Last week I had the opportunity to attend AdobeMAX in Los Angeles. It was my first time attending a conference out of the PHP community in a couple years (unless you count DrupalCon). More importantly this was my first time attending a conference driven primarily by the design side of the fence. While it added a new flavor and vibe to the event, it made for some interesting situations too.
First of all, the keynotes were spectacular. I've been to many keynotes that have an interesting speaker or that “oh nifty” moment, but I have to say that I was fascinated and impressed all the way along. The opening keynote was led by Adobe's CTO Kevin Lynch where he gave an overview of some coming technology. But since no tech demo would be complete without a customer testimonial, he invited a few.
The first was Martha Stewart who came out to talk about Adobe's work on her magazine on the iPad. The integration and flow of it was simply amazing. They supplemented the basic magazine experience with videos, animations, and audio. I'm not interested in cooking or gardening but couldn't take my eyes off it. Next, Jim Balsillie, the co-CEO of RIM demo'd Adobe AIR on their new Android-based tablet the Playbook. I don't know that it's an iPad killer but with multithreading it could be competitive. Finally, the a representative (Product Manager?) of Motorola announced AIR on the Droid 2 and then gave every attendee one. No seriously, I have a brand new Droid 2. And this was just the first day.
The second keynote was 'Adobe Television' with live skits in between recorded segments. John Ressig of jQuery attended to announce their collaboration on the jQuery Mobile Plugin. Adobe showed off their HTML5 capabilities in Dreamweaver. And we had a hilarious hilarious 'fight' between muppets representing Flash and HTML5. And finally, the head of Google TV showed up and announced AIR on their device.. and then gave every attendee one. No seriously, the Logitech Revue is being shipped to everyone shortly.
The Adobe MAX awards was hosted by William Shatner. Yes, Captain James T Kirk.
The variety of sessions was great. I tended to focus on the mobile sessions but also caught a few others. The most fun session was a case study from the Popcamp Games team on Plants vs Zombies. They talked about numerous optimizations that they did on the core game logic, on the animation, and scheduling to make the game operate smoothly. To research, I downloaded and played the game and the performance and responsiveness is impressive. Yes, it was research, don't argue. On the strict development front, I found a whole series of tools like FlexUnit, FlexMD, and the like. If you read my recent php|architect article, you should be familiar with their PHP equivalents. More on that in a coming post.
Some of the logistics were screwy. Some of the rooms – mostly smaller meeting rooms – were a 10+ minute walk from the main events. Worse, some of the security/staff were giving poor directions. If you're going to have staff all over the place, give them printed maps of the building. Also, a couple of the beverage breaks only had one station. While that may work with a few hundred, it doesn't work with thousands.
Not surprisingly, cell and wifi coverage were a mess. I live-tweeted much of the opening keynote but gave up after that when I noticed that I was creating duplicates. Sorry to anyone that was following me.
There were some last minute schedule changes that weren't communicated very well. There was an Android App with the live schedule but each time you opened it, it defaulted to 8am Sunday morning. On Monday that was tolerable, not so much on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Some of the speakers themselves had rarely stepped outside the Flex world. They didn't have an idea of how things were handled outside their little sphere. While it didn't necesarily hurt their session, they didn't respond well to questions like “It works like X over here.. what is the equivalent for your solution?”
Some of the entertainment at the MAX Bash was just.. odd. I attended with a number of LA PHP members and on the side stage, there was a scantily clad woman writhing and dancing with a large snake. I didn't quite get the point and it was just awkward to see. Of course, everyone had to make a Flex joke to cover it.
There was a HUGE amount of stuff announced and released for the first time. Unfortunately, as a result, the sessions related to those things were all Adobe employees showing internal applications. While those were interesting, I want to see how the tools are used in the real world, even experimentally.
And that Droid 2 phone we got? Slight problem. Someone screwed up and a bad version of AIR was installed on it. The first step to using it was uninstalling AIR and reinstalling from the app store. OOPS.
In summary… would I do it again? Definitely. Even without the free gadgets, there were great people, amazing ideas, and great tools all over the place. Stepping out of the PHP community was eye-opening and sparked some ideas and creative things I'm about to try. The best part of all was how accessible people were. I met the engineering, marketing, and product managers for almost every group I was interested in and all of them were friendly and open. It gave MAX an Open Source vibe which was a pleasant surprise.
Disclosure: I attended Adobe MAX at the request of Adobe itself as we've worked with them on big and small things and intend to continue into the future. Further, everything in this post is public information and not covered by NDAs. I'm not that dumb.