So Download Squad seems to think we’re some sort of photo-sharing loser. I’ve seen this story so many times, it’s not even funny. Let me recount a few of the Silicon Valley’s best. There are plenty more, but I’ll leave those as an exercise to the reader.
Every year we’ve been ‘also-ran’ to someone different. In the first year big brands, like Adobe, Canon, and Microsoft all shut their sites down. In the second, the P2P photo-sharing apps flamed out. In the third year, we were ‘also-ran’ to sites that ran out of money and got acquired. Now look who’s first out with hot new features.
smugmug’s less than three years old, and I’m positive that our sales and profitability are ahead of both eBay’s and Google’s at the same age. We’re profitable, have no outside investment or debt, and have possibly the best customer service on the web. Best of all, we’re all having a great time building a great company.
Gandhi maybe said it best: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Just look at eBay, Google, and smugmug.
We finished phase 2, are thrilled with the result and the reception, and dismayed that the rollout didn’t go flawlessly. That’s life, I guess, but we learned some lessons and will get better with our next release. Thanks for sticking with us – you really are the best customers anyone could ask for.
Phase 3 is coming right along, and should be a quick release. We’ll finish adding the new CSS code to the remaining Styles (Journal, Slideshow, Traditional, and All Thumbs) so you can continue to customize to your hearts content. Ditto for your personal homepages, community homepages, and misc other pages.
Phase 4, though, will be the really interesting one. I’m going to break company policy just this once, and talk about a future feature. We’re calling it ‘Themes’ and we’re only just beginning to flesh out how it will work. The basic idea, though, is that all smugmug accounts – Standard included – will have access to ‘Themes’ on a per-gallery basis. Think ‘Birthday Party’, ‘Halloween’, ‘Tropical Vacation’, and the like. Your entire gallery would then take on that ‘Theme’.
Even better, though, is we’ll have a great WYSIWYG interface where you can create your own themes, giving them your own names, and changing *every* detail within your gallery – from font colors to dashed lines to backgrounds. You then can save it and re-use it on any galleries you’d like. Don’t like the new green? Simply use one of the other Themes or create your own.
Note that this isn’t complete HTML and CSS control like Power Users and Pros get – you won’t be able to create your own banners for the header and remove the footer. This is purely making the gallery look & feel match the occasion behind the gallery.
No promises on when it’ll come out – we’re a ‘when it’s done’ company, so it could be quite awhile, but I wanted everyone to know that it’s coming.
Meanwhile, enjoy Phase 2. 🙂
So we’re nearing completion (tonight, hopefully!) on phase 2 of our site design overhaul that greatly enhances the control everyone gets of the look & feel of their smugmug sites. Heavily CSS-driven, with lots of fine-grained control, it should make a lot of people happy.
You can also see this thread about stylesheet changes you may want to make if you’ve customized smugmug already.
So last year I opted to go to LinuxWorld, which was in my backyard, instead of OSCON. This year I was lucky enough to attend OSCON. Disclaimer: We were an OSCON sponsor, but I don’t think it impaired my judgement. 🙂
The two shows are very different, but the short summary is that OSCON was better. The long summary is as follows:
Sessions: The sessions, in general, at OSCON seemed to be more authoritative and deep on their given subject matter. With a few notable exceptions (Brian Aker’s MySQL session comes to mind), LinuxWorld’s sessions just weren’t geeky enough for my tastes. I felt like I knew considerably more about the subjects than the presenters did. Equivalent subjects at OSCON, however, left me feeling like I’d just watched a presentation by someone more knowledgeable, or at the very least, one of my peers.
Keynotes: Perhaps the most interesting difference between the two were the keynotes. At LinuxWorld, they had a lot of business heavyweights from various companies involved or just getting involved with linux. Generally, I’m not a fan of the ‘vendor keynote’ as they often end up being a lot of horn-tooting, and not much else. LinuxWorld did an admirable job, though, of having the vendor keynotes still be fairly useful and interesting. From patent indemnification to laptops shipping with Linux, some meat came out in addition to corporate posturing. At OSCON, there was a mix of geek keynotes and vendor keynotes. I massively prefer geek keynotes when I can get them, and OSCON didn’t disappoint – they were mostly great (especially on Friday!). But the vendor keynotes were definitely a low note. From SpikeSource to Computer Associates, they lacked meat and substance. I think I’ll call this one a tie.
Exhibits: I would say they were roughly on par. LinuxWorld was larger, but OSCON was more focused. Neither offered me much in the way of new products or information that I didn’t already have, so I didn’t spend much time in either hall other than searching for friends. OSCON did have goodies in the hall during breaks, so slight bonus points are awarded for that.
In-the-halls: For lack of a better term, we’ll just call it “in-the-halls”. This is really where a lot of the meat of a conference gets done, if you ask me. Meeting new people, seeing old friends, and generally geeking out. Between sessions, keynotes, and the like, discussions even more interesting than the talks occured on-the-spot. My list of valuable contacts grew, and we even managed to invent something neat with regards to feeds, I think. More on that in another post. OSCON dominated in this regard LinuxWorld was nearly useless, at least to me, in comparison.
Social: While you might argue that the after-show parties and dinners aren’t part of the show, or aren’t influenced by the show organizers, I think you’d be wrong. The caliber of speakers and show quality directly relates to how much fun and how useful the after parties are. (Parties? Useful? Definitely.) OSCON wins here, too, though maybe I’m just too sucky to go to the good stuff at LinuxWorld. 🙂 (And did OSCON have Casey West’s powerful green laser popping balloons and freaking cops out?)
Location: I’ve never been to Portland so I was excited to visit someplace new. Portland turned out to be a beautiful city with fantastic public transportation. While I ate at some nice places in Portland (especially Good Dog/Bad Dog and Queen of Sheba!), I think I have to give San Francisco the edge in food. Both have gorgeous Japanese Gardens (which seemed overrun by OSCON geeks, which was cool) and bridges. I think this one is a tie.
Verdict: OSCON by a large margin. Kudos to O’Reilly for putting on another great con.
As an interesting follow-up to my post about giving back to the open-source community, the same subject came up during Chris’ session about Google and their approach to open-source software.
As you may know, Google’s got a great track record with open-source, particularly with their current Summer of Code program. Normally, I’m glad we’re not huge like Google – I like being small. But I have to admit that they have a wonderful opportunity to help the open-source community in many ways, not just financially. Looks like they’re doing well with it, too.
Interesting to hear, though, that they have some of the same thoughts and qualms about so-called “bounty” programs for open-source that I have. I’ve worried that, should we make cash contributions to certain projects, it might backfire on us. It’s pretty easy to imagine some sort of fight or, at the very least, feelings being hurt among developers as they figure out how to use the contribution. I think their approach is a sound one with Summer of Code and all of their other open-source participation, but similar things would be very hard for a tiny operation like us.
Anyway, Chris’ session was both informative and warm-and-fuzzy: Google’s doing well contributing their own code, enhancing and using existing projects, and in general, supporting open-source.
smugmug couldn’t exist without open-source software. Lots of blood, sweat, & tears mixed liberally with open-sourced software (and a bookshelf full of O’Reilly books) = smugmug.
Now that we’re successful, though, it’s been weighing on my mind: How do we give back? We have support contracts for some of the components we use, which is nice, and we’re sponsoring OSCON 2005, which is also nice, but it’s really not enough. Some of the key components don’t have a service & support arm. And while sponsoring a conference about open-source is a nice gesture, it doesn’t put money right into developers pockets, which is really where it belongs.
We’re not successful enough (yet!) to simply hire open-source developers and pay them to continue doing what they were doing. I can’t wait until we’re at that stage, but we’re just not there yet.
So what do we do in the meantime? Simply donate cash to the projects in question? Offer to host their websites and development efforts? Maybe give them some stock in smugmug?
I’d love to hear any suggestions. And if you’re at the con and want to discuss it, look for the guy in the red smugmug hat. 🙂