about criticising Michael Reichmann. He has given a lot to photographers all over the world, for many years. Sure, he is well off, but so what ? There are plenty of rich amateur photographers around, and not many dedicate so much time to running a resource like The Luminous Landscape. Certainly, the workshops at the very least cover their costs, but I doubt that the DVD generates much profit, especially not if the true costs are factored in. I’ve participated in one of Michael’s workshops, and I greatly enjoyed it, and learnt a lot, even if it took some time to sink in. And I very much enjoyed Michael’s company - he certainly does not put on any airs and graces, and is at pains to make people feel comfortable and welcome, and to divide his time amongst them.

So why do I get so hot under the collar about Lightroom, or more specifically, what I call the Lightroom Cheerleaders ? Well, actually, the guy who really, but really irritates me is this Jeff Schewe character. He seems to believe that he actually owns Lightroom, and takes all the credit for it. If I was an Adobe engineer I think I’d be inclined to tell him to f**k off. Secondly, he is constantly delivering a stream of excuses about various things that aren’t there, which other apps do deliver.  But as far as Michael Reichmann’s support is concerned, well there are several points:

<li>Over the years, I’ve bought quite a lot of stuff purely on Michael’s recommendation, because based on experience, I could trust him. Some of it was pretty expensive. I was never disapointed, and I was quite confident that he was giving an independent view, as a working photographer.</li>

<li>The Luminous Landscape prides itself on being “beholden to no-one”. Well I’m sorry, but this just isn’t believable anymore. Making money out of Lightroom (not much, granted, but it can be considered as a loss leader) constitutes a vested interest. Participating in an Adobe-sponsored, expenses paid trip to Iceland constitutes sponsorship. It is difficult to feel confident that any review of Lightroom on the The Luminous Landscape is going to be totally unbiased. Perception is everything, even if it is groundless.</li>

<li>Lightroom actually sucks, a bit.  Not so much, but still, it should be much better. The UI is heavy on the eye candy and low on usability, and performance is not good. Adobe are supposed to be the 800lb gorilla here. They have been the undisputed market leaders in desktop digital image processing for years. And yet, they have introduced a new product which is little more than deckchair rearrangement, and which shows far less innovation or even quality than Apple Aperture, which was created by a company which is a virgin in the pro digital image market. Never mind that, apps like Raw Developer, or indeed Pixmantec are producing better quality.  Why is Michael so lenient towards Lightroom’s failures ?</li>

<li>The Lightroom beta program is a shambles. Nearly one year into it, and it really seems that Lightroom has become directionless, responding to whoever shouts loudest. If Adobe was really serious about this stuff, with the resources they have, they should have been able to develop something like Lightroom, from scratch, to v1.0, in 18 months.  When I hear things like “we’ll sort out the alerts and warnings when we’re finished coding” (Podcast 9), the product designer in me is quite shocked. Excuse me ? When are you going to design and implement the hooks for these alerts and warnings ? Sounds like User Centered Design is not a common practice at Adobe.  If the Lightroom Cheerleaders picked up on some of these things, as well as the positive stuff (which of course exists, but who needs another cheerleader), with as much enthusiasm as they kick the slightest glitch in Aperture, I’d be more comfortable. But no.

Why is this happening ? Well, I really don’t know. I can imagine that some of the pixel mafia are a little worried that their nice safe Adobe ecosystem is under threat by Apple, a notoriously closed environment, with far less scope for the book writing cottage industry. But Michael Reichmann has no such dependency, apart from being friends with some of these people.

I think it is a shame that he is losing credibility on this (as Andy Rouse did with Pixmantec), especially as I’m far from convinced that the signs of Lightrooom delivering what it promises (promised ?) are far from 100% positive.  I don’t want Lightroom to fail (and, to make it clear, I’m not an Aperture user and I don’t forsee becoming one), but I’d like to to stand on its own feet, and be subject to fair and honest review. And currently, I just see signs of bias.

By David Mantripp, on July 24, 2006

“Well, actually, the guy who really, but really irritates me is this Jeff Schewe character. He seems to believe that he actually owns Lightroom, and takes all the credit for it. If I was an Adobe engineer I think I’d be inclined to tell him to f**k off. “

Well, it’s always amusing to read the opinions of people on the outside looking in. But opinions are not facts. Fact is, that outside of Mark Hamburg, the lead Lightroom engineer, I have more tenure on Lightroom (AKA Shadowland) than any of the current engineers or product managers. I’ve been working on what would become Lightroom since mid-2002 and hosted the first product dev meeting in my studio in Dec 2002.

Since that time, I’ve been personally involved in the development of features and functionality and I suspect if you asked Hamburg who, outside of Adobe has had the most impact in the development of Lightroom, I predict he would say me. That ain’t bragging, that’s the way it is.

That’s not to say that a bunch of other people-particularly the coders haven’t had more impact, cause I don’t actually write code. But trying to design what the code DOES is generally not left just to software engineers. That requires people who can actually direct the development of a project and I have a lot of experience with that…

Hamburg is actually a friend who I’ve known for over 10 years. I was the first ever off-site alpha tester for Photoshop starting with version 4.0. I had been doing beta testing since 3.0 and doing bug-busting since 2.5-about the time I met Mark.

So, if it seem to come off that I’ve played a pretty large part in Lightroom’s development, it’s because I have. You can read more about it in my story The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story on PSN. The story was vetted for accuracy by Hamburg and the other players involved.

Now, as to the story and comments regarding Michael Reichmann…hogwash, sounds purely like sour grapes to me. Michael is a pretty good guy and has an enviable position in the industry as an independent photographer. But everybody everywhere seems to like to read a lot of stuff into everything Michael does-like reading tea leaves to predict the future (and about as accurately too I must say).

Semantics are important when using words to judge others. Michael does not claim any unbiased review of Lightroom-not appropriate for somebody involved in testing an application as Michael is doing (he’s a pretty close friend of Thomas Knoll who is now much more involved in Lightroom).

Michael’s (and my) Lightroom DVDs are included in regular subscriptions to The Luminous Landscape Video Journal. He has made them available separately at a cost that just about breaks even-at best. I didn’t get paid to appear in the DVD and don’t get a cut of any proceeds (as if the are any :~)

Now, as to the Lightroom “beta” program being in shambles…again, outside looking in. First off, the program started Jan 9th, 2006. It’s currently July 31st-just over 6 months old-hardly “nearly one year into it” as the comment claims. Fact is the first Windows preview version was just released, so it’s only now that serious cross-platform development is taking place, something Adobe is pretty good at.

Using the podcasts as anything other than informing users over the frank debate regarding development is a mistake. Typically, (tea reading again) some users are hearing things that aren’t actually being said or taking things out of the context of the podcasts.

“Why is this happening ? Well, I really don’t know. I can imagine that some of the pixel mafia are a little worried that their nice safe Adobe ecosystem is under threat by Apple, a notoriously closed environment, with far less scope for the book writing cottage industry. But Michael Reichmann has no such dependency, apart from being friends with some of these people.”

Yes, you don’t know “why” this is happening. To be blunt, you don’t actually know “what” is happening either as your ill-informed opinions and misstatements of facts bare witness to.  But I suspect that won’t alter your apparent glee in making them, huh? And you also don’t have a clue what the “pixel mafia” is all about either :~)

And no, I won’t tell you…you’ve heard of the “Rules of Omert?”?

By Jeff Schewe, on July 31, 2006

Well it’s nice to get some input from the horse’s mouth. If I’m so wide off the mark, I’m surprised you find time to waste on me. What I can’t really understand though, Jeff, if you have so much ownership of Lightroom, why you do not have a stake in it ? Or perhaps you do. None of my business really.

As for what is my business, I have as much right as anybody to voice my opinion.  I have credentials too, and although they may not be as flamboyant as yours, they go back just as far, and I would imagine are far more wide ranging.

I’m not sure where sour grapes come into it. I’m an interested outsider, I’ve used Lightroom since Beta 1, and I think it is interesting, but not quite as revolutionary as it is made out to be. What is interesting is the unparalleled level of near adulation it receives from otherwise level headed critics (I’ll leave you out of that list -evidence does not support your inclusion…but in any case, you, at least, have made it clear you’re not unbiased). There is a lot good about Lightrrom. There’s also a lot to be desired. Any time anybody makes a peep about any downside to LR on (for example) Michael’s website, they get a blast with both barrels.  This is not the type of reaction he used to make.

Michael’s site claims to be unbiased, although this gets a bit twisted sometimes. It claims, on solid grounds, to offer genuine, photographic based advice and education on a wide variety of topics. People trust him, deeply. And justifiably. But this Lightroom thing is going way beyond the usual bounds.

Finally, on development time. Don’t treat people as idiots, please. The Beta period may be around 6 months old, but the development history is clearly a lot longer. Oh, and by any normal terminology, it isn’t a Beta, or even an Alpha. It’s a prototype. Betas do NOT lose features. Adobe should be able to at least as well as Apple on digital imaging.

And just to emphasise once again. I’m not in the Aperture v. Lightroom debate. I’ve never even seen Aperture.  What I am is dismayed by the apparent way that respected industry gurus are climbing over themselves to heap praise on an unfinished, unproven product with totally unstable specifications. “Free holiday in Iceland sir ?” - that’ll do nicely.

By David Mantripp, on August 01, 2006

My answer above was written in a bit of a hurry, and I should maybe add a few things:

First, my opinions are not ill-informed. They’re not actually informed at all, apart from my observations on the way Adobe is managing the specifications of Lightroom, which I have got some justification for. Otherwise, they’re observations, and there’s a big difference. It all comes down to perception, finally, and if what I perceive is completely wrong, well I have to take some of the blame for that, but not all: I don’t know the details. You’re quite correct. I know nothing other than what you and others have published. But I do wonder if you see the big picture. It might be worthwhile for you to take a step back, look at the progress so far, and consider if maybe it is time to focus, and ship. And announce what the specification of 1.0 will be. If the release date is around Dec 29, 2006 (the publication date of the Adobe Press book), then surely the feature list must be close to frozen by now.

I may come across as some know-nothing idiot, but I do have some credentials. I’m also a early adopter and highly appreciative customer both of your PixelGenius products, and Michael’s Video Journal - actually the Video Journal Issue 1 was the reason I bought a DVD player. I’m not trying to be spitefull here, I’m just trying to inject a degree of balance.

I have one big problem with the Lightroom hype (as I see it), which is it uses, even if unknowingly, rather unethical FUD tactics which I don’t expect to see coming from Adobe.  If, back in January, I held off from investing in, say, Extensis Portfolio, because I was told that Adobe had a great DAM product in the pipeline, coming soon, where would I be know ? Six months downstream, no closer to an organised workflow, and no clear signal that Adobe is actually still considering DAM a high priority (I know what you say about the Podcasts, but to be honest, lawyers aside, it is Adobe people taking about Adobe products, with invited guests from the “inner circle”. If we’re not supposed to take it seriously, why bother with it at all ?). I think a degree of healthy skepticism, and even of mentioning the alternatives, would not to any discredit to Lightroom.

I don’t really see any “glee” in my writing. Admittedly I wasn’t very nice to you, but your on-line persona rubs me up the wrong way, as mine does you. Sorry.  I’m afraid I don’t understand the reference to “Rules of Omerta” - although I can guess. Where I live, jokes about the mafia are actually a bit risky…

Well, I’d better go and find another windmill to tilt at.

By David Mantripp, on August 02, 2006