The first day of MAX was so very interesting. Even though there were more attendees than last year, the layout of the Moscone West convention center made for a much better experience. The Unconference sessions that ran alongside the official sessions weren't just the icing on the cake. Sometimes they were the cake (not a lie).
Opening General Session
For a few months beforehand, Adobe had been asking users to contribute videos tagged "30onMAX" to YouTube in order to build up excitement for the conference. Some of those videos were chosen to play during the prelude to Monday's and Tuesday's keynotes. But it was only during Monday's keynote that Mike Relm was on-hand to liven them up a bit.
The big things are that Thermo is now called Flash Catalyst. You know how you can cut up a Photoshop document and export it to HTML? Flash Catalyst does the same thing, but for Flex applications. The rest of the keynote was mostly devoted to Flash, Flex & AIR, as well as how mobile and non-desktop devices are outnumbering "PCs" for connecting to the Internet. Talk of "the cloud" was everywhere.
[MAX] Aligning Higher Education with RIA Trends and Opportunities
I wasn't completely sure what this session would cover, but since I work for an education services company now, I figured I'd give it a shot. The session focused on how to get Flex integrated into University and College Graphics Design programs.
In the late 90's, I was the webmaster for the UNT School of Visual Arts. The WWW was brand-new and very few people had any idea how to take their knowledge of print design and move it to the web. As far as tools went, Adobe had print pretty much locked up, but Macromedia was kicking butts and taking names on the web. Fast forward to today and Adobe has it all covered, but the underlying problem is still getting designers to shift how they approach print and the web to an "application".
While the presenter seemed to focus on the design programs in upper education, many in the audience began asking, "how do I integrate Flex with a Computer Science track?" Turns out they'd been pondering this as well.
Adobe has come up with Flex Learning Paths which anyone can use. Just choose your starting point: Designer/Web Developer, Programmer, Manager or Architect. Once you've chosen which track you're in, you'll be presented with topics and list of internal and external posts covering those topics.
While we were at it, I asked about Adobe's efforts at pushing ColdFusion into higher education given that they recently created an education license for ColdFusion Server. They said that those efforts were underway and that were would be a set of ColdFusion Learning Paths in the future.
[MAX] Developing an Enterprise Application with Adobe Flex
or why you should buy our product that's based on Flex. I got there a little late, so maybe I missed the discussion of issues they ran into while developing with Flex and how they solved them. What I saw was mostly "here's how to use Xcelsius 2008 to do blah" and "here's another feature we built that does blah".
Don't get me wrong, it's an incredible UI for data visualization, I just don't think they covered much of the development processes behind it.
[360max UC] Analyzing OLAP Data in the Advanced Flex Datagrid
Peter McKiernan and Eric Ko from Atrexis Systems Limited put on a decent overview of using OLAP Cubes to provide data to a Flex application. They started off by describing why you would want to use Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) instead of reading data from a standard relational database.
By using sample data from their company's application, they walked through how to define a cube, as well as how to create one using SQl Server's Analysis Services. They walked through the query language and the MXML needed to get data to a Flex application.
I was only able to catch the first half of the session, but what I saw was well done.
If you want a great demo of Flex using OLAP data, check out this post by Sreenivas Ramaswamy of Adobe.
[MAX] Deploying into Large Scale ColdFusion Environments
This was a really good discussion about the hardware and network infrastructures needed when dealing with large ColdFusion applications. There wasn't any discussion of the programming behind such applications, which may have left some people in the cold, but the subject at hand was just what I needed. I also had the chance to speak with a few people afterwards about specific hardware devices that had come up during the presentation and in discussions at work.
[CF UC] Applying the YSlow Guidelines
Brian went over some of Yahoo's recommendations for client-side performance, as well as his own recommendations based on past projects. YSlow is an extension of the Firebug plug-in for FireFox. You can download it here: http://developer.yahoo.com/yslow/.
[CF UC] CFConversations: Episode 24 - Roundtable
Once the sessions were done for the day, Brian invited anyone to stick around to record a quick episode of CFConversations. Brian picked up the CF Podcast torch when Matt & Peter decided to close down the ColdFusion Weekly show.
If you haven't listened to any of these podcasts, I suggest you give them a download. Brian's interviewed a good many ColdFusion and Flex developers, covering many great topics. In Episode 24, I joined Brian, Micheal & Judith Dinowitz (House of Fusion & Fusion/Flex Authority) and Jeffrey Houser (Flex Authority & The Flex Show podcast) to discuss the day's events, reactions and thoughts. It runs just about 41 minutes and I suppose I don't sound too goofy on it.
[BoF] Addressing the ColdFusion Developers' Skills Gap
The Birds of a Feather (BoF) meetings give everyone a chance to discuss certain topics in a more relaxed and interactive venue than a normal session. The open bars just outside the rooms helped. I've already posted what this BoF was meant to address and I'll say that I didn't get through half of the talking points I was hoping to cover.
There was a turnout of about 30 people, which was good given that the "Meet the ColdFusion Team" BoF was happening a few doors down at the same time. A few people on the CF team told me before and after that they regretted both BoFs ran at the same time as they were very interested in what we all had to say about the topic at hand.
I was very glad that almost everyone contributed to the conversation. I'll save my notes and thoughts on the discussion for another (longer) post.
[BoF] CFML Language Development
If you aren't aware, one argument against ColdFusion is that "it's a proprietary language, controlled by a single corporation". That's not entirely true. While Adobe (Macromedia, Allaire) maintain the Adobe ColdFusion Server and its interpretation of CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language), they aren't the only company invested in CFML. New Atlanta's Blue Dragon servers also parse CFML, as does Railo (now part of JBoss), the Smith Project and Open BlueDragon.
Along with multiple engines parsing CFML comes the potential (and fact, in some cases) that a ColdFusion function or tag acts differently between engines. During this year's CFUnited conference, Ben Forta announced the creation of the CFML Advisory Committee so that there could be a community input on what the "core" CFML implementation would be across all engines (among other things).
Many, if not all, members were in attendance either in-person or via Connect. You can find a more detailed post of this BoF, as well as the Connect recording on Mark Phillips' blog.
If you think that's a lot to take in by reading, think of what it was to spend the whole day there. It was a lot of fun. And afterwards, of course, it was off to the bars. I met a few more bloggers and had a great time catching up with friends and former coworkers. Day 2 will be posted soon. That's when all the ColdFusion goodies showed up.