How I learned to stop worrying and love Adobe

You may have seen some of the comments on my previous post, the first report from MAX this year. At first I was surprised and upset by Mike Chambers’ and Lee Brimelow’s reactions, but I wanted to take the time to reflect on this and gain some perspective on their point of view. It can sometimes be too easy to submit an emotional response, and I really didn’t feel like that’d help anyone!

Now I think about it I really can see why my post caused such a reaction. I was curt in my brevity and it was negative. My opinion hasn’t really changed but I do feel like I did myself a disservice by the tone of my writing. More than that, I’m quite horrified at how negative my post sounds now I’ve re-read it. There were indeed many things about MAX that I did like and I hope to go into some of these in later posts.

But right now I’d like to explore my personal relationship with Adobe, and try to figure out if there’s a way I can work more closely to become a more useful collaborator in future.

I must admit, our relationship has a somewhat chequered past. Some of our tiffs have occurred in public and others I have chosen not to talk about, in an increasingly rare display of discretion 🙂

The truth is that I often find it very hard to tally my position as a “community leader” and open source contributor with the fact that Adobe is, after all, a multi-million dollar corporation. It’s a essentially a symbiotic relationship, but it’s when Adobe makes bad business decisions that adversely affect the community that I feel compelled to speak out.

But trust me, I really do not enjoy being the voice of dissent. In fact I find it incredibly stressful. Anyone who knows me will realise I’m generally a positive person, and I’m passionate about digital creativity. I evangelise the Flash Platform at conferences and events all around the world.

I also find it very difficult to distinguish between the anonymous corporation and the many talented passionate people behind the scenes. So sometimes its just too easy to be dismissive without realising that there are real genuinely caring people that are behind the work upon which you are passing judgement.

I felt heartened when Lee described us as “friends who sometimes disagree” and that made me realise that he cares enough about what I say to correct me when I’m wrong and argue the other point of view when I state an opinion.

It’s also become somewhat of a surprise to me that people seem to listen to what I say; I now realise that I have a responsibility to explain myself clearly and accurately, stating my position with respect to the many individuals who have invested their time and effort to build the products that make Adobe what it is.

So! It is with a renewed sense of enthusiasm that I reach out to Mike and Lee, both of whom I respect massively, and ask that we communicate more efficiently with one another. We are friends (at least I consider us so) with many shared qualities and passions. Sadly though, we’ve rarely had the chance to chat for more than 5 minutes here and there, or the odd twitter message. I’d love to get to know you both better and to share the things that drive me and hopefully you’ll see that I’m more than my random mildly sarcastic tweets.

Don’t get me wrong though. I will tell you honestly what I think. Sometimes it will be good, and sometimes not so good. But I promise to do it more constructively. And I’ll also take the time to talk about what I love.

So it’s with this in mind that I will add some further explanation to my previous MAX post.

Group hug? 😉

29 replies on “How I learned to stop worrying and love Adobe”

Seb I don’t get why you’re being so apologetic?

You stated your opinion on what you thought of MAX and Flash on the iPhone in it’s current state. You thought it sucked. End of story.

When Mike corrected you on a factual error, you responded and made the necessary changes but overall your opinion was that you were unimpressed.

Regardless of whether Mike or Lee call you out on it, I just feel like you should stick to your guns.

You are a community leader, but i would expect a community leader not to fold at the first sign of dissent and write a flow-y apology to the community with promises to do better. You don’t need to do that and it just feels to me like posturing to gain positive community “karma”.

Tell it like it is, if people don’t agree, then they don’t agree.

Hi Tim,

It’s not so much that I was intimidated and “folded”. More that I felt that the tone of my post and subsequent comments created an impasse, with no side really listening to the other.

My first reaction to pressure is that of defensiveness but this rarely helps. I genuinely want to open a productive discussion with mutual respect.

But let’s get this straight, I will continue to stand up for the community, and never be a sycophant who blindly loves everything with the A logo on it. But I’m also not the nay sayer that recent posts and tweets make me appear to be.

I’m just trying to present myself as I truly am in person – positive, enthusiastic and sometimes very critical, but hopefully in a charming way 🙂

“I will tell you honestly what I think. Sometimes it will be good, and sometimes not so good.”

I think that’s the important point. My post seemed to cause a bit of upset too. but Mike and Lee are great guys – I’m sure they’d rather hear the truth than have us be a bunch of yes-men.

Effective communication is hard even when two people are sitting in a room talking directly to each other. Online communication, with its loss of nuance, is even harder. That Seb is taking the time to essentially say “hold up, let’s hit the reset button here and restart the conversation” so that it’s focused on issues not hurt feelings shows a lot of maturity, and he deserves kudos for it.

Takes a brave man to voice his true opinions.

Even braver man to hold his hand up and say “hold up, let’s hit the reset button here and restart the conversation” as Rachel puts it.

Kudos to Seb from here


Keith and Seb–I really appreciated both of your candid opinions on the iPhone announcement, and I don’t think an apology was necessary. I realize you’re both much closer to the Adobe crew than most, but I think you guys are representing what the community needs.

Personally, I found it disturbing that some developers felt that this announcement exempted them from needing to learn anything outside the realm of Adobe. I was relieved to see you guys speak out recognizing that the end-user experience outweighs the development tools.

That said, I think we can all agree that we’re eager to see Flash penetrate the iPhone; we just need to recognize the strengths of using it compared to Objective C.

“The truth is that I often find it very hard to tally my position as a “community leader” and open source contributor with the fact that Adobe is, after all, a multi-million dollar corporation.”

This is an interesting one and something that I often wonder about too. A lot of people put a lot of effort into open-source and ‘free’ Flash stuff and then you hear that Adobe is doing things like forcing flashden to change it’s name, or buying omniture etc. Sometimes I wonder about the pursuit of money over the pushing of creative boundaries. Sadly, and you hit upon this point too, the people on the shop floor are too often bound by the decisions of the board.

I think the Flash team are brilliant and have been fortunate to be party to some of the inner workings of the development of the platform, but unfortunately the behemoth corporation tends to come first.

Criticism is important, communication is important, and often when we put so much into our work it’s hard to take that criticism without it being immensely personal. I’m glad to see this ‘olive branch’ but I’d hope that the discussion beforehand wasn’t going to descend into a playground fight and that Mike and Lee saw and understood Seb’s point of view without the need for this post.

I think it is great that everyone’s talking about this. With all of the tweets and blog entries flying around I doubt Mike and Lee’s reactions were based solely on this post. But I am glad they spoke up to clear up some misconceptions as well as give perspective to the Adobe (they’re humans)-developer relationship.

hug it out! //

what are you saying is true, something when the discussion gets too heated it is better to leave the keyboards alone for a while. But here the situation is a bit different. There is one company that has grown up by community (and customers) consensus which all of sudden is receiving focused criticisms on a product announcement rather than the usual cheering and unnecessary bowing.

When somebody tries to point out at some of the (potential) problems he get slammed by the fact that it is an alpha, when criticizing the games (and some are sold, not all are free) he get slammed with the fact that the games were rushed to AppStore in a sort of beta status. So, to sum up, we are presented (as [potential] consumers) with beta stuff produced by alpha stuff but we are only supposed to be positive? Many of the people that responded have done their home work before, they know that producing mobile applications on iPhone and others is never been a single button press process; Adobe should look for this people’s feedback, not bash them.

Let’s rollback a few months, shall we? If instead of cheering that the next release of the Creative Suite was the best thing ever released and if somebody would have pointed out the real problems with that, probably Adobe would have have second thought about releasing a clearly beta product. Instead, it went out on the market and it flopped badly (and it was not just because the financial crisis). Now instead of giving some insights, deadlines and other info and when we (the customers) can expect fixes for this abomination, we have to listen to how fantastic CS5 is going to be and all this probably for many more months to come.

I have been Adobe customer since 1988, the quality of software being released has never been that low in the past 3 years. If criticizing this way of releasing software is “Adobe bashing” rather than portraying the reality, so be it, because at the end of the day, I paid for it.

How many people will be going to upgrade to CS5 on the release date without waiting for at least a couple of service packs to be released? Asking for less alphas, betas, hacks and so on, would only encourage Adobe to work on quality again, rather than shifting boxes and new icons design

All of this after another freaking day where Fireworks CS4 has crashed not less than 40 times.

I meant what I said in the last post about you being a really nice guy and this just reinforces that. As has been mentioned, it’s hard to have a debate in blog comments as there is simply no way to gauge someone’s actual tone. I really do consider us all friends and that’s why we might react strongly when we read certain things.

Also you guys should know that the community really values and listens to your opinions. So when you say something about us it can have a real effect. Hey if we deserve it then blast away. Flash CS4 is a great example. We got massacred and I never questioned anyone because they were right.

Just to clarify my own feelings. I’m not in a rage when I read these things. It’s more a feeling of being frustrated. Yes Adobe is a big corporation. But the people building these products are really passionate and want nothing more than for all of you to love their stuff. Reading overly negative stuff or “cheap shots” from the people who are supposed to be our closest supporters is discouraging at times.

I mean the iPhone thing is classic example. We are doing our best to enable our community to be able to develop for it despite the lack of cooperation from Apple. This technology is not even public yet and I think it is way too early for people to be writing it off. Once HW acceleration is finished I think it will be awesome. I know I have a bunch of apps that I’ve been waiting to build. Will it perform as fast as Objective-C Open-GL? No probably not but it will be fast enough for most of the apps you see on the store.

But thanks again Seb for the olive branch, although I don’t want you to think that if you hadn’t done this, we would have shunned you or something. We only do things like that for people like Kerman :).

As I read more of these comments I just wanted to add something. I never thought that Seb shouldn’t post his thoughts. People can post whatever they like in whatever tone they want. I would hate it if people felt like that they had to be careful in the future.

But we too have the same right to respond and say “that is BS.” The openness needs to be both ways. At the end of the day we can still get a beer and squash it. Trust me, we say “that is BS” constantly internally within Adobe as well.

I recently got to know Seb while talking to him on the phone in regards to the FlashAndTheCity conference. Instead of trying to appease me, like some people do, Seb asked me questions that made me think. We need more people like Seb in our community to stand up and ensure Adobe’s action make sense, this blog post is the perfect example.

I really appreciate the time you spent helping out and I can honestly say that you already helped a great deal to shape how we will handle certain things for the conference. I am looking forward to meeting you next week in person and talking about technology.

I think an important point is that people generally don’t criticize something unless they care about it. On top of that people that are passionate tend to be more emotional in responses. This makes communication hard, but if everyone understood the problem most often is not hate, but too much passion, we would all be better off.
So when I complain about lack of proper GPU support for the Flash Player, it’s not because I hate Adobe. It’s because I love the Flash, I enjoy how Flash allows me to be creative and make a living.
@Seb Lee-Delisle – I think it’s good you have takin a step back, but in saying that I agreed with the points in your post and I don’t think you deserved everything that was dished out.
The bottom line is the community and people of Adobe don’t want Flash to fail, so there is no reason to fight, we are all working towards the same goal.

@Lee I know you’re joking and even if you weren’t I wouldn’t mind. But… i think it’s worth mentioning that when I look at myself I quickly separate myself from several other groups: I’m not one to quickly fall in line with Adobe (in fact, I know few who do)… and I’m not one to automatically and unjustly disgrace Adobe either. Many people immediately dismiss Adobe and anything Flash related as a matter of what seems like a religious point of view. I am totally on Adobe’s side. But, generally, Adobe (as a whole) lacks a boldness that I can only attribute to the way it operates (as a giant corporation). No doubt, there are tons of great employees. There are even some great products!

As for the issue at hand, I just felt the Adobe MAX keynotes and the huge lost opportunity from the iPhone thing is sad. Sure it’s early. I totally agree it’ll get better–in fact I corrected someone in person just today who dismissed iPhone stuff because of performance. (The last thing any programmer focuses on anyway.) But… STILL I don’t know what to think of Flash to iPhone. Is it going to offer a viable way to make apps? That’d be so sweet. Is it going to be the best way to go from Flash to iPhone (others can compete right?). Is it going to be dropped in an instant or take years to develop like some other technologies? This isn’t a form of confusion–it’s sincere questions not answered in the lackluster keynotes and still providing confusion to me and others.

Not to pick on Mike–but he had a blog about what it “really means” which I honestly don’t know what to make of it.

Anyway, still back on THIS point–I don’t think anyone has to worry about “community” folks holding back. And, I agree with Rachel about how it’s easy to misinterpret things online. We’re all friends to varied degrees so I doubt much will change. And, I welcome Lee and others “calling BS” when necessary.

In the meantime, I’ll just go back to trying to capture Seb’s accent.

Seb, after reading your last two posts, I have to say – I’m a fan. Do you take blog requests? PushButton – Go…


Thanks for the time in making the post. I know from personal experience that it can be difficult.

I read back over my comments, and in one of them I was particularly snarky, and I apologize for that.

UPDATE : Just re-read this. When I say “you”, im not referring to Seb specifically, but rather people in the community in general.

Just to give some perspective. I have worked at Macromedia and now Adobe for 9 years. Before that, I was already active in the Flash (and Generator) communities, which is how I was hired. I would say the biggest role I have played at Macromedia / Adobe, is advocating for the community internally, and for Flash externally. However, this is not always easy, as you have to be able to filter the real issues, from the just plain bitching.

Furthermore, as you know, there are tons of groups that love nothing better to hate on Flash. So, when we seem to get some of that hate from our own community, it very deeply affects and frustrates me.

You post just happened to come when there was a flurry of people saying how much Flash apps for the iPhone suck. This was really frustrating as it was from our community, and based on spotty information, or simply wrong assumptions.

Anyways, the Flash community means a lot to me, on a very personal level. Not only has it provided employment for me over the years, but I have made so many good friends (including my best friends) from being part of it. So, I may personalize this stuff a bit too much sometimes, especially when it is from people I know and respect.

As I said on your other post, I have no problem in the world with people bitching and complaining. Indeed, it helps me figure out what the important issues are, and it can sometimes help me out internally. However, I do have a problem when people just slag on Adobe every chance they get, especially when it is for things that arent really that important, or dont directly affect them. This makes it difficult for me to focus on the real issues, and to be honest, I usually just shift my focus elsewhere, to people who are giving more constructive feedback.

Look, Adobe is a big company, and I know it is easy to get people on your side by slagging on them (I think twitter aggravates this). Heck, I’ve done it to an extent before to get a crowd on my side. I completely understand. But there are very passionate people working here, who fight tooth and nail for the community and developers in general. So, all I ask is that people realize there are people are Adobe who basically do nothing but fight and advocate for the community. It is easy to beat up on a big bad company, but dont forget there are very passionate people behind that company, some of whom fight tooth and nail for the community.

Finally, if you are just spouting a bunch of bullshit, then dont be surprised when you get called out on it, even by someone from Adobe.

mike chambers

Seb, i think it’s great that you stepped up to calm the waters here. kinda…

Your post was refreshingly honest & quite benign. The kicker was that you have Adobe’s ear, so we got a healthy debate and (we all got) further insight, thanks.

When you are good at what you do, you understand what it’s like in the trenches and you find yourself surprised when other people listen to you – then you also inherit the responsibility of being critical (and unfortunately political). While it’s comforting to have, nobody here needs ramble on about their respect and admiration for Adobe – it’s a given. With that said – i hope that you are not intending to stop worrying (loudly) anytime soon.

We have had our own long and often rich history with Adobe. Many teams and many applications, stretching back like 16 years (sketching web apps that didn’t yet exist). And i have spent a lot of time scratching my head wondering what the heck they are doing, speaking up when the teams are receptive and lying low when they are defensive.

Adobe has changed the world and shifted perceptions, most of the time for the better. They don’t however have any immunity in this round or the next – they are always doing some seemingly awkward things. Businesses do not have feelings.

If i have learned anything from Adobe – it’s that good feedback is not always constructive. And when you speak your mind about things people make, you have to do this kind of eggshell walking.

@Matthew well if I have learned anything from doing this job it is that not all critical feedback is constructive. Some of it is negative just for the sake of it. And I completely reject the notion that we are not receptive to constructive feedback. Not true at all sorry.

@Lee Adobe is potentially one of the most receptive companies ever, and (as far as we are concerned) they always have been. I don’t think that I or anybody else implied otherwise.

You don’t want a guy like Seb pulling any punches tho, and he should not stop getting fired up and speaking his mind. Nobody should stop worrying and simply love Adobe, what you make is too important. Yes, on many occasions I have witnessed Adobe receiving negative spiteful self-serving feedback, it sucks. I have also unfortunately seen good people give up on interacting with Adobe because up front critical feedback was not well received and it just became too damned confrontational to care.

IMHO the MAX keynote was not Adobe’s finest hour. Parts of the presentation were flat out uncomfortable and awkward. Things/products could have been presented more articulately. Sebs initial (unedited) post seemed more related to this, than any subconscious desire to embrace the hate.

I don’t see negative for the sake of it, I guess thats why i chimed in. I was surprised to see that reaction. I see an opportunity for Adobe to make something that addresses the issues being critically discussed.

Because everyone is getting all mushy, I should add that I don’t want to personally attack anyone. Perhaps that’s why I pick on the big-bad-company. I know that Lee and Mike will take the time to give me a sincere kick in the pants when I am out of line. In fact, I recall Mike contacting me privately about something a LONG time ago (I don’t even remember what now). And others have too–and, while I may not always agree, I always appreciate that effort. I think usually Adobe employees (notice I didn’t say “Adobe”–maybe if I avoid that term without qualifiers it will help)… anyway, Adobe employees likewise appreciate feedback.

When I was just getting started doing my “anti-Adobe” videos (which, if you haven’t noticed I don’t pick on Adobe anymore unless they’re commissioning me to do so)… anyway, Ted sent an email with the subject “we have to talk”. It shouldn’t be surprising the body of the email said he wanted to buy me a beer or something–that he liked me videos. In fact, I think the first thing Lee ever said to me when I met him was something positive like this. I only point this out for anyone who thinks I’m “against” Adobe.

So–just be sure to call me out if I’m ever out of line. A keep up the fight from the inside.

@Matthew Richmond I should just clarify that the title of this blog post is a take on the Peter Sellers film “Dr Strangelove, or I how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb”. But don’t worry, I will continue to worry (loudly but respectfully) when worrying is required. 🙂

Maybe these types of personal matters should just not appear on your blog at all! It’s been ages since we saw interesting experiments etc which really is your strong point Seb. Can’t we just get back to what you’re really quite brilliant at and leave all these long, accident prone messages out of it? I think many developers could benefit with this approach although I understand that these types of matters do sometimes need airing. It’s finding the appropriate time and place though…

You know what Dave, I think have a point. It’s all too easy to be drawn into these conversations, and honestly, I find that they do take a lot of energy and often distract me from the work I’m meant to be doing.

I am on a tour of the USA and I will still try to report what I’ve been doing here, not just MAX but also visiting YouTube and Odopod in San Francisco, now FlashPitt (just posted) and next week in New York I’ll be spending some time with Big Spaceship. I hope that these non-demo type posts aren’t too irrelevant but I would love feedback to hear whether these travels are interesting to you or not.

I catch myself posting my views on the evolution of Flash related technology in more and more harsh sounding tones over the past 2-4 years, too.

While i don´t find that nice myself, when one is very passionate about something and sees over and over how wrong decisions are made turning the thing worse and worse its hard to stay relaxed sometimes, especially when the new release is again and again hyped up like the next coming and oportunists support that in unresponsible (towards the community) ways.

I think one of the main problems of the flash platform for many years has been making propper use of the gpu for all graphical operations.
Years are passing and Adobe is insisting on not delivering what is required.
And without flash performs incredibly bad compared to most other technologies out there.
Without that flash will just perform extremely bad to a not competitve at all degree on all platforms, the less powerful a platform is the more obvious it will become.

I think as more experienced developers having a reputation in the community it is actually our task to say what is wrong until either Adobe fixes it or we get bored enough to use better and better getting contender technologies instead of being oportunists who hype something up that just isn´t good at all.

Yes, flash to iPhone is no release version yet, but if Adobe doesn´t considerably improve the performance, it is wrong to say its any good, because it won´t be compared to anything else that is out there for several years.
And it won´t perform well enough for most serious use cases without them making use of the gpu for all graphical operations.
cacheAsSurface for some final display help of an image created by the cpu is a luaghable bad decision and won´t be enough at all.
End of story.
If someone at Adobe is upset about a known community member for saying the truth, honestly, that person has a wrong understanding of his job.
While i understand you don´t want your words to come off as too harsh, it seems like Adobe doesn´t listen to many community members for many years now, so there´s reasoning for why people either don´t care anymore or if they do then they get upset.

Its a pity that flash is earning bad fame these days. I have always loved doing flash and even though i can code in many other languages i prefer actionscript.

But i do think in keeping up with competition Adobe has missed the point of stability and security in flash versions.

There is a major big in flash now days. can some confirm it ?

1. wordpress uploader does not show proper progress.
2. uploader dosent show proper progress.
3. many more sites that used flash as uploader dont show progress properly anymore. all report that progress bar completes to 100% and then the file keeps uploading.

It seems the more we are going into the forward direction with action-script , things are getting messier ?

Bugs that were were present earlier in flash 8 have crept up !

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