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Archive for September, 2008

Just so we're clear – I love Canon :)

September 24, 2008 23 comments

So you may have seen all the hooplah yesterday over Canon and Vincent Laforet’s amazing Canon 5D MkII footage. I thought maybe a little explanation was in order. First, a little background on me and Canon:

  • I, personally, am a monster Canon fanboy. I have a lot of cameras, and all of them – my collection of happy-snappys, our dSLRs, and even our video cameras – are Canon.
  • Our company is filled with Canon fanboys. We have more dSLR Canon bodies and lenses lying around than I can count.
  • The 5D MkII is the coolest camera I’ve ever heard of. Dozens of SmugMuggers have already pre-ordered them.
  • I’ve been dying to work with Canon since we started SmugMug. We’re a Top 500 website, we reach 6.5M people a month, our demographic is definitely high-end, and Nikon’s already in bed with Flickr. Sounds like a match made in heaven to me.

Ok, so now that I’ve set the stage, let’s talk about Vincent’s movie a little bit:

  • SmugMug had nothing to do with the production of the film. We didn’t even know it existed until we read this post on Vincent’s blog on Saturday afternoon.
  • The entire company caught fire. We lost our minds, we were so excited. Within minutes, we’d offered to provide *unlimited* HD bandwidth to Vincent. Bear in mind this was an unknown, but likely very large, cost with no real tangible upside. But we built this company because we love photography, video, and gadgets – and we’ve gotta stick with what we love.
  • Vincent enthusiastically took us up on our offer, and we all started brainstorming about how we could best release the film. Then we started brainstorming on how great this camera would be for indie photographers and filmmakers, and we lost our minds again. By Sunday morning, we had committed $25-50K to create a community-driven film using the Canon 5D MkII. (Note how fast things are moving – they were moving so fast, none of us had time to catch our breath).
  • We found out that Vincent had some awesome Behind-the-Scenes footage of the making of his film, Reverie, and so of course we offer to host that for free again.
  • The time for release arrived. Now, this entire time, we’ve never talked to anyone at Canon. As far as I knew, this wasn’t a Canon deal – Vincent clearly says Canon told him “You can then produce a video and stills completely independently from Canon U.S.A.”
  • We posted full HD versions of both Reverie and the behind-the-scenes footage for the world to see, crossing our fingers that our bandwidth bill wouldn’t be more than we could bear.
  • Our customers went bananas. Awesome! They’re thrilled we’re interested in this stuff, because they’re interested in this stuff. Ok, great, so maybe this bandwidth bill will pay of in goodwill. 🙂
  • The press went bananas – both mainstream and online. Awesome! They’re gaga over the user response and the remarkable camera.
  • We got busy (and I personally got busy) telling everyone, press and non alike, who called, emailed, tweeted, blogged, etc that the Canon 5D MkII is a game-changing camera the likes of which we haven’t seen before.
  • Canon asked Vincent to ask us to take Reverie down.

SAY WHAT?!

Canon asked Vincent to ask us to take Reverie down.

😦

Being a Canon fanboy, I quickly complied – with a very heavy heart. I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut by one of my heroes. I felt betrayed. I also wrote a few things in the heat of the moment that came out harsher than they should have (and thankfully I didn’t publish what I’d original written – whew!). I’ve now edited my blog post and would like to apologize to anyone at Canon who I offended – I certainly wasn’t attacking Canon’s great employees, I was just lashing out.

But look at it from my point of view. I was risking an awful lot of money on bandwidth (I doubt it would have topped 6 figures, but easily could have been in the 5s) because I’m a camera geek and I love this stuff. Customer goodwill is fabulous, and we love generating it, but we were really doing this because we love the camera, love the passion that went into the film, and love to help our industry. We were hopeful that that goodwill would come back to us someday – but even if it didn’t, the chance to be a part of something as momentous as this film from this camera was worth it. And a good chunk of the company busted their butts over the weekend to make this happen. We could have been playing with our kids or out shooting photographs, but instead we spent the weekend setting things up for Vincent’s release.

And instead of appreciating how generous I thought we were being, and appreciating the monster amount of PR they were getting (better PR than any amount of money can buy), it felt like Canon was arbitrarily cutting us off for no good reason. I found myself asking “Well, if they want to host it on their pages, why don’t they just embed the video from SmugMug? Then they get it for free and we still get to be involved. It doesn’t even have to show our logo or anything – just use Quicktime but use a file from SmugMug’s servers. We’d save them money!”. We just wanted to be involved. And no-one at Canon called or emailed us at all – as I’m writing this, I’ve still never talked to anyone at Canon on this “independent from Canon” project.

In the cold light of the next day, though, I can see that I overreacted. It’s a sign of my passion for Canon and their products. No-one overreacts when some bad company does something stupid. But just look at Apple – the instant they make a mis-step (or even perceived mis-step), everyone is up in arms, ready to lynch Steve. Why? Because their products are so dang good, everyone’s super-passionate about them. So I let my passion get the better of me. I still wish Canon had wanted to work together, or at least let us be part of the project, but does it really matter?

I’m still buying a Canon 5D MkII and, I’m sure, lots of Canon goodies to go along with it. So what are you waiting for? Go get your own. 🙂

Amazing Canon 5D MkII HD video footage!!

September 22, 2008 27 comments

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet got his hands on a Canon 5D MkII for a weekend. Rather than shoot some quick stills, he rounded up an entire film crew and put them to work using the amazing 1080p video capture it offers – in helicopters, no less! When SmugMug heard about this, we went bananas and offered to host both the short film itself, Reverie, as well as the behind-the-scenes footage:

See it auto-sized for your screen & browser, view it in Hi-Def, or embedded below. Your choice.

Also, you can see the Behind the Scenes footage (want it in HD?):

Then we went a little more bananas, and ponied up $25K to sponsor a community-created film led by Vincent, with another $25K to follow if other sponsors get on the train. We think this camera is truly a game-changer and we’re thrilled to help visionaries like Vincent prove it to the world.

Now, the astute geeks in the audience will note that Reverie isn’t hosted in 1080p, but instead is at 720p. I wish it weren’t so, and we’re actively trying to get our hands on the 1080p footage right out of Final Cut so we can let everyone take a peek – but it’s not our footage, so I don’t actually have it. I believe Canon may be putting it online themselves, but if they don’t, I’ll do everything I can to put it up – so stay tuned to Vincent’s blog as well as my own.

Man I love this industry! Thanks Canon!

Hot technologies I care about – Sep '08

September 17, 2008 30 comments
Iron Worker by ikegami

photo by: ikegami

I’ve been too busy to blog lately, and for that I apologize.  But here’s a quicky detailing the technologies (internet related and not) I’m excited about right now:

  • Drizzle.  For years now, I’ve felt that MySQL has been doing in a direction in opposition to my use case.  Stored procedures, views, etc etc have added bloat and complexity without offering me anything useful.  Turns out I’m not alone – and thus Drizzle was born.  To say I’m *super* excited about this is a serious understatement.
  • Google & Percona’s MySQL patches.  While I wait for Drizzle, I’m stuck dealing with terrible concurrency issues in MySQL/InnoDB that force us to partition data way before we really should have to, making our system more complex.  It’s crazy having a server keel over when it shouldn’t be either CPU-bound *or* IO-bound but that’s life with MySQL and InnoDB these days – or at least, it was until Google and Percona fixed what I couldn’t get MySQL to fix with our Platinum Enterprise subscriptions.  Open source rules!
  • Flash storage.  I really wish I could talk about this some more (pesky NDAs), but there are datacenter changes coming that are more dramatic than anything I’ve seen in 14 years of working on them. I hope I’ve talked to everyone in the space (and from the companies I’ve talked to, one of them seems to be the *very* clear winner for this upcoming round), but if you’re a storage vendor working on flash appliances and I haven’t talked to you, ping me.  We’re a bleeding edge customer and we’ll put your stuff in production faster than you can deliver it to us.  🙂
  • ZFS.  Regardless of flash storage, ZFS is the filesystem of choice – head and shoulders over everything we’ve used or heard of.  The advent of flash just makes this even more compelling.  The downside?  It’s not on Linux.  😦
  • OpenSolaris.  ZFS is so incredible, my hand has been forced, and we’re about to put our first OpenSolaris system into production.  OpenSolaris is, in theory, the Solaris kernel (think ZFS, DTrace, SMF, high concurrency, etc) with the GNU-like userland (think Linux-like).  In practice, it’s still extremely painful for a Linux expert and Solaris n00b like me to use – even on a single-purpose machine like a MySQL server.  Only ZFS makes the pain worth it.  For development, it’s basically unusable for Linuxers (it’s probaby fabulous for Solaris guys – lucky ducks).
  • Nexenta.  Unlike OpenSolaris, Nexenta *is* the Solaris kernel plus GNU userland.  Unfortunately, it’s not backed by Sun or anyone else I have any relationship with.  Sun has been absolutely the very best technology vendor we’ve ever dealt with in terms of support, technical knowledge, and just plain listening to us, so that’s a big issue.  I wish Sun had taken Nexenta’s approach (or would just buy them or offer support or something).  If OpenSolaris continues to be painful, we may fall back on Nexenta instead – remember, ZFS is the driving factor here.
  • Amazon Web Services competitors.  They’ve been promising they’d be coming out for years now and I’m shocked they’ve given Amazon this much runway.  But I believe a few more are getting very close (can’t say more, again, pesky NDAs).  Now, we’re extremely happy with Amazon, so we have no plans to switch, but competition is good for everyone – and Amazon is a fierce competitor.  Plus there are still gaps in Amazon’s strategy, and if I can mix & match to plug some of those gaps, awesome – sign me up.
  • Memcached.  This one’s been on my list for years, and it’s still way up there.  Binary protocol on the verge of shipping, nice patch to resolve some networking issues we’ve seen, and talk about scabability.  If you’re building web apps and this isn’t a core part of your infrastructure, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Big RAM.  4GB DIMMs are dirt cheap, so if you’re not loading your DB and Memcached boxes to the gills, you’re missing the boat.  Cheap 2-socket 64GB (and relatively cheap 128GB at 4-sockets) are here.
  • Sun Fire X4140 and X4440.  The best 1U (2-socket) and 2U (4-socket) servers on earth.  Despite being late to the game with quad-core, Opteron RAM performance kills Xeon, so these are the servers we’re buying.  You can load them to the gills with 4GB DIMMs, enjoy the dual-power supplies (yes, in the 1U box too), and crank out some great stuff.
  • OpenSocial, Y!OS, etc.  The big boys are finally getting real about getting open and cross-pollinating data and I think we’re finally nearing an inflection point.  We’re hiring a Sorcerer to do nothing but think and build in this space.  I’m sure magic will ensue.
  • Nikon D90 and Canon 5D MkII.  Nikon’s taken the photography world by storm with amazing high-ISO performance, and Canon just announced a DSLR that shoots full 1080p video.  Both look amazing and both are game-changers.
  • Onkyo TX-SR806.  I’m an A/V junkie and this thing is amazing.  5 HDMI inputs (need more?), THX Ultra2 Plus (the low-volume enhancements are *awesome* with young kids sleeping at home), automatic room EQ, decodes every modern audio encoding, etc.  I don’t even use the amplifier section (I have separates), but it’s turning out to be the best Pre/Pro I’ve ever owned.  Sounds fabulous on my gear.
  • iPhone App Store.  That thing is a game changer, and we’re barely seeing the tip of the iceberg.  All the other players have to respond – which is great for you and I.  And talk about a platform that’s a dream to develop on!
So there you have it.  Those are the most important pieces of tech I’m watching these days.  I’ll *definitely* be writing up our ZFS experiments as they come along and I have interesting data to share.  Stay tuned.  
 
Oh, and if you’re curious about what I *wish* was on the list, there’s really only one thing:  iTunes syncing.  I have two desktops (one at my office, one at home) and two laptops, plus my wife has accounts on my computers.  Keeping those all in sync so that when I update a playlist at the office, the update is waiting for me at home, is a nightmare.  I’d pay lots of money if someone could solve that – seems like iTunes + AWS + a smart coder = solved, no?  Wish I had some time….

Job Opening: Social Sorcerer

September 16, 2008 18 comments

UPDATE: This particular position has been filled, but we have plenty more open, especially for front-end JavaScript wizards. Contact us!

How would you like to be the 8th Sorcerer here at SmugMug?  (We don’t hire engineers, programmers, or even coders – we only hire Sorcerers.  If you can’t work magic, I’m sure our competitors would love to see your resume…)

At SmugMug, everything we build is a direct result of customer feedback. We do very little, if any, competitive research – our customers keep us plenty busy. As a result, we’ve largely ignored social networking, especially outside of SmugMug. It just hasn’t been something our customers have asked for.

That’s changing. I’ve started getting tweets, blog comments, and forum posts about our “broken Facebook app”. Problem is, we don’t have a Facebook app. 😦

The good news is we listen. So we’re ready to take the plunge. The geek in me has *always* wanted to dive into this stuff (and I’m the one who built and/or pushed us to build the building blocks we already have: an open API, Atom/RSS feeds, OpenID support, OAuth support, etc), so I’m thrilled we finally have the “ok” from my boss – our customers. 🙂

So if you’re high on social networking, particularly sharing photos anywhere and everywhere, we’d love to have you come work your magic. The job is extremely open-ended: You’d create our strategy, build our apps on other platforms, interact with our API developers who’ve already built some, and generally make it even easier for our customers to share their photos outside SmugMug. You’ll have to get your hands dirty – you’ll be writing the software (with the help of the other Sorcerers as needed), so managers and architects who no longer dirty their hands need not apply.

If that sounds like fun, we’re the best company to work for you’ve ever heard of (ok, this list sounds unbelievable, but I swear it’s all true):

  • We’re all super heroes.
  • We’re a privately held, profitable-for-years, fast-growing company (100%+ year-on-year for multiple years)
  • Fun projects. You choose what to work on rather than being assigned some fluff job. (I know, I know, unheard of – but I swear it’s true).
  • Small team. Your projects are your projects, not some multi-layer management effort doomed to fail.
  • Fast paced. Any week where we don’t do at least one software release is rare.
  • Large scale. Top 500 site. 350M+ photos, 800TB+ storage, 300M page views/month. Fun problems to solve 🙂
  • Big impact. Hundreds of thousands of paying customers and 6.5M+ visitors a month will use your work.
  • Family friendly. Full healthcare coverage, kids welcome for company meals and events. (Ex: We’re taking the whole company to Tahoe to ski & relax, including spouses and kids).
  • Distributed. Nearly 75% of our employees aren’t in Silicon Valley – they’re scattered all over the world, from Australia to Europe and a dozen US states.
  • Crazy benefits. We pay better salaries than the giants in Silicon Valley plus “early” stock options, profit sharing bonuses, matching 401k, 100% healthcare coverage for you and your family, gym memberships, iPhone 3G + minutes & data, 3G data cards, cable/DSL at home. Free drinks, free meals while working (new private chef too!). And more.
  • Great office. Walking distance to downtown Mountain View, across the street from train & lightrail, near Highway 85. 7.1 channel home theater, dual 30″ displays + Mac Pro + MacBook Pro/Air, jaw-dropping photography on the walls (and an in-house studio to shoot your own). Healthy cube/office decoration budget. (Ok, this is getting really fun to write 🙂 )

Whew!  (Yes, I think our employees are our most valuable asset.  Can you tell?)

So, do you have what it takes? At the very least, you’ll need:

  • A passion for open data.
  • An understanding of how important privacy controls are.
  • Experience with web services, especially REST. SOAP and XML-RPC fans, this isn’t the place for you (but knowledge of black magic ain’t bad – just don’t practice it here!).
  • Modern scripting language experience (PHP, Python, Ruby). We use PHP (and so will you!).
  • History building apps (big or small) for platforms like Facebook, OpenSocial, etc.
  • Understanding of current and upcoming social networking technologies: OpenID, OAuth, microformats, etc
  • Experience with the SmugMug API a big plus.
If this sounds like your brand of magic, please contact us and let us know you’re our next Sorcerer.   If not, please tell your magic-working friends that the opportunity of a lifetime is right here… 🙂
 
Thanks!

UPDATE: This particular position has been filled, but we have plenty more open, especially for front-end JavaScript wizards. Contact us!

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