I just got back from "An Event Apart" in Atlanta. This is the second AEA that I've attended, the first being in New Orleans several years ago. If you've never attended An Event Apart, it's a truly inspirational conference. Creatively merging design, development, and mixing them all in a tall glass of web standards, it's really the one other conference, besides Adobe Max, that I feel is a legitimate, "must-attend" learning experience. It's not for the feint of heart however, it's a lot of information over a small amount of time. You're exposed to an eclectic mix of speakers and topics ranging from high level design discussions to low level, technically challenging sessions like the nuts and bolts of CSS, or technical executions of cutting edge HTML5 solutions. It's not like MAX, where you're moving from venue to venue over the course of a couple of days, interspersed with keynotes and scoping the sponsor pavilions. You're essentially in the same place for two straight days (three if, like us, you attended the additional "A Day Apart" session on devoted solely to "Content Strategy"). Spending two days in the same room can sometimes try even the most patient observer, but the topics breeze by and the challenge instead becomes, "how do I make sure I'm taking this all in?". Luckily, the brilliant guys and gals at AEA make the presentation slides available to attendees, and armed with an iPad, I quickly discovered the best way to keep up. Each day, before that day's sessions, I would download all the presentations to my iPad and set it up at my spot, allowing me to keep up with the talking points on a provided pad of paper. Yep, good ol' pen and paper worked better than anything I could come up with, and leaving my laptop up in the hotel room enabled me to really concentrate on what was being presented. In fact, this worked so well I think I'm just gonna plan on attending future conferences armed with a moleskine and a pencil.
Last year at Max, there was ONE demo that rocked my world. In fact, it rocked my world so hard, I went on a mission to find Doug Winnie and pick his brain. I was singularly focused wandering the expo hall like a zombie asking everyone wearing a black shirt, "hey, have you seen Doug Winnie?" It was code named, "Edge". It's described as, "an HTML5 animation and interactive design tool". Did you read what I just wrote? Stop for a minute. Go back and slowly let that sink in. The company that owns Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, inDesign, After Effects, Flex, ColdFusion and a whole host of other visual design tools is developing a product that allows you to create interactivity and animation with web standards technologies like HTML5 and CSS3. When I saw the demo in LA last year, I practically shit myself. I literally can't wait for this product, and I want you to know, I didn't use the word "literally" where I should've used the word, "figuratively". No, I literally can't wait for this product. Watch Doug give you a couple of brief overviews:
I've never pre-ordered software before in my life. In fact, I've always given software a wide berth upon release, hoping for that eventual "0.01 update" that gets those inevitable kinks out of before I install it and jump in. So I guess I've always been a little conservative with regards to that type of stuff. Not this time. Take some time and watch Greg Rewis walk through the creation of an HTML5/CSS3 based workflow using Dreamweaver CS5.5. Watch how he creates documents for multiple screens. Watch how he uses Dreamweaver's built-in webkit browser. Marvel in amazement. I'm getting this sight unseen. From Adobe TV:
Explore all of the new workflows for creating for the web and mobile devices. See how Creative Suite Web Premium 5.5 allow you to create and deliver standards-based websites apps and immersive digital experiences across desktops, smartphones, tablets, and televisions. Author content with HTML5, CSS3, and the JQuery mobile framework; target multiple platforms including Android™ operating systems, iOS, Blackberry RIM and Adobe AIR.
7: 18 PM Wow. What a couple of days (three for me, including pre-conference sessions) and I'm starting to feel it. I don't have a lot of time to write a lot this morning, today begins the day that I've been waiting for. Today I get to code in a couple of "Bring Your Own Laptop" lab sessions. These are hands-on coding sessions where you actually create software. This morning we're going to create an Android App from scratch, and in the afternoon, I've got a four hour "Adobe AIR Code Camp". This is going to be basically an Adobe AIR Boot Camp. You must have the software installed (In my case, the Android 2.2 SDK, Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder, and AIR) and you work on your own machine. In between those two sessions is "Designing with Fireworks". This also represents one that I'm really looking forward to, but for much different reasons. This session will be "me out of my comfort zone". I'm a developer, not a designer. As a developer, I need to have what I call, "Designer Empathy". So I'm going to put on my "designer hat" and do some learning "as a designer". Should be fun, and I'm hopeful it'll give me some great stuff to take back to my creative department that can facilitate the "design to development" workflow. Fingers crossed! So I'm off. My sessions are long, so I might not blog as much today, but since it's the last day, I'll try to wind up this post with a Photo Gallery tonight. I've been taking a lot of pictures over the last three days, and it'd be fun to put them into a fun little gallery and blog 'em. So I'll make up for not blogging as much by posting some more visual, fun things. 9:23 AM *groan* Sometimes it's great to be able to make an informed decision. For instance, I don't think I'll do any AIR for Android development. I'm going to stick with this, all the way through the end. I promise I'm not going to bail on this one. I just... well... I just don't see it. My first thought was, "Do I really want a runtime layer on top of my cellphone or device?". Superficially it seems cool, and I admit, if I had a client that needed a branded app for Android, this would certainly be a way to rapidly deliver something for a reasonable price... but it feels a little... I dunno... "dirty"? I mean, these little computers are pushing it to be able to deliver the experience they're delivering. A lot of the most brilliant apps and experiences come at the cost of squeezing every bit of performance out of these tiny little processors, and adding a runtime layer to that just feels like it runs counter to everything you learn in college computer science classes. You remember those? Back when discussions were centered around clock cycles, memory management, and efficiency? Right. Those. Let me be clear. This is just my initial reaction. I haven't dug any deeper than an initial gut-reaction to what I'm sitting here doing. If I played with this a little more, I'm sure I'd become a little more comfortable... but that's the problem. Do I want to become a little more comfortable using this as a mobile development process? I mean, if I've got a certain amount of time in a day to learn new things... why wouldn't I just learn how to do all of this natively? Objective C for iOS? Java for Android? I'm just saying. This is my sort of... initial reaction. My gut, so to speak. Like I said, I would love to give all of this the benefit of the doubt, and I certainly will... but for now, if I were to make a list of "skills I'd like to learn more about and become better at", "making AIR Apps for Android Phones" isn't really in my top 5 right now. 3:51 PM The "Design with Fireworks" session was great. I mean, every time I do something or learn something new about that program, the more I'm convinced it's just THE way to create and move graphics from the design process into the web/interactive production execution process. I understand why Photoshop is still used. I just don't necessarily agree with it. If I were working on CMYK, high resolution images going to print, it would be all over my workflow. But I'm not. If I were to start any interactive project right now from scratch, I'd basically only need Fireworks and Dreamweaver. I could prototype, design, create, and execute using just those two tools and I would need nothing else. However... old dogs are old, and new tricks are new... and well, a cliche becomes a cliche because it happens enough. That being said, I'll just end with, "I love Fireworks" and this last session I attended on designing with it, was preaching to the choir. I think I'm gonna end the evening with a trip over to Hollywood and hunt for some authentic mexican. I'll let you know how that works out, but first, I really gotta lay down. The last four days have completely wiped me out and I'm not even sure I've got the energy to walk downstairs... Way too much nerd-action over the last four days.
7:24 AM Today should be a really good day. We've got another Keynote, the always great "Sneak Peeks" session later this evening, and of course, tonight's the "Max Event". Tonight we're getting a concert and a party featuring "The Bravery". I can't wait for that, love the album and I love, love, love "Time Won't Let Me Go", so I'm really looking forward to tonight. So it's going to be a long day/night. Today's Keynote will also be available live at max.adobe.com/online, so you can watch along. I've heard that today's Keynote is going to be pretty big, and there was an obvious absence (at least for me) of developer content. No Ben Forta, No ColdFusion, No Flex, and only a brief mention of codename "Edge". So I'm hopeful that today will have more code, less Martha Stewart (don't get me wrong, Martha's not all bad, but I'm not into grouse). My sessions today are going to be really terrific and I'm especially looking forward to the one titled, "The Future of Advertising". I mean, with a title like that, how could you not be curious? Well, my first session begins in about an hour, and I've got a nice walk ahead of me, so I'm gonna go get ready and head downstairs. More coming! 8:23 AM Whoa. Why didn't anyone tell me Starbucks' "Perfect Oatmeal" was so... well... perfect? They give you a little pack of brown sugar (more than I would ever use), a great little pack of dried fruit (they even tell you how many calories... I love that!), it's a perfect portion, and dammit, it's delicious! I've been getting beaten over the head and robbed at the hotel just to get a bowl of oatmeal. To hell with that, I'm eating Starbucks from now on. Sitting in "Using Web Fonts Now" eating my oatmeal. Here's the description from my schedule:
Discover how you can finally use real fonts on the web. Broad browser support for CSS with @font-face brings a new era of web typography, but that's only the beginning. New technical hurdles, new font formats, and new licensing restrictions need to be considered. Come learn about the latest tools and techniques for navigating this landscape and for using web fonts to their fullest potential in your design and development projects.I know, sounds cool, right? Well, we're getting ready to begin, so I'll fill you in when I'm done. 10:02 AM Keynote Day 2. The Music is MUCH better today. There's buzz about today, but I don't know what the buzz is about. I'm hoping today is more "developer-centric". Yesterday was great. Set the tone for the conference, broadly focused, and very positive. I'd like today's Keynote to drill down a little bit more and go into a little more detail about Adobe's roadmap. As I sit here typing this, I suddenly realized I haven't heard the word, "ColdFusion" mentioned by anyone at the conference since I got here. That's not really hyperbole, that's just a pretty straightforward observation. I'm not sure how that leaves me feeling, but I'm hoping they do more than talk about it over the next hour or so. As an aside, the web-fonts session I just left was great. I still feel like a lot of what we're talking about, design-wise, isn't quite there yet in terms of audience (CSS3, HTML5, Webfonts and compatible browsers) but we're getting there, and I feel like it's a great time to be a developer-designer. There are a lot of tools out there enabling a much richer experience and they're rapidly gaining traction in ways I haven't seen in years. It's a great time to be a... well... whatever I am. 1:30 PM Well, the day two Keynote was pretty interesting. We started off talking about Adobe Customer Service. Apparently it's bad. Lots of talk about "Flash and HTML being friends" and how we can all share. There was even a Sesame Street Muppet Spoof featuring "Flash" and "HTML" as puppets who fought (but were really good friends). It was kind of to be expected. I mean the assault on the senses the last few months have definitely put Adobe on the defensive, and... well... it showed a little. A little overcompensation, a little bit defensive... but all worthwhile. It really is a big world, with a lot of screens and a lot of places to put your stamp on an experience. Adobe is well positioned for content creators, creative development, and overall development. It doesn't have to be Flash, and it's obvious Adobe sees that. 4:30 PM "The Future of Advertising" was good if only for the fact that hearing other people reinforce your ideas and philosophies is always nice. Lots of talk about collaboration, flattening the structure of your agency, partnering with the client, etc. If you've been in advertising for even 30 minutes, you're already keenly aware of the "change or die" mantra in advertising that's permeating all levels of the discourse. Agencies are in the midst of a serious revolution. A revolution in process, a revolution in execution, a revolution in accountability... all the while trying to eek out billing and revenues. It's a scary time for some, and exciting time for others. I'm glad I sat in on it. I did walk out thinking to myself, "okay, that's good, we're on the right track...". 6:30 PM Okay, I can't make it to the sneaks session. Yeah, yeah, I know, Spock is there... etc. But over the years, I've kinda grown tired of the Sneak Peeks. I realize it's a peek into new, cutting edge technologies, but my head can't go there. I've got enough "cutting edge" right here, thankyouverymuch. I think instead I'm going to rest here at the hotel, go downstairs and get something to eat right here without walking around or going anywhere, then come back upstairs and relax before I head over to the Bash. I'm old. I can't go, go, go with the energy of a teenager anymore, so I'm not even gonna try...lol.
"Learn how to take a finished web design and turn it into CSS and HTML using Adobe Fireworks to optimize the images and generate the initial CSS and HTML pages, and then use Adobe Dreamweaver to refine and optimize the code. We'll cover essential techniques to control the page layout in the CSS, as well as hints and tips such as how to save time by generating CSS styles directly from the design and how to use placeholders for interactive elements and dynamic content.”Then I finish the day with, "Creating Interactive Rich Media Advertising Campaigns with Video":
"In this session you'll learn how video can be one of the most engaging components in Rich Media Advertising. We'll discuss how: use multiple videos in standard or HD format leveraging Dynamic Streaming; record your own video with a webcam and send it to email or a smartphone; post videos on Facebook; play a 3D multiplayer game using Papervision and Flash Media Interactive Server; and go mobile with your campaigns. We'll show examples of real rich media campaigns from top advertisers, discuss the technologies powering the creative, and try to dispel all the myths around the limitations of video ads.”So the next three hours or so should be really really fun. On to the first session! 7:30 PM So, as you can see... long day. Exhausted. Drained. Stuffed with horrible food (not badly prepared, or bad tasting. Actually really, really, really delicious food... just bad for you) and getting ready to buy Adobe Creative Suite CS5 Web Premium. Again, I don't really know what to think about all the Flash stuff. With everything going on between Apple, Android, Adobe and Flash, it's tough to make a call right now. AIR for TV looks really cool, and there are arguably a LOT of devices out there besides the iPad and the iPhone. I know because I actually spent a great deal of time today touching a lot of them. Then there's blackberry. Say what you want about RIM, there are a TON of people using Blackberries, and the audience is out there. The Playbook looks really good. I can't speak for the UI or touchscreen, because the single Playbook they had on display was behind glass, but the damn thing sure as hell exists, and it looks nice. So while I can't speak for the rest of the world, I do know that for a long time people lived and did business without Apple hardware, and there's an entrenched community that simply isn't going to vanish overnight. The Samsung people seem committed to Android and Flash/AIR, and I personally talked with representatives from a lot of companies, from TV to print manufacturers (have you seen the Lexmark printers with built in apps and CCD scanner/printers? They're hot... seriously cool) and they're sinking millions of dollars into products that integrate with Flash and Adobe AIR. There are literally hundreds of screens out there beyond the iOS world, and honestly, Flash is viable on pretty much all of them. That's my take-away today. All I know is, the next time someone says, "Flash is dead", I'm not going to be so quick to agree with them... that's all. The other thing that I took away today was this: I'm a died in the wool Dreamweaver user. You're going to have to pry my Dreamweaver from my cold, dead fingers. The things I saw today with HTML5/CSS3 integrating Fireworks and Dreamweaver and Photoshop for a robust development and design workflow leave me absolutely convinced that if you're a creative professional, and you're creating online interactive solutions for your clients, you owe it to both yourself and your clients to check out the production workflow that these products represent. Okay. That's all for today. I'm exhausted. I'm going to go use my Max discount and grab my copy of CS5. I'm hopeful that the bandwidth here at the hotel will accommodate me. I've got some "Bring your own laptop" (BYOL) sessions tomorrow, and the requirement for a couple of them are several of the CS5 Web Premium products (Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder) as well as the Android 2.2 SDK, and I've got to take some time tonight and make sure they're all installed before I go back tomorrow. More liveblogging tomorrow. Another Keynote, probably more big news (if the rumors I'm hearing are true, it's going to be another big day), and I'll have plenty more to write about. See you tomorrow!
It's no secret I'm an Adobe Fan-boy. Wait... let's back up a little. I began using Allaire ColdFusion in 1995. At the time, there were no other server side languages that connected to databases (easily) and the whole "interacting with a database" thing was new, exciting, and I was right there on it like white on rice. Eventually Allaire was purchased by Macromedia, who had Director (which I was a huge fan of) and a new animation application based off a recent purchase, "Future Splash Animator". Of course, they changed the name to "Flash" and the rest was history. When ColdFusion was a baby, the IDE of choice was a program called "HomeSite". It... was... awesome. Seriously, it was like, the best IDE (at the time) bar none. But in 1997 Macromedia released Dreamweaver, and when they purchased Allaire in 2001, Homesite was put on the death-watch and soon ColdFusion development was folded into Dreamweaver, which was then given center-stage and promoted as the all around IDE champion. So I started using Dreamweaver early on, and initially it was a tough sell. I was so used to hand-coding in Homesite that the "Designer" view and WYSIWYG (which was rarely "WYG") was a bit off-putting to me. But over time, and over a couple of Macromedia Developer Conferences (Dev-Con), I warmed up and it became my g0-to IDE. Which was great, for about 10 years. Then the inevitability of time caught up to me and I was forced (recently) to take a long hard look at my development process. I decided to switch from the world of ColdFusion, MSSQL, and Windows, and go ahead and switch to a Mac Based environment for PHP and MySQL. I wanted to switch (back, I was a mac user before I went to college in the 90s for CompSci) for a while, and this gave me an opportunity to jump back into MacOS with a vengeance. Initially, I was focused on switching my IDE because I was interested in Eclipse, TextMate and a couple other tools that friends used and raved about. You'd think I was looking forward to jumping back into the world of "hand-coding" and honestly, I kinda was. I thought, "This will allow me to roll up my sleeves and jump into code, where I wanna be". But no matter how I set up my environment, nothing seemed as... well... efficient as setting up a site in Dreamweaver and rocking Split View. So I began to research people who were doing PHP development (with frameworks like Cake and Zend, which were a personal requirement. I wanted a good framework coming off of the relatively recent development of several ColdFusion MVC-based frameworks) and discovered there were actually some pretty decent resources for PHP/CSS3/HTML5/jQuery/AJAX development using Dreamweaver. After a slow summer of starts and stops, it felt like I had finally arrived at a place where I could have my cake and eat it too. I could develop in a fast, efficient, CSS/Design based tool and develop cutting edge, open-source web apps using languages that were heading in the direction I needed to be heading in. Working at an Ad Agency, I don't have the luxury really of dictating what language our clients legacy sites, apps, and hosting environments are and it's bad enough that we've shied away from aspx and .Net development, I certainly couldn't move forward in today's environment and not fully support development in PHP and MySQL. Especially once everyone caught the WordPress bug. I mean, that was it for me. Once we started to develop WordPress sites for clients who were looking for the flexibility of a CMS with the ease of a blogging platform, and the WordPress platform reached a mature version 3.0, I saw the writing on the wall. This was where we had to be, and I had to embrace the change or die like a dinosaur. Then Adobe went and released Dreamweaver CS5. I mean, seriously, built in CMS integration? Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress support? Extensions right out of the box for CSS3 and HTML5 with full code hinting? I was already a huge fan of developing CSS based layouts in Dreamweaver CS4, and the new features in CS5 just "took it up a notch". I was sold. I was in the right place, at the right time, and all the pieces I needed were falling nicely into place. Enter Max. I hadn't attended Max last year for the first time in (I think) over ten years. I believe the first Max I attended (at the time, Macromedia Dev-Con) was in 2000 at the Walt Disney Dolphin. Since then, every year I had made the annual nerd pilgrimage to Dreamweaver mecca to hone my skills. Now, with the release of CS5 it was time once again to look to the one place I can be guaranteed will fill my head with creative and executional inspiration. It took me all of about half an hour to convince my bosses that I needed to go, because over the years, they've seen directly how much benefit the company gets from sending its best and brightest to three days of wholly immersive experiences that overload the senses and fill the head with endless possibilities. I've attended a lot of conferences over the years and to this day, nothing even comes close. The mixture of developer, designer, creator, manager is like no other that I've seen. I work in a design-intensive world and have to regularly execute creative ideas with a team of people who don't all share my particular skill-set or passion for programming, and nothing else on earth could prepare me for that the way this conference always, and I do mean always, does. So am I excited? You tell me. I've got a brand new laptop, with a spanking new copy of CS5 on it, PHP loaded up, and more databases on it than you can shake a stick at. I've got my Android phone juiced up, and I've signed up for some Android developer sessions that should (hopefully) lead to great things. I still have high hopes for Android, having been one of the very first people to jump on that train two years ago when I purchased my G1 and recent developments in the world of mobile and Flash development have piqued my interest. I'm putting together my agenda, and going over some of the sessions I want to attend, but in the next couple of days I'll be sure and post my agenda for the trip. It's October 25-28, but I've gotten into an awesome, awesome pre-conference day of training that gets me to Los Angeles a couple days earlier, so I'll actually be there from the 23rd through the 28th. I'm going to blog extensively before, during and after, with as much photo and video content as I can produce in a hotel room at night, so look forward to a lot of in-depth coverage coming up. After missing the conference for a year, I believe the term you're looking for is "back with a vengeance". I can't wait. Los Angeles, here I come!