Adobe Issues Apology, Update

(news & commentary)

Product Manager Tom Hogarty posted an apology for the recent Lightroom 6.2 release coincident with a bug release update to fix one of the crash bugs that was found in 6.2. Sad to say, 6.2.1 doesn’t seem to fix all the problems some users have encountered. 

Part of the problem—not acknowledged by Hogarty—is Adobe’s continued attempts to align releases with major conferences or presentations. In this case, Adobe Max. Putting arbitrary time deadlines on shipping software means you’ll always ship with known problems that haven’t been fixed yet. In essence, you put an arbitrary cap on the beta test time frame, regardless of what testers find.

But it isn’t the crash problems that seem to have attracted the most ire of Lightroom users. No, it’s the changes to the import process.

First, let me say that I agree with Tom on one thing: the import process of Lightroom has been problematic for some time. It’s the topic that I find that students and site readers keep asking me about, as there’s a fair amount of confusion in the way Lightroom has done imports. 

That said, to me the problems were in the design of the import process UI, not in what it did or the feature set. In most of Lightroom, selected images are highlighted. Not in the import dialog, where selected images are dimmed. That’s just one of about a dozen very bad choices that Adobe made in creating the import process, all of which made the “import experience in Lightroom daunting.” (Those are Tom’s words, not mine ;~). 

With version 6.2 Adobe made two responses to deal with that “dauntingness,” neither of which were correct, IMHO. First, they relied on in-product analytics—you know, that “send info to Adobe" thing you opted out of when you installed the program—to determine what people were using, and removed things that were low in usage. Bad data in, bad decision out. Moreover, removing anything from a product is simply going to piss off all those using that feature, and regardless of what percentage that is, on a product as popular as Lightroom it will be a big enough number to cause blowback. Which you can see in spades in the comments responding to Tom’s apology. 

Second, hiding features so that they don’t distract new users is probably not the right thing to do when your product is at version 6.2. It’s what you should have done at version 1.0, and then you should have made discovery of hidden features easier over time. 

Finally, here’s the hidden reason driving everything that’s going on at Adobe: they need (and think they’ll get) more users. Last week Adobe presented their latest financial strategies at a meeting of financial analysts. Adobe spent a lot of time outlining their growth and income targets (20% compound annual growth through 2018), then gave fiscal 2016 forecasts that were below what most analysts at the meeting were predicting ;~). Still, to grow at the rate Adobe is forecasting, they need many more customers, period. That means that they have to make successful products such as Lightroom reach out to even more customers. Ones that might be put off by a “daunting” import process.  

As I noted above, I’ve believed that the import aspects of Lightroom have been a weakness all along. Most pros I know that value their time use Photo Mechanic, despite PM’s growing complexity. Removal of features from Lightroom’s import will just make more photographers look at alternatives such as Photo Mechanic. [Disclosure: I’ve always used Photo Mechanic as my import mechanism; I only use Lightroom as an output program. In other words, my images don’t start in Lightroom, they end up in Lightroom.] 

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