360Flex: A Developer’s Conference

March 5, 2008

Last week I had an exciting opportunity to attend the 360Flex Atlanta conference. At first I was not overly anxious to attend. In fact, if were not for my, always inspiring, cube neighbor I’d probably had passed on the chance. Thankfully, work wrote a quick check and I did not miss out on a very aspiring conference.

Exciting. Inspiring. Aspiring. Can you tell how I felt leaving the sessions? Most, but not all, of the sessions were eye opening. I have great expectations for Adobe’s Flex and AIR platforms. But, the presenters at 360Flex are showing the truth versus the hype of what can be accomplished.

Ben Stucki is an amazing Flex developer. Any time a developer explains his inspiration for a new project with “…I was siting on couch Saturday morning watching TV, trying to tune everything out…and then I thought why couldn’t I…” you are a little bit excited. Great projects spring from out of nowhere. And, great developers jump at the chance to deliver something innovative. Stucki’s OpenFlux is challenging the current convention of user interface controls. In a nutshell, he has applied the MVC pattern towards flex components. His component design separates the component’s behavior from it’s presentation similar to most web application designs. The Adobe Development team is including a similar design idiom in the Flex 4 roadmap. In addition to the Open Flux project, Ben demonstrated a project implementing 3D visual algorithms to a Flex application. The results, although not seemingly practical, are incredibly creative.

The same statement can be made to most of the Flex community. The developers in attendance, the presenters, and the sponsors (EffectiveUI & Universal Mind) are all trying to build creative/imaginative applications. Adobe has crafted a platform to help developers not settle on the mundane or the tried & true.

Doug McCune’s presentation was a testament to being creative. He took a very boring login screen and coupled it with an actionscript physic engine.  Click on “login” and the controls all shake and fall in true ragdoll style. Watching the controls slide and be thrown around was quite humorous. Practical? Not so much. Does it solve the single sign on debate? No. However, his point (as I understood) was to show how developers can take two very diverse open libraries and build something ingenious. In order for the Flex community to thrive, developers need to contribute to the open initiatives.

The last session I attended was  Juan Sanchez’s demonstration of Degrafa. Wow! A simple to use declarative graphics language. More accessible than SVG. Less rudimentary than the Flash graphics library. I have a game design in mind. My first stumbling block was learning Flash to handle the graphics. With Degrafa, I may be able to overcome my hurdle quite easily. Hopefully soon, I can post a quick iteration using Degrafa.

A few other quick comments and suggestions:

  • My first session was with Anatole Tartakovsky. His presentation was technically challenge with projector issues. His company seems to have some very good products, but I could not get past his guile for Cairngorm. I feel as though he fell into the trap of “Cairngorm sucks” so use my product. I don’t need to know about Cairngorm’s shortcomings. I need to understand how you r product will make my life easier or better.
  • Related to Tartkovsky’s presentation and several others, the schedule titles were either misleading or vague. With Tartkovsky, the session was titled “Flex Best Practices for the real world”. I did not hear any best practices. Other sessions I had a difficult time deciding on which to attend as the title was very vague. A suggestion for 360Flex:Europe would be to get better titles or add a short abstract.
  • Simon Hill’s presentation was very academic. Perhaps the material was not for me, but I failed to leave with anything I could use to ensure better usability. The talk was more devoted to principles for grading a user interface , less on making a great interface. I enjoyed the information, but would have appreciated more examples and less theory.

Finally, I commend Tom and John on putting together a great conference. Everyone was very approachable unlike Java conferences (ahem…JavaOne). Vendors were trying to hire personnel instead of selling you unnecessary tools. And, I really appreciated how open Tom and John were about costs and giving back to the community.

If you are debating on whether to go to 360Flex as I was, take the plunge!


7 Responses to “360Flex: A Developer’s Conference”

  1. stelt said

    More accessible than SVG is great, if really.
    But SVG is widespread: http://svg.startpagina.nl

  2. We’re glad you enjoyed! Thanks for coming out, hope you’ll make it to the next one!

  3. Tom Ortega said

    Thanks for the kind words, Bill. We’ve heard the “misleading title” comment before. We’ll try to work on it for Europe, but most of those titles are already set in stone. You better believe that before the next US one, we’ll have a system in place though to hopefully solve that issue. Thanks for the feedback. We’re on it! 🙂

  4. Hey Bill, just wanted to give you an update that we do inded listen. Check out this newest edition to 360|Flex. The 360|Flex San Jose eProgram Guide.

    And what’s that we see in there. Speaker, title (yeah, yeah old hat) but wait…what’s this? Technical level AND descriptions for each session…and the show is still 3 months out!

    Just wanted to say thanks again for your feedback. It’s notes like this blog entry that remind us what we need to improve. I just hope it’s to your liking!

  5. The link is not working for me. However, I am excited to hear you guys improving based on my feedback. One person can make a difference (Stan Lee). I hope you’ll be coming back to Atlanta soon.

  6. Pirsey said

    If you ever want to hear a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this post for four from five. Decent info, but I just have to go to that damn msn to find the missed parts. Thanks, anyway!

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