Monthly Archives: August 2013

My friend John

One of the first things I did after moving to Olympia from Arizona was to look around for a local camera club of meetup group.  I actually found, and joined one of each, I even wrote a blog post about it some time ago.  The great thing about these local clubs and meetup groups is that you get the chance to meet local people who share the same passion as you.  Online communities and friendships are great, but they are no substitute for the interaction you get from meeting people in real life.  I give you as an example my friend John Gerecht, who I snapped a candid shot of during the recent Tango By The Fountain.

Not only do I really enjoy hanging out and talking photography with John, I am a huge fan of his work.  He is one of the best studio / portrait photographers who you have probably never heard of, but should have.  Hint, follow the link above to see some of his work over on Flickr.

This post is also something a little new for me.  I have been threatening to move everything over to a 100% self hosted solution for a long time and with the recent issues I have been having with SmugMug I have decided to move a little closer to that goal.  While I am not sure that I will move to a 100% self hosted system and leave the online hosting entirely, I do need to have some sort of a backup and this post represents that.  This image is hosted on a NextGen 2.0 gallery here on the same site as the blog.  I still have a lot of tweaking to do with the NextGen galleries, but I like the direction this is taking me.

Posted in Photography

Why I regret migrating to the new SmugMug

 

screen shot 2013-08-01 at 11.12.38 am.jpg

Tango in the fountain

It’s no secret that I have been a customer, and a fan, of SmugMug for a long time.  I have always found their service to fit my needs perfectly and the power that I had available to me from their hosting service could handle pretty much anything I could throw at it.  After SmugMug raised their prices last year, and handled that very poorly in my opinion, they promised that there would be upgrades coming out that would make those that stuck around very happy.  This week the released the “new SmugMug” during a live webcast in front of what I assume to be a select group of customers and press.  They did some demos of the new system and I must admit, I was very impressed with the new look and the tools available to customize my site.  I migrated my account over just as fast as the system would allow me to, and this sort of leads to why I am now really regretting that move.

During the webcast it was announced that the migration would create a virtual sandbox to play with the new features in and that it would not affect your live site until you committed to the changes.  They also said, as did the migrate screen on my account, that the migration and creation of the virtual sandbox should only take a couple minutes, mine took hours, apparently there were a lot more people trying to do this all at once than they had the computer power on the backend to handle.  This wasn’t that big of a deal for me though, I was used to iOS updates in the early days of owning an iPhone, the only bad thing was seeing all of my friends on Google + talking about how great their new sites looked, I was anxious to see mine.

After a few hours I got an email that my site had finished migrating and that the virtual sandbox was ready for me to play in.  I jumped right in and can say that I was more than a little impressed with what I could do with how my images were being displayed.  After only 15 to 20 minutes I had a layout that I really liked, talk about easy, and on top of all that there was a new organizer tool that allowed me to re-organize my galleries in a way that I had always wanted, just couldn’t actually do due to the limitations of the old SmugMug.  I was excited to show things off to the rest of the world and I clicked the publish button.  This is when things started to go a little sideways for me.

The first thing I noticed when visiting my brand new live site was that a good number of my images were not actually there but were displaying the little broken image icon, a bit frustrating but completely understandable given how much work I figured the SmugMug servers were doing migrating so many accounts over.  This continued for about 24 hours but seems to have finally corrected itself and things seems to be displaying as it should, I guess I will know for sure when I upload new images to my galleries, but that leads me to my biggest issue, and one that has my regretting being an early adopter.

After I migrated my site, re-organized my galleries and published my new site, I had some new images that I wanted to upload, these were a combination of images for upcoming blog posts as well as a couple images I owed a client.  Since I had re-organized my galleries on the SmugMug site thought it would be a good idea to sync my Lightroom published collections with my SmugMug account.  This should be a simple 1 click function from within Lightroom and when I clicked that button, all of my published collections simply vanished.  Before I go any further, the images are still on SmugMug, they just no longer show up in the publish section of Lightroom, not only that but the list of galleries has also vanished.  I immediately sent an email to the support heroes at SmugMug and waited, and waited and then waited some more.  Sometime in the middle of the night I got a response from what I can only assume is a very overworked support person at SmugMug telling me that I needed to update my publish plugin as there was a new one that was compatible with the new SmugMug.  It might have been nice to have even a brief mention of that in either the product announcement or ANYWHERE on the migration blog post.

I downloaded that new plugin, installed it and tried to sync again, NOTHING.  I replied back to the support hero and then waited and waited and waited again.  At this point I got a response to try yet another version of the plugin, my second since this started, and had the exact same issue, NOTHING happened.  In an act of desperation I reached out to my online community on Twitter and Google + to see if anyone else was having issues with their publish plugin.  I did get a number of responses from people who work at SmugMug to make sure I had the latest publish plugin and that the latest plugin was definitely fix my problem, not exactly encouraged at this point.

As of this morning I have installed a 3rd version of the publish plugin and enabled debug logging to send to the support heroes.  I have done that and now I wait again.

As great as I think my site looks now, I truly do regret jumping on the bandwagon as early as I did.  I rely on my SmugMug account a great deal and simply can’t afford to have things like this happen.  I also understand that things can happen when you release a major new version of a software tool, I manage a support team for a software company for my day job, I get it, but I also question if this release was handled the way it should, perhaps a little more information about little things like plugins, perhaps a more staggered rollout, I don’t mind waiting a bit, I have been waiting for a couple days now anyway but at least I would still have the functionality that I have come to depend upon from SmugMug.

Don’t get me wrong, I love SmugMug, always have, but I do think that they have handled some things recently pretty poorly.  It seems that their support staff is overworked, which isn’t always a bad thing, but when you advertise your support team as heroes you really need to do better than 8 to 12 hours between replies.  At the end of the day though I should have waited for the “dust to settle” and migrated my account after the mad rush hit.  Lesson learned.

UPDATE:  As of Friday Aug. 2nd, I have finally gotten everything back up and running.  It took another new version of the publish plugin, my 4th through this ordeal, but I can now get back to my normal workflow.  I honestly believe that SmugMug is a good product, but I also wish that they would take another look at how they handle things like this.

UPDATE #2:  While my Lightroom plugin is working as it should, and possibly not related to the launch of the new SmugMug, the embeddable links generated from SmugMug are no longer readable by WordPress.  I have emailed the support team at SmugMug and hope to hear back from them soon.

Posted in Photography