Tuesday, September 28

Why Adobe is the best AND the worst company, ever!

Let’s get one thing straight, Adobe makes great programs. I use Adobe Audition for my audio editing work, I have photographer friends who swear by Photoshop and Lightroom, and I know a few video editors who will tell you that if you HAVE to use a Windows PC for video editing, you’re crazy and you should be using Adobe Premiere to make the best of an awful situation.

Flash, despite the fact that Apple doesn’t like it, has turned the web into an interactive, multimedia environment rippling with video and music. Hideous menus and web site designs also, but that’s not Adobe’s fault.

So why do I say they are the worst company ever? Because - brace yourselves - they are EVEN more draconian in their customer policies than Apple. They know their software is great, they know people will pay breathtaking prices for it, and they know they can make us hop on one foot while barking like a dog to register it, and we WILL. That sort of power must be intoxicating. After all, it makes both Adobe and Apple behave like Cold War-era dictators towards their customers, so it must.

Let me give you two examples. First, Adobe Audition. I have a desktop and a laptop. I do audio editing on both, but never at the same time. If I’m in the office, I use the desktop with its faster processor, bigger screen, and more comfortable keyboard. I use the laptop when I’m on the road. I would like to install my copy of Audition on both computers. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? It still seems like a single license, no? Well, no. Not to Adobe it doesn’t. Oh, I can install Audition on both computers, but in order to use it on the laptop, I have to deactivate it on the desktop, then activate it on the laptop. If I forget to run the deactivation before leaving the office, I have officially screwed the pooch.

Even Microsoft permits me to install Office 2010 Home and Business Edition on one desktop and one laptop under a single license. Dear Adobe, when your policies make Microsoft look good, you should be worried.

Next, we have the curious case of Student and Teacher Editions. I have a part time job working for the church I’ve attended for the past 25 years, editing the pastor’s sermons into a weekly radio show. (You’ll find that, aside from Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, most of us who work in radio have more than one job. Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to talk into microphones?) Because of my 30+ years working in IT support, I also help with the office computers.

The church has a school. The school has an art teacher. The art teacher wants to use Photoshop and Premiere for art projects. So we set up a “media computer” and set out to order software. The Photoshop and Premiere bundle is called “Creative Suite 5 Production Premium.” At Amazon.com, it sells for $1,675.20. Or, $429.99 for the Student and Teacher version. I’ll give you three guesses which edition we ordered, and the first two don’t count.

The product arrives, and with it is a notice explaining that before we can get a serial number for installation, we have to submit documentation that we are in fact a school. No problem, I think. After all, we ARE a school. I punch in the URL for the web site and it tells me to submit a scan of the teacher’s photo ID. If the teacher’s ID does not feature a photo, I’m told to submit a scan of the ID plus a scan of a letter from the school’s registrar saying that the teacher in question is the art teacher and will be using this software.

Let’s pause here for a moment and consider that. What difference does the picture make? Will Adobe only license its software to our art teacher if she’s hot? She’s a perfectly lovely person, but she’s a married art teacher at a Christian school. She’s not posing for your calendar, Adobe! But, I digress.

We scan her teacher’s ID, we scan a letter from the registrar on school letterhead, and I submit both documents. As I did so, I was encouraged to find that our school was listed on the drop-down menu of schools that came up when I entered our city. The service Adobe was using for this verification had at least heard of us. After a couple of days, I receive an email saying further documentation is required.

They want a scan of her driver’s license, because that has a photo on it.

(Insert scream of frustration, here.)

Why? WHY? Give me one single reason why you need a picture of our art teacher, before you can decide that she’s actually our art teacher. Do art teachers all have a certain look to them? Are you checking faces against a terrorist watch list, so bad people can’t use Photoshop to make illustrated bomb plans? What could possibly be of value in seeing a photo ID for a teacher from a school that you recognize to be a school in the community entered?

Okay, here’s the part where we have to rewind back to the beginning of this post and realize that Adobe wants to watch me hop on one foot and bark like a dog. Since Photoshop and Premiere are the best programs of their kind, and because we can’t install them without complying with this ridiculous request or paying $1,200 more for the regular retail version, I swallow my pride and my rage, and I hop while barking.

I emailed the school, saying that Jenny had to scan her driver’s license for me, also.

But I still hate you for it, Adobe. I hate you because your software is so good that you can treat me like a terrorist criminal pile of dog poop, and I’ll roll on my back and show you my belly.

Two thoughts occur to me in conclusion. One, there better never come a time when Adobe wants something from ME, or they’d better be prepared for a week of hopping and barking.

Two, I know for a fact that I am not the only one who hates how Adobe treats its customers like they were criminals, so the world is wide open for someone to be successful if they make products that are just as good (that right there is key, because there are competitors, but no one that is “as good”) and doesn’t treat its customers this badly.

Wednesday, September 1

Pro-tip: Facebook IS an Internet service, not your own personal playground.

The Associated Press carried this story about a juror who updated her Facebook status, before the trial was over, to say they (the jury) were going to enjoy finding the defendant guilty. The defense attorney discovered what the juror had posted, and things got ugly from there.

First off, let me explain to you how I think the defense attorney found out what the juror had posted. There’s this nifty little free service from Google called Alerts. This gem lets you turn Google into your own research department. You just tell Google what you want to search for and how often to look, and Google emails you with whatever it finds. Because Google is constantly indexing the Internet, Alerts is a fantastic way of making certain you know the minute something is said about you or something you have an interest in. Like, I don’t know, maybe a trial you were working on?

Disclaimer: I have no idea whether the defense attorney used Google Alerts or not. But if I were a defense attorney, I would sure as heck put in search terms about my case, including the names of jurors. Why not? It only takes a minute to scan the emails Google sends you, and you don’t have to remember to search for things manually.

“But, how did Google pick up on the juror’s Facebook status?” you ask. Ah! Good question. Facebook’s “Recommended” privacy setting is for your status, photos, and posts to be public. (Also your bio and favorite quotations, and your family and relationships.) It’s easy enough, of course, to change this. But a lot of people don’t. In fact, Facebook would prefer that you didn’t. To be fair, they would say this is to make using the service “more social,” and that’s true. But I don’t care to share what I’m doing, or pictures of my kids, with “society.” If I’ve requested to be your Facebook friend, or I’ve accepted your request to be mine, it’s because I actually do know you. And every time I accept a request, I ask myself “would I care if this person knew the kinds of things I put on my Facebook page?” (I click Ignore, often.)

All that being said, I think there is a bigger issue here. People who use Facebook and Twitter regularly become comfortable with them. When you post status updates or tweets and your friends comment or reply, it gives you that warm, fuzzy, “connected” feeling. As it should. That’s what social networks were designed to do – give people a feeling of being connected with their friends, even though you might be separated by thousands of miles. However, the insidious nature of feeling comfortable makes you feel like it’s just you and your friends. You begin sharing things you shouldn’t (something the blogosphere has begun to call “over-sharing”), and you forget that anyone else using the Internet is, in effect, reading over your shoulder.

I have a friend at the Advanced Media Network, where I work on the Into Tomorrow show, who lives his life on social networks (hi, Rob!). He blogs, he facebooks, he tweets, he checks in on foursquare, and if something’s happening where he is – there are pictures of it, with video to follow. That’s not wrong, because that’s how he’s chosen to live his life. He knows you’re all watching, and he wants you to. That’s the whole point of posting. He doesn’t have to remember that social networks are public, because he’s counting on it.

It’s the rest of us (or maybe you?) who need to remind ourselves. Check your privacy settings on Facebook. Remember that Twitter is just ALWAYS public. Even text messages won’t STAY private, if you get yourself in any real trouble. Just ask Tiger Woods.

And remember – Google is always watching.