The Community Team at Adobe MAX

The Adobe MAX Stage in 2009
Image by Richard Cawood via Flickr

Adobe’s annual conference, MAX is amost upon us. The team will all be flying into Los Angeles and we’re extremely excited to go.

MAX is the single largest face-to-face gathering of Adobe community annually – at least 200 Adobe User Group managers and Adobe Community Porfessionals will be in attendance. Probably more, I don’t have the final tally in front of me right now.

So if you’re attending MAX and want to say “hi” to the team, find out more about what we’re up to, meet other community leaders, or find out how to get more involved in the Adobe community world, where will you find us at MAX?

That’s easy. :)

On Sunday, we’ll be hosting an all-day Summit for community leaders. Liz has done a fantastic job organizing this event, and the agenda is chock-full of presentations and discussions from the best of the Adobe teams as well as the community.

Then after MAX officially opens, we’ll be in the Community Lounge during the show. Just walk into the show floor and we’re right up front, with a big sign hanging from the ceiling to point the way. Please stop by anytime to say “Hi!” and pick up a little gift. We’re here specifically to meet and talk with as many community people as possible.

Two other community events I want to call out at MAX are:

1) The Manager to Manager meeting – Monday night, 9PM. Led by longtime community leader Dee Sadler, this even is open to all user group managers where they can share and network. Beer and pizza will be available as well.
2) “Are You Smarter Than a Flash Evangelist?” – Tuesday afternoon, 4:30. Four Evangelists face off against four community members to see who’s smarter. This should be a heck of a fight! The Flash Community Cares team is also using this event to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders.

If you’re not able to make it to LA for MAX, Adobe will be streaming both keynotes, and they WILL be worth watching. Here’s the link to sign up for the stream.

For those of you onsite, don’t forget to download the MAX Companion! The desktop downloader is here, and it’s also available in the Android Market. A guide to the Adobe MAX Unconferences is also in the Android Market.

So map out your schedules, charge up your batteries, load up your software, and get going! We’ll see you at MAX!

The Future of Developer Communities: Some Thoughts

Lately, I’ve noticed an increasing amount of discussion about the role of the “platform agnostic” developer – a developer who is equally comfortable across a range of languages and technologies, switching from one to another as each new project or customers requires. To call out just a few examples, Seb Lee-Delisle has been talking a lot about this subject, as well as Grant Skinner and too many others to list here.

It makes a lot of sense for developers to take this approach. In today’s environment, with significant fragmentation in the mobile world, lots of change in the browser environment, and new devices coming to market practically every week, sticking to closely to what’s worked in the past can limit your future options.

I wonder, though, what the role of community will be in this new world. Today’s user group model is focused very much around communities of expert practitioners within single technologies — ColdFusion developers form ColdFusion communities and come together to discuss CF-specific techniques, frameworks, and practices. Flash developers, the same. It’s all very siloed and very focused.

What will happen when that developer is working on an Android project one month, maybe an iOS gig the next, and then some Flash work after that? The old model doesn’t fit the need so well anymore.

One answer might be for that developer to find and join multiple communities to help support him or her in their work, but I’m not sure that’s the best answer. It’s hard enough to find and build relationships within even one community. I wonder if developers will have the energy or the time to create those kinds of connections across multiple communities.

So what’s a better solution?

A change in focus, for one thing. With more developers looking to expand their skillsets, I expect that we’ll see developer communities paying more attention to supporting new to intermediate developers coming into the community and a little less to deep-dives into expert-level topics.

And that changes of focus is already being reflected within our own community. We’re seeing an increasing number of people wanting to hold Camps – from Flash Camps to After Effects Camps and more. Camps are a great way to reach out to new community members and introduce them to new topics, as you have more time than a typical user group meeting. If this trend continues we”ll see a whole lot more Camps in 2011.

I also think our concept of community itself will evolve. We need to start thinking about defining communities less in single-tool silos and more in broader categories. “Adobe developers” instead of “Flash developers”, for example.

Some user groups are already changing to meet the needs of this new environment.  To name just a few examples, SanFlashcisco has been doing sessions on HTML5 as well as Flash in recent months. Fire On The Bay is expanding beyond Fireworks to focus on a range of web development tools. FlashBrighton is now dotBrighton, covering a range of topics from HTML5 to AfterEffects and beyond.

I don’t have all the answers yet, but we all need to start asking those questions.

What do you think?

Inside look at Community Building at Adobe

Earlier this year, I was approached by Dan Wilson, organizer of the NCDevCon event to do an interview for Dzone. I had fun talking about what community means to Adobe and how we all benefit from a healthy community.

See the full video.

http://css.dzone.com/videos/look-inside-adobe-ugs-building

Thoughts on Blogging, At Adobe and Elsewhere

I participated in a panel discussion a few weeks ago as part of SES. Afterwards I did a quick interview with the panel moderator, Anna Maria Virzi from Clickz, sharing some thoughs on corporate blogging:

I’m talkijng about blogging at Adobe, but towards the end the advice gets more general. The biggest takeaway? “Be human, be interesting, and be passionate”. That’s hardly news but always bears remembering.

Flash and Flex Camps report

It was a great summer for Flash Camps and Flex Camps. We had our first two Flash Camps in China, in Hangzhou and Shanghai! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Flash Camps, Flex Camps and ColdFusion Camps , they are technical events, organized by members of the Adobe community, that introduce people to Adobe technologies. Each Camp has its own special flavor and feature presentations, demos, hands-on trainings, and team coding sessions to just name a few.

For the months of June, July and August of 2010, there were 6 Flash Camps that attracted a total of 633 attendees.

Here is a list of the Camps:

Flex Camp at Beach – Chennai, India
·      June 6, 2010

Flex Camp Toronto
·      June 10, 2010

Norway Flash Camp
·      June 11, 2010

Flash Camp Manchester – Manchester, UK
·      July 8, 2010

Hangzhou Flash Camp – Hangzhou, China
·      July 31, 2010

Flash Camp Shanghai –  Shanghai, China
·      August 22, 2010

If you are curious about Flash Camps and Flex Camps, check out the Flash Camp site on the Adobe Groups site. If you want to receive updates about upcoming Camps, create a profile on the Adobe Groups site and subscribe to the Camp Calendar.

FITC San Francisco

FITC’s conferences have been a staple of the Flash community for roughly a decade, and this year, Shawn and his crew expanded their horizons to bring FITC to lovely, foggy, San Francisco.

I was there at the Adobe booth for much of the conference and I have to say the content was amazing – a fantastic lineup of community and Adobe speakers that made it extremely difficult to decide what sessions to attend. The booth wasn’t bad either, between a demo of Grant Skinner‘s Androideroids game, a huge pile of funky Flash Platform t-shirts, and other fun stuff as well. But of course you don’t go to a conference for the Adobe booth….. :)

Unfortunately the sessions weren’t recorded and even the stream from the Influxis Lounge doesn’t seem to be archived. But for a quick taste of what it was like to attend FITC SF, the team from the Adobe Edge was there to record some of the highlights:

FITC Mobile and 360|Flex DC are both on the calendar for September, and then it’s smooth sailing until Adobe MAX! We’re cooking up some fun stuff for the Community Lounge at MAX; more about that another day though.

Learning From When Things Go Wrong

Image via Wikipedia

One thing you learn early on in community work (as in life) is that not everything works out the way you think it will. This is especially true when you’re trying to start a new event or user group.

New user groups face a lot of challenges when they get started. Finding a place to meet is a huge issue for some. For others, it’s finding local speakers. Still others struggle with how to get the word out about the group and attract members. And then there’s the whole budget issue … it is not easy, and many groups can’t get takeoff velocity despite the best intentions.

Putting on a bigger event, like a conference or a camp, is even more challenging. Even a small conference in a less-expensive part of the country can run up a five-figure budget, and for the bigger conferences the costs spiral up fast. It’s not easy and when things don’t go as planned, it can cause a lot of financial havok for the organizers.

It’s always sad to hear when a conference fails, whether it’s one that has been around for many years or is trying to become a new conference. The fact is, trying something new is always a risk, and inherent to risk is the possibility of failure. You don’t get one without the other.

And that’s OK. It’s more than OK, in fact – it’s necessary. You cannot learn or grow or build anything new without risk.

Even worse, sometimes people who fail at bringing a new conference or user group into a community will feel they’re not able to participate at all; that they don’t have “what it takes”.

If that’s you – please, don’t take the wrong lessons from failure. Learn what you need to learn about why you failed, and take the steps necessary to fix them. Maybe you need to find a partner who has some of the skills you lack. Maybe you need to change your focus, or try a new approach to your outreach. Maybe you were too ambitious in your goals, or maybe you overestimated the demand in your area. Whatever it is, though – push through it.

And once you’ve learned what you need to learn, if the fire to make something happen is still there, try again.

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ACP Appreciation

Everyone likes to be recognized for their accomplishments. Whether it is a promotion or a pat on the back.

Since I took on Manager of the Adobe Community Professionals, I wanted to find a way to show the world how awesome these individuals are.

I thought about hats, t-shirts, bags, etc. Then I thought about my Adobe Badge I wear every day and how proud I am of my accomplishments. So I ordered small magnetic metal pins with the ACP logo and shipped them along with some product stickers to each person. It was a small gift but I knew they would wear them proudly at their next conference, training session, or award event.

I received many emails full of Thank Yous, Twitter messages with Twitpics, and even a blog entry! I got the sweetest delivery today to my office in McLean, VA. The card said:

Thanks for All You Do For Our Team

- Have a Great Weekend With a Big Smile All Weekend.

I think I know who this is from but he didn’t enclose his name, so I’ll leave it out for now. But I’d like to say You’re Welcome and I will forever be proud of the ACPs. Please continue to help me build a great community and you will be seeing more from this program. Pins are just the beginning!

Community Leadership Summit 2010

It’s been a week since I returned from the Community Leadership Summit in Portland and I’ve had a chance to digest the event. The CLS is a 2-day unconference organized by several longtime community managers, including Jono Bacon, Michael Van Riper, Marsee Henon, Dave Nielsen, and a bunch of others as well.

Unconferences are a tricky thing to pull off well, but the CLS team did a great job with this one. The 100+ CLS attendees came from all over the technology (and physical) map – there were tons of open source folks, representatives from major companies like Google, Oracle, Microsoft, PayPal, (and Adobe of course), Portland natives and people who’d flown in from Europe and even India. Piggy-backing the event on OSCON helped a lot, but I was far from the only person who came in just for CLS.

Sessions at an unconference are much more like focused discussions than they are presentations. The posted topic and what actually gets talked about can end up being very different. But that’s OK. I “led” two sessions (one on community conflict, the other on community lifecycles), but that essentially means I thought up a catchy title & put it up on the schedule board – the stars of my sessions (as all the others) were the participants.

I can’t say I walked away with any earth shattering new information but a few themes stood out:

We’re far more alike than different. Regardless of whether you’re involved in a technical open source community, a local block association, or anything in between, the challenges each community faces are remarkably similar.

It’s always a challenge. Conflict is virtually inevitable when strong-willed people are involved. You can’t avoid it but you can take steps to make conflict less frequent and painful.

Community == People. This one was particularly apt for technical communities. Your community is not composed of the tools you use or the bits you create – it’s the people at the other side of the screen.

I have a feeling I’ll be blogging more about these themes in the future as well. :)

For other takes on the weekend, check out the blog posts by Evan Hamilton and Andy Oram.

Adobe Community Team: We <3 Community

First entry to the Adobe Community Team blog… .just getting started