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FlashForward Austin / Day 2 / Sessions

"Hillman on Video" - Hillman Curtis
"Learn to Love Actionscript - Flash for Designers" Trevor Dodd
"Migrating to AS3 from AS2" - Caleb Haye
"Flex Builder 2 for Flash Programmers" - Phil Heinz
"Mashup Baby!" - Mario Klingemann

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"Hillman on Video" was great for lots of reasons, but the one that sticks out most in my mind really had less to do with the session, and more to do with Hillman himself. About 3 or 4 years ago I invited Hillman to come speak at Oberlin College when I was a senior in the Art department. He gave a great presentation, but very little of it was about video. Today he spoke mostly on video, and it was great to hear him speak on his evolution. It was exciting for me personally because I had a reference point of my own and knew about some of the past events in his life he was speaking about.

Seeing the journey someone has taken from owning and running a very successful firm, to weathering the dot-com bust, to deciding to spend a good deal of time on his own personal projects was amazing. I remember him talking to me on the ride to Oberlin from the airport about this new DVCam he had just bought -- his first at the time. Crazy.
Later in the day I was able to spend a good deal of time talking to Hillman about what we had both been up to since his visit to Oberlin. It turns out that he has some really good friends in Portland and visits all the time -- hopefully I'll be able to buy him a beer and pick his brain some more sometime.

Oh, I should also point out that he has a new(ish) book out all about his venture into digital video. He was kind enough to sign a copy for me, which I will be reading promptly. I'll try to share my thoughts here when I am able.
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"Learn to Love Actionscript -Flash for Designers" was up next. Honestly, I took one note in this session: Trevor Dodd's website URL. I don't think this was a bad session, I just think I chose poorly for my skillset. Being a professional developer, I knew everything he was talking about, and as such I didn't gain much knowledge from the hour.

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"Migrating to AS3 from AS2" was an eye-opener. Caleb Haye came across as this extremely genuine and nice guy, who could program extremely well. Oh, and he happens to have the coolest job on earth: he is part of the "Yahoo! Media Innovation Group". Basically he gets paid to play with the newest thing out there, always staying 12-18 months ahead of the curve. So basically he has been using AS3 as long as anyone else out there, and was extremely knowledable on the subject.

He first discussed the differences between the two languages, but in a manner that was clear and concise. He then described how to migrate your projects into the new syntax, which really shouldn't be all that difficult. I think thats the best thing I gained from this session: it really won't be that hard to get up to speed on AS3 in a short amount of time.

As a comparison he showed the AS2 Yahoo! Search API he wrote alongside the AS3 version. With the AS3 version he had 3 files, while the AS2 version had over 20. While it will have a much steeper learning curve, it seems to be well worth it.

One really cool feature he pointed out today was
function(arg1, arg2, ... rest) { }
By using the "... id" convention in your function definitions, you can accept any number of arguments. This might not seem like a big deal to Java or C++ developers, but for AS this is huge.

More info on Caleb at http://www.caleb.org (I guess it pays to work for Yahoo! -- who also registers domains :) ).

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"Flex Builder 2 for Flash Programmers" was another great session today. Not knowing much about the Flex Builder IDE I think this was a great head-first jump into it's world. It's an amazing code editor and sports a ton of features I would love to see in the Flash 9 IDE. Hopefully they'll be adding them because it can't be too, too hard to port them over after building them for Flex Builder. Well, at least in concept anyways.

What I think will be weird at first is the lack of a timeline. Now everything is created through code and the use of "screens" and the viewstack in MXML.

The best feature I learned about during the session was event bubbling. This is where an even fires up the chain of objects until it is told to die. You can setup a listener on every level to receive the event notification and complete different actions as necessary. The beauty is in the fact that you don't have to write an event listner for every individual button anymore. You can feed all the events into the same listener and test for the button's id from there:

buttonHandler(ev:Event) {
trace(ev.currentTarget);
}

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"Mashup Baby!" was the last session I saw, and man, does Mario come up with some great ideas. His session was all about how he pulls data sources from public APIs and other public/social sharing sites like YouTube, Flickr, and del.icio.us.

When an API isn't available, he'll often use PHP and RegEx to "visit" the site and pull the data he wants from the page. So basically he is creating his own APIs for sites that don't have them. For example, he'll scrub the del.icio.us daily tag cloud to grab the day's most popular topics. So simple, yet so ingenious.

He also showed some amazing projects, including one that is yet to be released entitled "PictureDisko". Check out his site: http://www.quasimondo.com/

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There is so much more I could write about all of the sessions today. I'll try to do a conference recap post that has a ton of links and more info from my notes on each session next week.

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