November 13, 2011
“Endurance is patience concentrated” -Thomas Carlyle
We’ve received another glowing 1-star review today on the App Store. While we typically don’t comment either way on reviews, press, or the like, I wanted to share some of the insights and perspective from the developers. We don’t do this to complain, but rather to continue to be open with our process. (But there’s probably still some ranting within, so fair warning…)
We’ve stated a couple times in various places that this is not our full time jobs. We have been working on Photosmith because we feel that the iPad community needs a great photo management app. While we’re amateur photographers ourselves, we feel that we can best contribute to the photography world by using our programming experience. And so we’ve given up a year of nights and weekends to try to make that happen. We both have families with two kids under 5, and any extra time we have outside of work is that much more valuable to us both.
We’ve gotten several 1-star reviews and poor comments in the press world about how the app doesn’t sync both ways or doesn’t allow multi-image tagging, and how months have passed without those being added. Yes, we’re painfully aware of this. We’ve been working non-stop on redesigning the app and re-writing the sync protocols to accommodate this. Unfortunately, we also are juggling other things, such as support emails, iOS changes, bugs, and so forth. In addition to the typical 9-5 grid, we both also typically work 8pm-2am every night and a full day on the weekends on Photosmith. There’s only so much time for everything. Again, I don’t say this for any other reason other than to let our readers know where we are and “what’s taking so long!”
Heck, if Apple would stop breaking things with their iOS changes, (fun fact: SIX of the SEVEN iOS 5 beta releases broke the photo import process again requiring yet another rewrite on our part) we would have been miles ahead by now. We’ve calculated that almost a third of the entire app’s development has been spent dealing with inconsistencies, bugs, changes, and downright poor design in the iOS photo libraries. One third. That’s four months of development time – just to read out the photos quickly and efficiently. Photos are obviously not a primary focus of Apple, and yet, if we want to deliver the best product we can, then we’re forced to work within their walls.
We’ve gotten several nasty-grams from people saying “I don’t understand what’s so hard about multi-image tagging.” Sure- logically, it’s pretty straightforward. However, I challenge anyone reading this to sit down and really think through how you’d go about designing the interface. It’s not trivial, and we went through many, many iterations before finally nailing things down. We could have quickly delivered something that sorta works, or we could take our time and deliver something that really works well and is intuitive. Our goal is the latter, and if it takes an extra month for that, then we’re willing to put that time in – we want to see the product succeed.
As for the two-way sync: The Sync process been taken completely apart and re-written so that it’s much more robust (ie- syncing 15,000+ keywords or 5000+ image collections) and many more options (metadata presets, develop presets, etc), plus the new functionality for two-way sync and initiating sync from the iPad. In fact, here’s a teaser screenshot from my own development Lightroom – you can see that we’ve moved to a Publish Service platform, so that we’re better integrated into Lightroom:
Alternatively, for those who don’t want to use Publish Services, there will be a standard Export option, for blindly sending directly to Photosmith:
And all this works. Mostly. There are about 35 options, about 300 different combinations of options, about 15,000 lines of plugin code, and one sync developer. Sync is a notoriously difficult problem (with any product); it simply takes time to get right.
We’d love for this app to become successful enough to do this full time. However, we’re in no danger of that right now – the product needs to mature some more. The more time we can put into it, the better product that we can turn out; it’s a simple equation. The 1-star ratings are unfortunate- we understand user’s frustrations (despite the list of limitations in the app store description), but they only serve to slow current sales, which lowers the resources that we have to hire graphics designer, tech support, and so forth. I’m not sure what the best answer is, and to date, we’ve just been “staying the course”, and working on version 2.0 as fast as possible; I’m not sure what else we can do.
I’d be interested to hear any comments from our readers, and if there are better avenues for us to communicate the process.