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.
"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!