Files and multi-user collaboration

You might have heard that Adobe, the vendor of Photoshop, recently acquired another very related piece of software, Figma. There’s been a lot of puzzlement over why Adobe would spend $20bn on software that is apparently very similar to one they already own.

One possible explanation for this, however, makes three claims: (1) multi-user collaboration has become a critically necessary feature for Photoshop; (2) it is practically impossible to retrofit this functionality onto Photoshop; and (3) if you can’t beat them, you should join acquire them. This is the explanation given by Amal Dorai, in an excellent thread which I’d encourage you all to read if this sounds interesting.

If you know my beat on this forum, then you will probably be able to guess what I’ll say now, which is that this is food for thought for those of us thinking about the future of collaborative workflows in language documentation. If it is basically true that retrofitting legacy desktop applications (for us, these would be ELAN and FLEx) with full-fledged collaborative editing features is practically impossible, then the only way to get collaborative editing is to start over. Or as Dorai puts it:

Instead of trying to add wheels to a boat to make it drive on land, you’d be better off melting it down and building a car.


Thanks for sharing this interesting topic. I have found myself thinking about it several times since you posted. The twitter thread is indeed compelling.

Here are some quick thoughts:

  • These are huge companies with huge resources, and storing and serving all this data seems like an expensive proposition.
  • The approach seems to assume centralized cloud servers that belong to a single organization. Not a safe assumption for many documentation projects.
  • I find myself quite frankly afraid of a file-less world, maybe I am getting old :sweat_smile: