Gallery 3 Development Begins

After releasing Gallery 2.3 back in October, the folks behind the “your photos on your website” software have decided to free the 2.x version and begin work on Gallery 3 which will include an rewrite of the software.

Those of you that have been paying attention know that something is going on! At the Gallery Sprint a few weeks ago, we made a lot of decisions and got the ball rolling on a complete rewrite which we’ve decided to call Gallery 3. Development of new features on Gallery 2 has been frozen, Gallery 1 is now a completely separate project “Jallery“, and the Gallery team is now busy at work on Gallery 3. It’s definitely not ready to run on your website yet but we’ve set the ambitious goal of having a 3.0 release by February 1, 2009 and are on track to meet that goal. Read on for details of why we’re doing this and what you can expect.

In the comments to the announcement, one of the developers emphasizes increasing the performance of Gallery as one of the goals of the rewrite. As awesome as Gallery is, I’ve noticed that now that I’ve got more than 22,000 photos online using it that it has seriously slowed down in a number of areas, especially in adding new photos.

If they can achieve significant performance increases, the rewrite will more than justify the inconvenience it will create among people who have modified the code or written plugins for 2.x that will almost certainly have to be rewritten for 3.x.

Using Photoshop to Reimagine One’s Past

The New York Times ran an article a couple weeks ago about people who use Photoshop — or more likely pay others to manipulate their photos in Photoshop — to remove unpleasant aspects of the photos, such as ex-husbands,

Removing her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn, a police emergency dispatcher in Rochester. But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours, with some deft mouse work from a willing friend who was proficient in Photoshop, the popular digital-image editing program.

. . .

As image-editing software grows in sophistication and ubiquity, alterations go far beyond removing red-eye and whitening teeth. They include substituting head shots to achieve the best combination of smiles, deleting problematic personalities or adding family members who were unable to attend important events, performing virtual liposuction or hair restoration, even reanimating the dead. Revisionist history, it seems, can be practiced by just about anyone.

As people fiddle with the photos in their scrapbooks, the tug of emotion and vanity can win out over the objective truth. And in some cases, it can even alter memories — Cousin Andy was at the wedding, right?

In an age of digital manipulation, many people believe that snapshots and family photos need no longer stand as a definitive record of what was, but instead, of what they wish it was.

I can’t imagine doing that. Obviously, there are people who enjoy pretending that some things simply didn’t happen, but once you start preferring what you wish had been to reality, where does it stop? I’ve had personal experience with people who choose to concoct elaborate fantasies around past events to the point where they no longer realize they’ve come to believe the comforting lies they tell themselves, and it comes off as more pathetic than anything else.

The NYT concludes its story with a quote from clinical psychologist Alan Entin which nicely summarizes the desire to alter our past in this way,

“They’re [photographs] a record,” he said. “They have existed over time and space. They are important documents.”

To alter them is to invite self-deception, he said. “The value to accepting a photograph of yourself as you are is that you’re accepting the reality of who you are, and how you look, and accepting yourself that way, warts and all. I think the pictures you hate say as much about you as pictures you love.”

How Do I Love Gallery? Let Me Count the 15,000 Ways

A few weeks ago I mentioned I had installed and was running Gallery 2 on my web server and using the WPG2 plugin to integrate it with WordPress. My publicly viewable photos are here, though right now it’s just a bunch of pictures I took of anti-war protests as well as shots of my wife’s pottery creations.

One of the thing I wondered was how well Gallery 2 would handle a lot of photos. Well, the other day I finally finished uploading the last of the 15,000 pictures I’ve taken with my digital camera over the past several years, and Gallery handled it without breaking a sweat.

Most of those pictures are not publicly viewable. They’re in a series of albums that are password protected and only viewable by admins. Gallery makes it easy, however, to copy items from one album to another, so it is relatively straightforward to select a bunch of photos in my private album and publish them to a public album.

Using a few plugins, Gallery seamlessly imports EXIF, etc. data from images. There’s also a very nice keyword function that lets you tag photos and automatically create virtual albums from those keywords. For example, I’ve tagged many of the photos of my kids with their respective names, so I can click on that keyword and see all photos of my daughter in a virtual album.

DigMyPics.Com vs. ScanCafe.Com

Like a lot of people, I have thousands of photographs preserved on 35mm slides and negatives that I’ve really wanted to get scanned. There are a lot of companies that will do that for you, but the two leaders in that area are DigMyPics and ScanCafe . . . two companies that have often had a contentious relationship, to say the least.

After ScanCafe.Com became popular a year or so ago, based on undercutting DigMyPics pricing, DigMyPics started a campaign to highlight the fact that ScanCafe was shipping photos to India for scanning.  For example, on its website DigMyPics had this helpful FAQ entry,

Will the work be done in the USA?

Some companies quietly your photos to a foreign country to have the work performed to increase their profit. For instance, one company in Miami will ship your photos to Costa Rica and another in California will ship them to India to have the scanning done even though these companies never mention those facts on their websites or they give the information in carefully chosen language and bury it in far less prominent places than their pricing.**

Nothing against Costa Rica or India, but I wouldn’t want my photos shipped there by a third party and out of my control.

While outsourcing to another country may make sense with high volume, low margin manufactured goods, it hasn’t worked so well with services. Irrespective of the clear risks involved with sending your photos to a third world country, it’s quite clear that dealing with the company’s employees who are working on your project in your language and culture produces a much more efficient and gratifying end user experience as well as a superior final product.

Rest assured that DigMyPics never ships your photos anywhere else and that all work is done right here in the USA by professional American photographers and artists.

Got that. India and/or Costa Rica are “risk[y] . . . third-world countries” where your photos are “out of my control.” Certainly you’d be much better sending your photos to a safe, American company (cue the Lee Greenwood music).

So last night, I was once again pondering whether to send my negatives off to be scanned and hit the DigMyPics site to see what their current pricing was. And this is what is currently on their front page,

To our customers and friends,

On Monday May 5, 2008 at approximately 2am, Arizona Time, DigMyPics suffered a devastating fire which destroyed our building and most of its contents.  The fire was large and the neighboring city of Mesa was called in to help fight it.  Three large ladder trucks were used to douse the flames.   Despite the best efforts of both city’s firefighters, the building was completely destroyed. Our website, email, customer database, and telephone lines are all currently down as a result.

As you can imagine, Annette and I are heartbroken by what has happened. We always believed that our customers placed their trust in us when they sent us their photos and videos and we took that responsibility personally and extremely seriously.

Annette, the employees of DigMyPics, and I are all still in shock and disbelief and we aren’t sure if we’ll even try to rebuild the company.  What we are sure of is that we want to help those people that had put their trust in us to retrieve whatever is retrievable.  We’re putting together a restoration team to help us restore whatever is uncovered.  The Gilbert Fire Department has been extremely helpful to us and are sensitive to what we had in the building.  They’re working hard to help us find and extract our customer’s photos and videos.  The scene is currently under their custody as they investigate the fire’s cause but today we delivered a trailer to them and they’ve agreed to put any photos, film, hard drives or computers that they find in that trailer and give us access to it twice a day.  We’ll take the material to another site we’ve temporarily leased to begin work on salvaging any images or videos that can be saved.

I don’t want to give any false hope, some people may have lost everything, but we had some encouraging news today.  The fire department was able to successfully retrieve our servers and their forensic team has told us that the servers look good and that the data is likely retrievable.  We store a copy of the images that have been completed on some of those servers.  The building is completely destroyed but the roof collapse may have sheltered some areas from the worst effects.  Fire crews are removing pieces of the roof and have found some photos and reels in tact.