Meta-Learnings from Adobe MAX 200812.01.2008
While I learned a fair share at Adobe MAX 2008, I’d like to focus this post on meta-learnings. What are meta-learnings? I’m not sure yet, but here we go:
- Gucci is to Hollywood as writing books is to nerds. I don’t remember the number of times I heard someone flaunting his/her authorship on a book, but I’m quite positive it surpassed the fingers on one hand. Writing books is the new black when it comes to tech.
- Adobe is very in-tune with their customers. One of their general sessions was focused on presenting how Adobe is addressing specific customer problems. Key corporate leaders presented in real style and with what seemed to be honest sincerity. Being that I’ve seen the problems firsthand, I can honestly say they seem to know what their customers need and how to get there. At one presentation, a member of the audience asked something related to accessing the screen dimensions of a cell phone an AIR application is running on. I then overheard one of Adobe’s team members on the back row ask another team member, “Do you know if we do that?” The other one said, “I don’t know, but let’s take a look at it.” How many times can you ask a question about a product and get the immediate attention of the development team behind it?
- Adobe Flash Catalyst, formerly named Thermo, is finally materializing and is starting to make sense. It’s also a great example of how Adobe knows what its customers want. One issue that has plagued both developers and designers is the gap between the two. After a graphic designer designs (“mocks up”) an application’s interface, he/she passes it off to the developer. It’s then the developer’s job to interpret how to implement the design. Sounds easy enough, but that requires cutting the images up into smaller portions, hooking each element up to the programming logic that controls it, and, most importantly, interpreting how the user interacts with the design. Given that an application’s graphic design usually comes to the programmer in a static form with no animation and relatively few, if any, side notes, that can leave a lot to be interpreted and a lot of code refactoring. Adobe’s Flash Catalyst was built to address just that issue and I believe it will represent a huge paradigm shift in how an application’s graphic design is integrated with logic.
- The 3d flip is the next bevel.
- Listening to the Flex team brings a higher understanding of why things are done the way they are. First of all, you get to know the developers, their limitations, and their frustrations. Rather than reading marketing media, you hear their mostly-unfiltered opinions. Most of them have ran into similar situations as you and also feel frustrated. Try modifying a vertical scroll bar in Flex and placing the up and down buttons next to each other. Sounds easy, but it takes some work and they know it. After I’ve seen what they’ve been working on, it starts to make sense why they have continued to push off certain bugs in favor of enhancing the core architecture.
- Related to my previous meta-learning, the Flex team members, as super-duper as they are, aren’t perfect. Recently I was doing some research on a design principle called “composition over inheritance” and would refer to the Flex 3 framework as a comparison. I kept thinking, well, it certainly seems like there’s a lot of inheritance going on. They must be doing things right though–they’re Adobe. Well, sure enough it seems one of the main goals of the new version of Flex (Flex 4) is to do away with a lot of the inheritance and move to a more composition-oriented approach. The benefits are almost immediately apparent after seeing a few demos. The comparison of Flex 3 and Flex 4 is a great lesson in design patterns and shows how the Adobe team is learning along with the rest of us.
- Flex microarchitectures/frameworks are like punk trends. A decade ago, the trend was baggy jeans, cushiony shoes, and spiky hair. I liked and still like most of the those trends for comfort and skateboardability. Now it seems punks are having a hard time differentiating themselves from themselves. They can barely fit in their pants, have their hair slicked over their eyes, and are back to paper-thin Converse Allstars. Flex microarchitectures have similar trends. It used to be that everyone was all gung-ho about them. They loved em and thought they were cooler for having more than three on their resume. Now you’ve got a bunch of people saying, “Nah, they suck….I don’t even need them…and you suck for using them.” As with the punk trends, I sit in the middle.
That’s it! Enjoy.