Adobe Live, Multi-Mania feedback: Can developers be inspirational?

I got back yesterday from presenting at Adobe Live in Amsterdam and was happy to see quite a few favorable reviews already popping up on blogs. Here are the ones I could find for Adobe Live, where I presented my Memo to the CEO and Rediscovering Fun sessions. (The former is on development processes and good practices in software development and the latter is about my personal journey that led to SWX.)

Memo to the CEO . . . Great presentation by Aral Balkan. It got me really inspired and I can't wait to discuss User Centered (agile) Product Development at my own company (after I've emailed him with some questions I have).

Rediscovering Fun . . . Aral's second session of the day was a fun one. He introduced the latest version of his baby, SWX (which is now in beta by the way). I also really liked his Twitter code demo. I mean, how geeky can you get? Great!

Read more on The Nitty Gritty: Adobe Live 2007 in retrospect.

Always great to see sessions by Aral Balkan. Today he presented two sessions. The most important for me was “the letter to ceo” session(older comments about this session, Sheets of older session). He addressed the problem of project failure and the need to use more agile methods. And offcourse to give the user a fair chance to have input in the product. I forgot how serious this problem is, now I am no longer an active programmer but an educator. One short look at the projects I have done shows that a lot of my projects have failed. No right fit with the user, bloated expectations etc.

Now I am an educator I have the chance to show other ways of doing projects. For some years now I have tried to get us (our educational department) out of the waterfall. But it’s no easy job. For some reason a lot of students, colleagues and clients have a hardwired “waterfall model” and always seem to fall back into 100 page requirement documents.

We are working on this in our minor, but I think we can do more to make a change in the complete department.

Maybe we should invite Aral to change some attitudes.

Read more on Web X.Y: Adobe live: Letter to ceo.

Aral Balkan's presentation in the developer theater was titled "Letter to the CEO" and addressed the shortcomings of the software development process. The core of this session: "Failure is the industry's standard, the waterfall method is the industry's standard, so waterfall = failure". Agile methods like eXtreme Programming are the ones to be used according to Aral Balkan.

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"Rediscovering Fun" as Aral Balkan's next session. This time he talked about his new SWF Data Exchange Format called SWX. With SWX you can load data with the loadMovie() method instead of using third party libraries. What you do need though is Apache webserver and PHP. Cool stuff!!

Read more on Web Development Blog: eXtreme Programming, Flex 3, Apollo, SWX and lots more

After the intro- and CS3 workflow talks we pretty much sat in the Developer Theater all throughout the day, as that was where all the presentations were given that were of most interest to us as Actionscript developers. Especially Aral’s ‘Memo to the CEO’ was really inspiring, I think Aral gave the most enjoyable presentations during the whole day, but that probably also had something to do with the way he entertains his listeners as much as he teaches you about the subject in question.

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Halfway through the afternoon Aral Balkan gave his second presentation, which was about ‘Rediscovering fun’. Again, this was a very inspiring session. During the talk he made some small samples of SWX, which was nice, and also really simple.

Read more on Ruben Swieringa: Adobe Live Amsterdam was awesome!

And here are a few from the Multi-Mania conference from the week before:

In the next session, it was time to wake up. Stand in line, grab a Wii controller, swing it hard and score that winning point. It's all about rediscovering fun : Enter Aral Balkan. His entire speech was about data communication in Flash. He went from XML ( parent, child, bastard child ) , over Load Vars ( yuk ) to his newest baby : SWX. I have to say it sounded rather interesting. A very easy way to get your data and get it into Flash with nothing but the loadMovie() method. His session was very inspiring, but than again, the man is a born performer. Line of the day : Hacking is just looking for a creative solution.

Read more at Multi Mania 2007.

Starts with a WII tennis game. People line up and hit the tennis ball. It’s cool and it runs Flash ;-). What a man has to do to loosen up the Belgian audience.

Aral talks about how he had “a realization” based on personal experiences in consulting. People are scared of complex systems and workflows. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Talks about how Mac changed his life. He loved computers again. Moving to Brighton also had a big impact on his life. Gets inspiration from talking to non-flash people . . . Very geeky and very cool! Aral is a joy to watch. He’s a great presenter! Thanks mate!

The above is a tiny excerpt from Christophe Herreman's live blog post from the session. Read the whole post at MultiMania: Aral Balkan.

Just saw Aral Balkan’s session on “Rediscovering Fun”, which, as always, TOTALLY ROCKED!!

He mostly talked about his new remoting technology (gateway) SWX, and showed just how cool it is to really USE the web. Things like Twitter, Flickr, Upcoming, etc… all have public API’s which basically allow you to build your own stuff, just the way you like it, while using their technology.

A totally cool demo was when he used his Nokia N92 phone to read out a barcode, generated by web software and containing actual Twitter input. The phone read in the barcode, Flash Lite on the phone using SWX interpreted the input and displayed the output on screen. Now how cool is that?!

Lesson learned was: don’t be afraid to experiment! Use the web, discover all the fun things you can do with it, and don’t get put off if you need to try 1000 times before you build something really cool that lasts. JUST DO IT!

A quick note: Don't confuse SWX, which allows you to make remote procedure calls and returns the results in a SWF file, with Flash Remoting, which returns its results in AMF format. I'll definitely try and make that even clearer the next time I give the talk that SWX is not Flash Remoting. Also, so that no one loses hair trying to find my mystery phone, it's an N95! :)

Read the whole post at Tested Unit: Aral Balkan at MultiMania 07.

The greatest compliment for me is that people have used the term "inspiring" over and over to describe the sessions. It's especially ironic considering that when I asked one of the Adobe Live conference organizers which sessions would be on the huge Main Stage (as opposed to the much smaller "Developer Theater"), he replied that it was reserved for "creative" and "inspirational sessions" (cue: orchestral crescendo).

The thought that popped into my head at that moment was "oh, I guess I should try hard not to make my sessions inspirational!"

It saddens me that our industry still toils under the misconception that developers cannot be creative or inspirational.

It was even more interesting to note that certain sessions in the Main Stage were almost deserted while several at the small, slightly removed Developer's Theater were packed, with people standing three rows deep at the back. (In a move that reminded me of putting developers in the basement without windows while the "creatives" get the window seats, the Developer's Theater jutted out into a different portion of the conference center where, in at least one of my sessions, they were constructing something using drills.) Now that I think about it, they would also interrupt all other sessions (twice during my one-hour Rediscovering Fun session) with a thundering announcement about what was coming on next in the Main Stage.

So about this whole "inspirational" issue: Just to check, I went back to the session feedback I received for an earlier version of my Memo to the CEO talk at Flash on the Beach last year. John Davey sent out the most comprehensive audience feedback reports I've ever received from a conference at the end of last year's conference and for that I'm hugely thankful. Without audience feedback, you have no way of improving your sessions in the future.

In fact, you know what, here's the whole thing -- all the comments from that session, good and bad, not one edited or removed:

Very inspiring and good development techniques that we have actually used.

Very good speaker, nice overview.

Very good dynamic speaker. Useful information that crossed boundaries. He catered for a noncoding audience as well as his fellow coders.

Very good but the title gave away no clues so I nearly didn't go to it.

Very Aral. Enough said.

Very ambitious, yet not very practicable

Some great top tips, wish the CEO had been there

So relevant and so.... useful!

Really only stayed for a few minutes for this talk - not my cup of tea at all - so don’t know how relevant my comment is

Passionate, informed. His visuals could have added to his message, rather than just repeat it.

Obviously this guy has stuff worked out. Notes would be good though. Maybe I missed them

My favorite session. It was very inspiring.

Most of the stuff I knew.. but great speaker with great insights

Just Great

It was quite good, although it was directed to a model of business i don't work with.


Inspirational and thought provoking

I'm afraid my head was buzzing by this point so I didn't really give the session a chance and left but I heard positive things about it including one of the stewards saying "That was good, I even understood what he was talking about!".

Having been to Aral's hotshots I just knew this was going to a great session. The guy's enthusiasm is infectious.

Great speaker, good stuff, awesome

Great speaker notes and useful topic.

Good talk...would like to see more topics on agile/xprogramming... and also some that are more technical. But, Aral definitely filled a void that needs more filling next year!

Good mix of subject matter, useful and well delivered.

Excellent, inspiring. Easy to listen to, fun, talented speaker, with some great insights on process.

Made me wish I were working in an agile XP team.

Excellent to hear that Flash projects can be managed successfully and from such a high profile guest. Gives me hope and inspiration ;-)

Excellent speaker and good subject matter. Project management is not something I am directly involved with but certainly food for thought.

Excellent presenter

Excellent investigation into project management techniques.

Exactly what I've been thinking for years - great to have it put into words!

Didn't see this one because I've been to Aral's own workshops recently. But I guess it was very good.

Both informative and hilarious

Aral didn't disappoint as usual, enthusiasm came across instantly and some excellent points in the content. I should imagine this changed alot of processes for attendees when they got back to work.

Another stella talk again inspirational and thought provoking.

Another quality presentation from Mr Balkan!

Another great speaker doing a great presentation that didn't teach me anything new.

An excellent overview of XP(Extreme programming) and agile development. Hopefully a lot more people will consider using these ideas, however as he said it is really only the CEO ís that can make a change overall. Very good stuff!

A brilliantly presented talk on Project lifecycles and Agile Programming, I wish our Project management team were there for this.

I counted six variations of "inspirational" in the comments (although my favorite is "Another great speaker doing a great presentation that didn't teach me anything new" -- I guess there were quite a few introductory-level sessions at FOTB and I know that John's aware of this and will hopefully be leveling things out this year!)

Conference organizers, please take note: Technical/geeky/developer-oriented sessions can be every bit as inspirational as the designer-oriented look-at-the-lovely-pictures sessions. Please don't perpetuate the horrible industry practice of seeing developers as semi-mechanical beings who are happy to exist in out-of-the-way dark areas otherwise used to warehouse hardware. Development and programming are creative processes and if you want inspired, motivated developers, you must place them in an inspiring environment.

That note aside, I had a really great time at both Multi-Mania and during my sessions at Adobe Live although they were very different events. The former was a warm, community-driven love affair and the later was much more business-like. I do applaud Adobe Netherlands for introducing the developer track this year and for bringing in speakers from the Flash community. It definitely gave the event a far more community-like feel (a harsh contrast to the unabashed sales event that Adobe Live UK was last year). I hope you guys continue along this path and that Adobe Live organizers in other countries take note and follow your lead.