AdobeMAX Los Angeles

AdobeMAX (Monday [Oct. 5] – Wednesday [Oct. 7, 2009]) – approximately 4,000 people attended this event. One constant theme from this and previous AdobeMAX conferences is that the tools we use to solve business problems matter. Similarly, what is made with those tools matters. The people at Adobe really understand what is required to succeed in today’s economy. I spent a significant amount of personal money and time to attend this event. Why did I choose to do this? Because it is one event where I can connect and network with numerous industry luminaries and experts. It is a chance to glimpse the future (and see where technologies are heading in the next few years). I could spend years in central Illinois and learn less than I can in a few days at this conference. I learn so that I can share my knowledge with students. To do less would be a dis-service to them. One major theme of the conference this year was an increased emphasis on mobile applications. A constant message continues to be application development. The days of static web pages are waning rapidly. Obviously the keynote on Monday focused on the recent acquisition of Omniture and what that means to customers. The keynote also focused heavily on Flash technologies and how Flash is beginning to pervade the mobile environment (including the announcement of Flash on the iPhone). We also got a chance to see parts of the new 3D movie, Avatar, which was developed using a number of Adobe products. Many “behind the scenes” discussions covered which products were used for what parts of the movie and we saw snippets of how these products were actually used to create the virtual environment. The following notes are a summary of the sessions I participated in during the conference.

Learning Actionscript 3.0 (Monday, Oct. 5) – Lou Barber presented an overview of the fundamentals of this key language. He started by assuming that participants had no knowledge of Object Oriented Programming or scripting and worked his way through the fundamentals. I found it beneficial to learn how others teach these concepts. I gained a number of insights which I can employ as I teach Actionscript and Flash next semester.

Actionscript 3.0 tastes good (Monday, Oct. 5) – Philip Kerman presented a deeper dive into Actionscript. He focused on development of classes (and best practices) along with a review of constructors and components (again with a focus on best practices). I can use some of this in the Actionscript class next semester, but I will only be able to introduce some of this material (since we won’t have sufficient time to go into this depth).

Using the Spry Framework in Dreamweaver CS4 (Monday, Oct. 5) – Arnout Kazemier briefly reviewed the Spry JS (and CSS) framework and discussed support in various browsers and platforms. He also discussed the integration with Dreamweaver. He then reviewed the common widgets and discussed additional functionality (and widgets) which can be downloaded from the Adobe Labs site (and are not included in the version which ships with Dreamweaver). Overall, I received a number of useful ideas which I may be able to incorporate into various classes.

Building Standards Based Websites in Dreamweaver (Monday, Oct. 5) – Kristin Long provided a hands on lab covering the fundamentals of creating standards based web sites using Dreamweaver. She began with a review of why standards based web sites matter and then walked us through a number of labs to reinforce how these sites can be built using Dreamweaver. I was able to stay for part of this presentation, but then had to leave to get to Hollywood in time for my presentation to the Los Angeles Web Professionals Adobe User Group.

Flex 101: Introduction to Flex 4 (Tuesday, Oct. 6) – James Talbot presented a great session on Flash Builder (new name for Flex 4). He also touched on Flash Catalyst and discussed the integration between these two applications. Since Flash Player 10 is now on 94% of all computers connected to the Internet, this is a good platform to leverage. We spend some time reviewing the new component set (called Spark) which also has a new namespace <s: instead of <mx:. We reviewed how to create components and how existing components resolve to classes. We spent some time creating a simple Flex application and reviewed best practices when it came to debugging Flex/ Flash Builder applications.

General Session (Tuesday, Oct. 6) – Ben Forte began this session with a review the Adobe Community. He then focused on several examples of outstanding applications (all submitted for the Adobe MAX awards). These applications were most impressive. For example, the U.S. Post Office is using augmented reality to help you decide on what size box an article will fit in. The White House is using an Adobe AIR application as part of their internal directly/ address book (no they did not share the President’s private phone number). One of the big take-aways was that newer versions of Flash will allow video to go almost to any device (along with its associated digital rights). FedEx demonstrated their application which tracks critical and sensitive data shipments in real time (even re-routing the delivery in the event of a problem with the truck). This includes automatic notification to the customer when the delivery is 15 minutes away, 5 minutes away, and about to arrive. Obviously, these are deliveries of multi-million dollar pharmaceuticals, and other critical/ sensitive materials, not the book you ordered from Amazon last week. Pogo.com was also discussed in some depth – this is a site for casual gaming. The typical game audience is represented by a thirty something female (not the sort of gamer many of us think of). Some time was also spent discussing the creation of the AdobeMAX widget/ desktop application and how it can be used to bring added value.

Creating Data-Centric Applications with Flash Builder 4 and PHP (Tuesday, Oct. 6) – Mayank Kumar gave a fairly technical presentation on the creation of a Flash Builder/ Flex application. This was hands on so we got to build the application ourselves. We used the Zend framework and coupled this with Flash Builder running on a localhost (Apache) environment. We had to create both result and fault handlers as part of the exercise (all done in Actionscript). We consumed a local data service and saw how we could use Flash Builder to automatically generate a file containing necessary database connection string information (all we had to do was update the credentials). Overall, this was a great introduction into the more intermediate features of Flash Builder and PHP integration.

Sneak Peeks and 2009 MAX awards (Tuesday, Oct. 6) – Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker) presented the MAX awards and introduced various Adobe personnel who discussed many products under development. All this was done in a Star Wars theme. By far, the most impressive emerging technology discussed was Rome.

Building Great Games with Flash (Wednesday, Oct. 7) – John Say indicated this is a great time to be in game development. The industry as a whole is starved for innovation. This is why it is so important to be able to develop games in Flash (since Flash has many great capabilities and one can develop games rather quickly on this platform – and the games will run on lots of devices). He reviewed a number of popular games and stressed the features that made them great. John then presented a specific recipe for creating Flash games. It was very well thought out and could have been of great use had we not terminated the Flash gaming class.

Efficient Web Design using Adobe Fireworks (Wednesday, Oct. 7) – John Babbage provided an excellent overview of some of the intermediate features of Fireworks. John has done many seminars (and is the author of a number of books and tutorials at Lynda.com). He provided a hands on session that covered many of these features and allowed everyone sufficient time to get their examples completed. He also kept repeating many keyboard shortcuts so that we would remember them (I have been using some of these this week).

Scripting PDF: Inside the Acrobat JavaSript SDK (Wednesday, Oct. 7) – Thom Parker provided a review of the use of JavaScript within Adobe Acrobat documents. He presented a number of useful applications and discussed the implications of scripting in this environment. We also spent some time debugging applications so we understood how JavaScript is being used. This was a great session. One of the highlights was that I won a year’s subscription to PDFScripting.com (which contains a number of useful tutorials and examples). I plan to incorporate a lot of hwat I learned into at least one module in the JavaScript class.

SEO Secrets, Technology and Magic Behind Flash (Wednesday, Oct. 7) – Duane Nickull and Rich Tretola presented a panel discussion/ overview/ demonstration of many search engine optimization approaches (including the black hat ones to avoid). They stressed the importance of why many current ads say something to the effect of “Google Us” – because this is what drives increased search engine placement (visits from a search engine, not links from other sites). A fair amount of time was spent on the dynamic ranking of sites and the fact that the algorithms generating these dynamic ranks are impossible to decipher with today’s technology. Essentially, they include the site, a time and date stamp, and your individual IP address. There would be 67 to the 34th power of permutations one would need to utilize. In other words, a BFLN. Various technologies which provide for better indexing of Flash content were discussed. These included Ichabod, Flash Runner, SWFAddress, and URLKit. Even though this session was held nearly at the end of the conference, the room was packed. I garnered a lot of useful information (regarding search engine optimization) which can be used in various classes.

Teaching the Adobe Flash Platform in Education (Wednesday, Oct. 7) – Bill Bain presented the final session at the conference. He reviewed how Flash is incorporated into the curriculum at Full ail University. He also discussed the approach the school has taken to cohorts of students and the fact that they can obtain a Bachelor’s degree in 21 months. They have 6 separate classes on various Flash based technologies. Each course is one month long and classes run 8 hours a day for 5 days. Obviously a lot of material is covered in each class. Students generate pseudo code, test scripts, UML diagrams. Once they have a working website, they develop in AIR, then the duplicate the application as a mobile app. Students are well grounded in the use of Flash technologies by the time they have obtained their degree. As with many of the other sessions, I gained a significant amount of insight and have many ideas that I amy try to incorporate into our existing classes.

As you may surmise from the above discussion, there was a lot of material presented in these 3 days. I wish I had been able to attend more of the sessions, but there are only so many hours in a day. In addition to the sessions, there were opportunities for networking. I had the chance to reconnect with a number of colleagues in the industry (and met a number of new colleagues as well). This was without a doubt one of the conferences that I must attend to keep up to date on these technologies. If you would like additional information on any of these sessions, please contact me.

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