May 29, 2008

Good intentions gone awry

Note to self: "Blog first & ask questions later" is a really bad approach.

 

On Saturday I posted a blog entry in which I tried to clarify some details of what we’ve been developing in Photoshop.  Unfortunately, looking back, it’s clear I did a poor job of communicating what I intended.  In particular I regret the way I went about pointing out some errors I’d seen in stories.

 

Let me give you a little context about how things unfolded.  A few weeks ago I demonstrated some "potential future Photoshop technology" (more on what that means in a minute) during Adobe’s meeting with financial analysts.  Some folks at NVIDIA saw that demo and asked whether we’d mind repeating it at a press gathering they’d scheduled for last Thursday.  We said sure, and I got busy testing everything on a system they supplied.

 

On Friday I saw Theo Valich’s story on TG Daily covering the demo.  One detail jumped out at me: "The package is expected to be released on October 1."  As anyone who’s dealt with Adobe will tell you, we very rarely share details about when most products are expected to ship.  In fact, during my demo I’d noted a number of times that I was just showing some possible future technology, not announcing a new version, timing, etc.

 

Throughout the next day and a half, I kept getting Google Alerts linking to articles that repeated and amplified the news, occasionally misstating various details.  I started getting mail from colleagues to the effect of, "You said what??"

 

At that point, watching the story morph and replicate, I decided to try to nip things in the bud by sharing some clarifications.  Given that we were in the middle of a long holiday weekend, I opted to act quickly–too quickly.  I ended up overreacting, and whereas I should have dropped a line to at least some of the various media outlets, I called them out here.  The irony is that I was complaining about people blogging too quickly without checking all their facts, and in the process I was blogging too quickly without checking my facts!

 

On Sunday I got a quick & courteous note from Jonathan Fingas of Electronista thanking me for the clarifications & noting that they’d updated their story.  Similarly I heard from staff at Gizmodo & TG Daily noting that they’d made updates.  I greatly appreciate that, and in the future I’ll find a much better way of pointing out needed changes.

 

As for the content of my post, I know there’s been some lingering confusion, so let me try to clarify a few points for the record:

 

  • I didn’t say whether the next version of Photoshop would or would not be called CS4.  Instead, I was simply trying to point out that what I was showing was a technology demonstration that was independent of a particular version.
  • Similarly, I didn’t say that GPU-enabled features would or would not ship in the next version of Photoshop.  Think, "I can neither confirm nor deny…"  When developing any product, details are always subject to change, and it’s always possible that some unforeseen roadblock will appear.  That’s why we try so hard to wrap a lot of caution tape around any future-looking statements: we’re excited to be showing you some of what we’re building, and we hope you are, too, but we want to manage expectations & not over-promise anything. Make sense?
  • Lastly, I didn’t say that the next version Photoshop would or would not ship on a particular date.  My (badly made) point was that nothing had been announced, so the fact that a date of "October 1" kept getting repeated should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt.

 

In short, I just meant to say that we weren’t promising any particular features at any particular time–nothing more, nothing less.  Hopefully needless to say, we’ll work as hard as we can to bring you the good stuff sooner rather than later.

Posted by John Nack at 7:38 PM on May 29, 2008

Comments

  • Phil Brown — 7:59 PM on May 29, 2008

    Kudos to you for the post and kudos to those who posted corrections.
    I do see some fundamental differences, though. You were posting after the event, essentially trying to minimise the potential damage of their mistakes. It’s all very well to say, “Hey, John, why didn’t you call…” but that’s a little sloppy when they clearly didn’t bother to check facts and call first when there was less pressure to deal with the matter because it wasn’t yet posted.
    Meh, I’m sure that comes across as being fanboy or something, but I’ve long been annoyed by sloppy journalism. That you may have reacted too quickly to their mistakes doesn’t change the fact that they made mistakes. But, again, nice that they updated – that at least shows a good degree of professionalism which should be applauded and encouraged.
    I still feel this is most easily avoided by journalists just being clear about when they are speculating and presenting their reasons.

  • Bruce McL — 8:57 PM on May 29, 2008

    Oh sure, take the straightforward, open, and honest approach and try to clear everything up in a professional manner. I guess that’s one way to go.
    But you are missing out on a great opportunity here. You could easily counterbalance the misconceptions by creating more misconceptions in a different direction.
    In your next presentation, you could causally mention that the next version will only run on touch sensitive screens, and it will be called the “finger suite.” That will keep people talking!

  • Ben Hansen — 9:03 PM on May 29, 2008

    well i for one never mistook any of your actions here on this feed. you were generous by sharing all the info you could with us but also responsible by trying to quash rumors.
    Anyone who has been around the technology world for any time at all should realize the difference between rumors and officially announced information. confusing the two is rarely beneficial to anyone.

  • Roger — 9:20 PM on May 29, 2008

    Jack,
    I posted a long speculative blog entry about the next two versions of Photoshop today (http://www.campphotoshop.com/Photoshop-CS4-is-everywhere). My speculation is based on information from your blog and other Adobe backed sources. I don’t pretend to be a journalist. I’m an Adobe Photoshop Certified Expert and hard core fan. All my blog entries are things I’m interested in…like say the next two versions of Photoshop. The interesting thing to me was after reading your entry here today I don’t want to change any of my speculation. Basically there will be a new version of Photoshop and then another one after that and so on. Most likely those new versions will be better, faster and stronger!
    So to my point, the things you post here are interesting and part of the Adobe flow. I don’t think you pretend to be directing what happens at Adobe. I think what you do here is a reflection of the flow at Adobe. Please keep it up and the apologies to a minimum.

  • John Dowdell — 10:08 PM on May 29, 2008

    “When developing any product, details are always subject to change, and it’s always possible that some unforeseen roadblock will appear.”
    That’s a good reminder, thanks. Target schedules get locked down as we get closer. A specific date so far in advance wouldn’t be practical.
    But reporters and bloggers still have a responsibility to investigate and check reports before earning ad revenue on them. This week we’re taking damage from over-coverage of a security report which Symantec has since disavowed. There need to be sound checks and balances on storytelling.
    jd/adobe

  • Aaron Spence — 10:27 PM on May 29, 2008

    I thought your first blog post on this topic was direct, to the point & made perfect sense.
    I don’t think you should have to waste your time chasing around getting ‘journalists’ to do their job properly by contacting them one by one to say they’ve made mistakes, or printed mistakes made by others.
    Aaron Spence.

  • Karl Heinz Kremer — 4:23 AM on May 30, 2008

    I don’t think you posted without checking your facts – or too fast. The three points you made were exactly what I took from your first post about this issue. Maybe I’ve been dealing with Adobe for too long (if there is such a thing :) and I just know what you guys say and what you don’t want to or cannot say from experience. So, keep up your fast posting…
    Karl Heinz

  • Emanuele Cipolloni — 4:55 AM on May 30, 2008

    I should say that I miss the days when Macromedia was developing secretively any of their packages, getting on the beta programs was more problematic than been recruited by the CIA and just publicly mentioning you saw something called “Flash 5″ could have you dumped immediately. With Adobe the things changed completely: what is the point of announcing you’re doing something that maybe/maybe not available next year when clearly many people are still pondering to buy the current version (nobody heard of the Osborne effect?). Also, focus seems to be more on getting boxes shifted rather than products effectively completed, it is very hard to believe that all elements of the Creative Suite goes under annual revision and get updated at the same time. For example certain element of CS3, like DreamWeaver were not ready/upgraded but they have been included anyway even if, admittedly, there was no significant added value compared to previous version. Going back to misinformation spread, today, every man and his dog that has at least one Adobe product feels the need to let the world know and they blog even if they shouldn’t; most of the times it is something they just pick from the Feeds at Adobe itself and post it. Just look at the Feeds, at least 40 messages that says the very same thing, sometimes with the same mistakes, it is important to appear to have something to say rather than saying something meaningful. Let’s take the example of Flash 10: Tinic Uro has an excellent blog that describes clearly what it is in and what it is not, he said immediately that Flash 10 is not accelerated by the GPU by the default and that actually most of the content will run slower, adding that the new filter engine is entirely written in software and not GPU accelerated, still this morning somebody managed to say that Flash 10 support Hydra filters (only a subset actually) and that uses the GPU to render them. Technical details, somebody would say, but that how misinformation gets spread, from the loving ones actually.

  • EMComments — 5:57 AM on May 30, 2008

    So, what you really mean is that CS4 (out in October) will include enhancements to utilise GPU features to speed up all features. Now I get it!
    John, there’s a phrase in British politics that may apply: “When in a hole stop digging!” I’m waitinf for the post about the redacted post about the corrections …

  • Kevin Stohlmeyer — 6:14 AM on May 30, 2008

    Hey John,
    I think your original response and now the follow up, were both appropriate and concise. It really stinks when people take liberties and put words in your mouth after you take great lengths to insure that you have precautions to not be misleading or leak certain information in regards to the “next” version. After watching you at the Summit, I think you handled the situation here very appropriately! Blog on!

  • Steph Boudreau — 6:26 AM on May 30, 2008

    Hey John,
    I must admit that I found some of your ‘quick’ responses to the misleading stories a little out of character, but I too would have reacted in such a manner as your original post and demo were clear and mentioned nothing of what was later mangled into news by journalists.
    Keep posting, some of us actually read the articles rather than distort.

  • Dan Glick — 7:32 AM on May 30, 2008

    John
    Saw your previous blog in much the same way I see some people hounded by the paparazzi – you finally reached a breaking point and lashed out. If they would have been more respectful and worked like the journalists they claim to be this would not have happened. Looking forward to the new Creative Suite CS4 Premium with enhanced graphic card support being released on October 1 BTW … :)

  • Mel Lammers — 7:43 AM on May 30, 2008

    I notice you got comments from bloggers and colleagues, but it seems not “pure” end users. By now, most of us know to wait for official release statements. It is nice to get some information rather than none though.
    I don’t think you screwed up, just the news folks and bloggers, rushing to get into print first.
    Mel

  • Ben Hansen — 9:03 AM on May 30, 2008

    Mel Lammers — 07:43 AM on May 30, 2008
    I notice you got comments from bloggers and colleagues, but it seems not “pure” end users. By now, most of us know to wait for official release statements. It is nice to get some information rather than none though.
    I don’t think you screwed up, just the news folks and bloggers, rushing to get into print first.
    Mel
    Not sure what all of that means exactly but this one of only two blogs that i subscribe to and its simply because ive met john in person before and found him to be knowledgeable and friendly and im that much of a photoshop nut (been using it since 1988, yes thats 1.07 beta).
    so im not sure how much more “pure end user” you can get then me and i definitely dont consider my self a blogger either.

  • Hanford — 10:53 AM on May 30, 2008

    So it’s going to ship sometime AFTER October 1st? Thanks for clarifying.
    Just giving you sh!t John ;)
    (no this is not a serious post)

  • miffy — 2:04 PM on May 30, 2008

    hooray for vindication!

  • Alessandro Rosa — 9:22 PM on May 30, 2008

    Two things.
    First, I hope that you didn’t get into too much hot water over this. I know how these things can be perceived and even well intentioned messages can land people in trouble with their superiors in this day and age.
    Second, and hopefully to clarify for some why this has seemingly been made a big deal is that Adobe is a publically traded company that needs to abide by the rules and regulations of securities legislation. Statements by John that are found to be inaccurate, whether intentional or not, could be viewed by the SEC as inappropriate and could cause problems for both John and the Adobe.
    The price of the stock is theoretically the Future Value of its cashflows. So that value can be effected and or manipulated based on a statement like CS4 would be shipping in October. Financial Analysts would actually quantify this information to forecast revenue streams which would in turn effect the earnings outlook of Adobe and inevitably cause a fluctation in the Adobe stock price. Whether or not John was right in what his intentions were doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be problematic or in violation of securities rules.

  • mike — 2:05 AM on June 01, 2008

    Hey John, it’s the spontaneity and originality of this blog that keeps it real and makes it the best around.
    Just keep on having the grace to apologize whenever you screw up (or when the Adobe PR dept. point a gun at you…) and things will be fine.
    This has to be the one of the few blogs which doesn’t just copy and paste from other blogs – so without you, we’d be sunk ! :o)

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