Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The power of the internet combined with social networks ... it still stuns me

MacInTouch Home Page
John Faughnan emailed us about a QuickTime 6.5 EXIF problem he has been tracking down with Thorsten Lemke, author of Graphic Converter:

When you import an image using Image Capture or iPhoto, both of which use Quicktime 6.5, the EXIF header for image orientation is duplicated and one version is incorrect. You can see the two tags using EXIF Viewer.

A portrait image taken with a camera oriented vertically that supports the EXIF orientation tag, after importing via Image Capture, has these duplicate tags (comments mine):

Image Orientation: Top, Left-Hand [I think this is the misleading tag]
Image Orientation: Right-Hand, Top [I think this tag reflects the state of the image]

This image will display the following ways...

The above was featured prominently on Ric Ford's Macintouch this morning. It was read by perhaps 10,000-100,000 Macintosh geeks, who in turn probably act as a knowledge resource for 50,000 - 500,000 Macintosh users. That's amazing enough, but the full story shows the power of the internet, of authentication and reputation, and of social networks. Here's a quick outline:

0. I've never met Ric Ford (Macintouch) or Thorsten Lemke (Graphic Converter). However, both men know me by correspondence over the past several years. I have a recognizable name, and I always make my identity clear. They have a certain degree of trust in what I write. Ric Ford and his co-editors at Macintouch know and respect Thorstent Lemke's reputation -- but they've probably never seen him.

1. I notice that my digital images are not being rotated or handled correctly during image import. After a month of dealing with this hassle, it really starts to annoy me. I correspond with Thorsten, but we don't yet understand the problem.

2. Google searches provide no explanation. I puzzle a bit and correspond some more. It occurs to me that the only possible explanation is that there are two orientation messages with different values. Thorsten confirms this is true (I don't know if he already knew the problem -- his english is far better than my German but it is not his first language). He sends me a version of his software to test -- it doesn't quite do the trick and I suggest an alternative approach. Twelve hours later he sends me a version of Graphic Converter with a good workaround for the bug in the Apple software -- not quite what I suggested, but very workable.

So in the space of several hours, across the world, 3 people who've never met one another identify an annoying bug in one of Apple's core software applications, educate most of the Macintosh users, put pressure on Apple to fix it, and adapt a well regarded image management application to fix the problem. It's not the internet alone, it's the internet plus social networks and reputations.

I'm old enough to remember when email was available only to researchers. This is such a different world.

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