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Now is the time to build

October 30, 2008 12 comments
Big Cats

Big Cats by micalngelo

“Every startup CEO is at least thinking about the need to cut back right now” – Michael Arrington

“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffet

I’ll give you one guess as to which man I’m listening to. So no, not every startup CEO is cutting back. Apple spent their time innovating during the last downturn and look where it got them. I’m thrilled to have just passed out big, healthy profit-sharing bonuses to all of our employees this week for the 5th consecutive year. We think and hope they’ll be even bigger next year.

SmugMug was founded in the middle of the last “nuclear winter” in Silicon Valley. Everyone told us we were crazy, and we knew there was no chance at raising venture capital at a decent valuation, even with our impressive backgrounds. So we did what any good entrepreneur would do: We did it anyway, with both eyes firmly on our business model.

So if you’re running a startup, or thinking of creating one, take heart – downturns are a fabulous time to build and grow businesses. Focus on your revenues and your margins, not your growth rate or # of unique visitors. Find some stable income streams and a customer need. Listen to your customers and give them what they want – and what they’re willing to pay for. And take care of your employees – they’re your most valuable asset.

SmugMug is still hiring Sorcerers, Heroes, and all manner of other mythical beings capable of impossible feats. We filled our last position (quickly, I might add) with a *great* hire (and I’m still sorting through the avalanche of resumes we got to see if we can add a few more), but the job door is never closed at SmugMug for true superstars. Our philosophy is to not let anyone amazing get away, even if we don’t technically have an open position for you.

So if you can make magic and want to work for a company that takes crazy-good care of its employees, let us know.

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!

Come see Batman on IMAX with SmugMug!

July 17, 2008 27 comments
Batman: The Dark Knight

Apparently it’s the best superhero movie ever made, and must be seen on IMAX. And you’re invited! We’re taking our company, family, customers and friends to Batman: The Dark Knight in IMAX! If you read my blog, that means you’re a friend – and eligible for a free ticket out of our block!

WHERE: Regal Hacienda Crossings Stadium 21 & IMAX, 5000 Dublin Blvd., Dublin, CA 94568
WHEN: 12:50pm on Friday, July 18th. Look for people in red SmugMug hats. 🙂

If you’d like a ticket, post in the comments, email me, Tweet me, something – I’ll reply to confirm we have enough tickets for you. If you want to bring your SO, friend(s), or family, let us know – we’ll try to accomodate as best we can.

Please arrive by 12:20pm so we can get you your ticket in time. We’ll give away any that aren’t there by the time all the SmugMuggers take their seats.

SmugShot for iPhone – Shoot, geotag, and upload.

July 10, 2008 24 comments
SmugVault

Man, to say I’m excited about this would be a major understatement. We’re huge Apple fanboys over here, so when we got accepted to the first wave of SDK developers at Apple, we were stoked. Shizam went to town almost immediately and after a few months of hard work, SmugShot was born. (And as I’m writing this, we’re #1 in “What’s Hot” on both iTunes and the iPhone interface!)

So what is it? Well, we knew early on we wanted something very simple and elegant that did only one thing – but did it extremely well. We didn’t want a kitchen-sink photo-sharing / -browsing / -taking application. We already have a fantastic iPhone application on Safari, so the obvious thing to tackle first was actually taking the photos on your iPhone and getting them up to SmugMug.

SmugVault

SmugShot makes it incredibly simple to simply whip your phone out at a moment’s notice and take as many snapshots as you’d like. The photos will be automagically geotagged with your location, should you wish it, and you can quickly and easily enter a caption and some keywords – or not. Your call. We’ll queue them up and send them along to the SmugMug gallery of your choice – over EDGE, WiFi, or 3G.

And that’s basically it. Simple, elegant, clean – just the way we like it. If you’re new to SmugMug, you can create a free trial account right from SmugShot. You can set up a default Caption and some default Keywords to make entering them a breeze. And you can even upload photos that are already in your Photo Library, rather than from your camera (and you iPod Touch users can do this, too). One big Apple bug with that, though – the SDK only give us access to 640×480 versions of photos in your Library. I’m hoping they’ll fix that soon.

SmugVault

The really wild thing is how much I actually use the app. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to things like cameras and lenses, and lets face it – the iPhone’s lens can’t compare to some fabulous Canon glass. But as the app has spread throughout the office, everyone’s learned the same lesson I have: There’s an awful lot of value in convenience.

SmugShot is so shockingly convenient and easy to use, it trumps the limited image quality for almost all of my normal everyday shots.

So go grab it from iTunes, read more about it, or even get some answers. Definitely let us know if you like it and what we can improve on – we already have our own list but would love to hear yours!

Available on the iPhone App Store

Vote SmugMug at LifeHacker!

June 12, 2008 3 comments
SmugMug in LifeHacker's Best Photo Sharing Web Sites

I’m really honored that SmugMug made LifeHacker’s Five Best Photo Sharing Web Sites.

They have voting open to pick the best – go vote for your favorite!

SmugMug loves OAuth

June 11, 2008 10 comments
Caitlin Ann Parry

SmugMug’s API now supports OAuth! We actually rolled out support a few weeks ago, but our documentation has turned into such a mess, I delayed announcing it. Finally, though, I just couldn’t keep quiet – I’m so excited I just had to tell someone!

So I’m sorry the docs are all messed up – they’re in multiple locations and out of date. We’ve been working hard on re-writing them to make them easier to understand and more clear but we’re not quite done yet. David, though, has a great excuse for why we’re behind – you’re looking at her! His beautiful daughter, Caitlin Ann, was born at roughly the same time as our OAuth support shipped. He’s had his hands full. 🙂

So go read the new docs on OAuth, the old docs on the rest of the API, and the dgrin API forum so you can get cracking on your own OAuth services and apps. Hopefully lots of the 1200+ apps our awesome developers have already created will adopt it quickly.

For those who don’t know, OAuth is an open standard for secure authentication. It allows applications and services to authenticate to SmugMug and other OAuth-enabled APIs without needed to know or store the users’ sensitive login and password information. I imagine at some point OAuth might become the *only* way to authenticate to our API, so I’d at least start playing with it now.

Your photos are yours, not ours – long live open standards and data portability!

UPDATE: I should have noted that this is totally useable now, you don’t have to wait for the docs update. It’s just mildly painful to go between a few different locations to find all the documentation. This is on a new Beta API branch, 1.2.2, so you’ll need to use 1.2.2 endpoints.

I demand video to be awesome.

April 25, 2008 66 comments

 

Sam “Shizam” Nichols, creator of the video player, donning his SmugMug Hero persona. See it in HD.

The state of video codecs online has been a mess and there’s been no clear choice, making it very difficult to do awesome video sharing. Luckily, all of that changed when Adobe finally added H.264 support to Flash.

Thanks to Adobe, we finally have a video codec that we can get behind and that’ll be great for our customers. And so back in December, we released a major new update to our video offering that’s 100% based on H.264. And it supports resolutions all the way up to 1280x720p. That’s right – SmugMug has truly awesome hi-def video sharing.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that our Flash player is out (we used QuickTime for a few months while we polished up our player), so it’s easier than ever to embed on your blogs and share with your friends:

Here’s all the gory details:

  • Upload almost any video format you like. We’ll do our best to convert to H.264 in an extremely high quality way. (Thanks EC2!)
  • We’ll generate multiple sizes for you, so you’ll have a version that’s perfect for sharing on the web (YouTube size), perfect for using on your iPod/iPhone (DVD size), and even your Hi-Def TV in your living room.
  • We’ll automagically display just the right sized video for whichever browser and monitor you happen to be using. Ditto for your friends. Example from my friends in Dallas hard at work on Duke Nukem.
  • You can embed the videos in your blog, website, or wherever else you like online. And you can do so at DVD quality resolution – 640×480 – more than 4X the pixels and quality of YouTube.
  • You (and your friends and family, if you let them) can easily download all the different sized versions of your videos so you can do whatever else you’d like with them, like add them to YouTube or burn to a DVD.
  • H.264 means it’ll play on a huge, wide variety of computers and devices, not just SmugMug. iPods, AppleTV, Playstation 3, and the list goes on…
  • Speaking of Apple devices, we provide a complete podcast RSS feed for your account that you and your friends can subscribe to with a single click in iTunes. All your iPods, iPhones, and AppleTVs will then magically stay up-to-date. All your online videos in your pocket, and your living room, all the time. Neat, eh?
  • I’m thrilled we’re making good use of the OpenShareIcon project, too. Rather than use some trademark-encumbered, company-owned, non-open ShareIcon, we’ve chosen to use the real deal. Viva open web standards!
  • One gotcha: Flash takes 200% more CPU to play video on the Mac than QuickTime does, so in-gallery, Mac users will still see QuickTime. We can’t wait until that’s not true – but that’s up to Adobe, not us. 😦

So there you have it. I’ll probably post again soon with lots more detail about how great the integration is with Apple devices: iPod, iPhone, iTunes, and AppleTV. We love us some Apple over here at SmugMug. 🙂

Oh, and you can count on our video player to continue to rapidly evolve. This is definitely just a 1.0 product – it may have some warts and it’ll get even better over time.

So go wild – share your crystal clear video with the world!

Oh, and demand your video to be awesome (sorry about the quality – that’s the best I could find from Verizon. SmugMug *did not* make it all blocky and ugly):

Freetards ruining the web?

April 4, 2008 7 comments
New $20 bills - Proof that money does grow on trees. by Kirk Tanner

photo by: Kirk Tanner

Hardly.

Hank Williams over at Silicon Alley Insider has a guest post up about how VCs are ruining the online tech economy by fueling free services, wrecking it for small and/or premium services. Matthew Ingram has a response out that resonates much more closely with how I feel.

First of all, SmugMug is living proof that you can make it as a premium service. Second, I think you’d be hard pressed to name a market where there isn’t stratification. Cars, airlines, music players, shoes – you name it, there are premium brands and there are commodity brands. On the web, commodity = free. That’s just how the game is played.

There are a lot of reasons why it makes sense for us not to be free, but perhaps my favorite is: We’re forced to hone our business. If we do don’t do it right, we don’t eat. Doing it right becomes priority #1 rather than growth.

There are quite a few reasons I love that there are *lots* of free sites with deep pockets in our space, too:

  • Free training. Lots of our customers go chew up customer service dollars somewhere else first, learning the basics of how to upload, share, etc, before coming to us. By the time they get to us, they know the ropes and getting up to speed is easy.
  • They’ve seen how bad it is elsewhere. By comparison, our product looks amazing. The ‘Wow factor’ is huge.
  • Coattails marketing. We don’t have to spend a lot of money raising awareness of the photo sharing concept – other, bigger companies are doing it for us.
  • Keeps us on our toes. As if our customers weren’t enough to keep us nimble, big deep-pocketed competitors surround us on all sides. Try slowing down and we die.

There is one big nasty downside, though, that really gets me. Every time a free site dies (and they’re dropping like flies), some of those burned customers get gunshy. Sure, we pick up lots of refugees, but there are some people who just get turned off by all photo sharing sites. They lost their priceless photos, afterall. That sucks. 😦

With the market downturn, that last point really scares me. If we really do have another bubble burst in the web space (and I predict we will), free photo sharing sites are going to be devastated.

I just hope they don’t burn an entire generation.

UPDATE: I found our problem! We don’t have a FreeTardis! I’m gonna get one.

iPhone, SDK, SmugMug

April 2, 2008 19 comments
SmugMug on iPhone

Been getting lots of questions about the iPhone SDK in general, and a SmugMug app in specific. Unfortunately, I think we’re covered by all kinds of NDAs so I can’t say much, but here are some of my thoughts:

  • The iPhone SDK is a monster, huge, awesome thing. It once again leapfrogs Apple’s phone way way ahead of all of the competition. Just watch – the scope and breadth of the apps that’ll be available is going to take your breath away. And they can’t run anywhere else, because all the other phone companies have been ignoring us developers for years. They’re all scrambling around, now, though.
  • The iPhone Apps Store is a bigger deal even than the SDK. Yes, you heard me right. Currently all the buzz is coming from developers, but since I wear both developer and CEO hats, I can tell you the deployment and business side is at least as critical. Being able to easily and rapidly get software and updates to your customers is a nasty problem, and the fact that Apple’s solved it for all of us is a huge, huge win.
  • The combination of the two is where the real magic happens, obviously. I can’t imagine anyone else doing something quite as integrated anytime soon.
  • We are building a SmugMug app. It’s already in the works. Of course, it’ll be free. And of course, it’ll be awesome. I don’t think we can say anything else, though.
  • No, this doesn’t mean the end of our iPhone interface for on-phone Safari web browsing. We’ll keep developing it, and we’ll keep integrating your feature suggestions.

If you have any suggestions as to what you’d like to see in a SmugMug native iPhone app, here’s your chance. Leave me a comment. 🙂

Categories: iphone, smugmug Tags: , , , ,

SmugBunker on LifeHacker! Vote!

March 20, 2008 1 comment
SmugBunker

At SmugMug, we give every employee a healthy office decoration budget – and we only hire expressive people. So we’ve got a Tiki shack, and some sort of a treefort, and all sorts of other stuff going on.

Two of our employees decided to create the SmugBunker (above) complete with grenades and cammo netting – and it’s up for an award from LifeHacker!

We need your help though – go vote for ‘Cubes of War’ (aka the SmugBunker) is the best! Vote!

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