Author Archive

May 15, 2013

One educator at MAX and three blog posts: Part 3: Interactive is Active

(I finally got off that airplane. And graded final project and papers for two undergrad and one grad class…and five independent studies and five practicums students. And did graduation and a birthday party and mother’s day. And slept. Oh, sweet sleep! And then I got to this third and final post about MAX. You can read my two other blog posts about the social aspects of CC and Adobe’s move to the subscription model if you missed them. Or not. I split this into three parts in case you want to read a la mode.)

The third aspect of MAX that I want to comment on as an educator and front-end developer is Adobe’s very smart strategy to support some great open-source solutions, better web tools and a good direction for Flash.

In November, I did a talk at the Adobe Education Summit in Toronto that discussed the HTML5 v. Flash debate. I do both. I love both. It’s tough to straddle both worlds and stay up-to-date, but when and because I do, my students get jobs. Not because I’m a great teacher that knows everything (but I am and I do). They get jobs because they not only know multiple solutions but how to evaluate and use the best solution for the challenge at hand.

Flash is not dead. It has, in many ways, the biggest and best support in the interactive arena. You can read the stats Adobe has out there on this. What’s killing Flash is not the reality, but the fear. One instructional multimedia designer at a university with thousands of online students told me that even when he argues that the best content-delivery solution for a specific problem is Flash, administrators just turn off immediately and shut him down.

Nonetheless, Flash still has a place. There are many companies in the Cincinnati area, particularly large companies that do their in-house training using Flash. There are more jobs in Flash in Cincinnati right now than in HTML5. It’s not easy for a large company to retrain their designers and front-end developers and rethink what’s already and still working.

I did see there was a session at MAX on what’s new in Flash Pro. I missed it because I was, ironically, at a PhoneGap/HTML5 session. One attendee told me it was all about Stage 3D, Adobe’s answer to moving gaming performance to the GPU for a faster, better experience. This is a good thing that Adobe has been pushing for a year now, but this year, they made it better by coupling it with Feathers, Starling and Dragonbones. All are free-open source solutions. Feathers is a JS framework for button assets that anyone can read and use. Starling is a great JS framework for 2D gaming with so many gaming methods and classes readily available. Dragonbones is an open source sprite generator that works directly with your assets in Flash Pro. There’s also Away 3D which brings to 3D what Starling brings to 2D. All are accessible. Under Michele Yaiser’s session, we used Flash Builder to construct and compile a game for both web and iPad. With Tom Krcha, we built a platformer with Flash Pro, Flash Builder, Starling, Dragonbones and the Citrus Engine. With the performance boost and multiplatform capabilities, Flash should hold their own in gaming at least for a little bit.

What I found particularly interesting and exciting was Adobe’s support of several free, open-source projects, namely CreateJS and PhoneGap Build. Never has Javascript, HTML5 and CSS3 been more creative. CreateJS offers four libraries and tools for a rich interactive experience on the web. EaselJS capitalizes on HTML5 canvas. TweenJS allows for animation and interactivity. SoundJS and PreloadJS improve on audio and preloading experiences, respectively.

Being a Flash developer, I got really excited when Grant Skinner, founder of CreateJS and CEO of gksinner.com, demoed a game he and his team were developing with CreateJS. When he showed us some of the code, it felt so right. While being true to JavaScript standards, it played on Flash’s conventions. Additionally, unlike many open source projects, the documentation is excellent and there are tutorials and examples to spare.

I just finished teaching my Media Scripting for Interactivity course this week—Flash Actionscripting for gaming—and I’m looking ahead to next spring. While I haven’t ruled out Flash, particularly in regards to jobs in the Cincinnati area as I mentioned above, I am considering the next wave of employer demands and I see frameworks like CreateJS at the forefront.

And, of course, there is PhoneGap Build. Accessible through Dreamweaver CS6, PhoneGap Build is also available online as an open source solution for compiling HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript assets into native applications for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, webOS and Symbian. I’ve played with PhoneGap with my responsive web students last fall and we had fun doing simple apps. This year, we’ll expand on that by tackling the PhoneGap API and device features more deeply. While ultimately maybe not as powerful as native development, PhoneGap gives Media Informatics students who tend toward front-end development a great entrée into the development world, particularly when we share best practices in programming and development with them.

That said, Rainn Wilson may have given the developers a lot of crap during Sneak Peaks, but this is going to be the year of the front-end developer. Mark my words. Or don’t. We’ll talk more about this later.

My last MAX concession: I told Claire Erwin I would blog once a week this summer. I’d say this more than counts for my first week considering I’m only two days out of the semester. I’m taking requests: What is media informatics? What’s in the media informatics curriculum at NKU? What should I do for my communication studies PhD dissertation since my committee keeps rejecting my ideas as too technical? (Seriously, help me out here…) Anyway, happy summer. It’s all good when it begins with an exciting MAX.

9:10 PM Permalink

One educator at MAX and three blog posts. Part 2: The move to the Cloud

In the second of this three-part blog about MAX, let’s deal with Adobe’s move to a subscription model.

OK, this was the most controversial issue and the biggest surprise. I have to say, I liked the surprises in 2010 better when I got a Motorola Droid and a Google TV. (Ironically, I’m back to using that phone after I dropped my Razr in a body of water a few weeks ago, but that’s a different story.) Adobe’s announcement that they wouldn’t support previous versions of the Creative Suite and that from here on out, would offer only an all-in or all-out subscription based service.

Wait, hold that thought. The stewards are starting beverage service. (Yep, I’m still on the plane home from MAX if you read my first post. It’s a long flight home to Cincinnati.)

Ok, where were we? Oh, yes, the Subscription. Let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, but not in that order.

Let’s start with ugly. First is the misinformation about the Creative Cloud. You don’t have to be online to use it. I’m seeing plenty of misconceptions about this on social media sites. You’ll need to be online to download installations and updates or to use the Cloud to share and move your files. Otherwise, you can use these products just like you used to and they will be downloaded and installed on your computer and devices.

However, I talked to one student who is also a Navy wife and she was a little worried about the connectivity issue. On the base, she explained, Internet connection is spotty at best because broadband is limited to satellite which is pricey. Another young woman explained that she has Internet at work, but not at home. She has an iPhone for Internet access there. But that’s also where she uses her Adobe products. I know most of the Adobe-ized world has not just access but high-speed access, and I know Adobe knows this as well. But these are two stories from the up-and-coming generation that hide in the statistics Adobe undoubtedly used to make the decision to go to online subscriptions.

The other ugly I’m seeing about going to the Cloud is that it’s not going to be released until June 17. As educators, this is a little rough. I was one of only a handful of educators that gets to go to MAX, so I saw some of the biggest changes and new features and products. But June 17 doesn’t give us much time to update curriculum and learn new stuff before the semester rolls around in mid August. For my program, that’s a pretty intense, short deadline given that we live on the bleeding edge.

Onto the bad: Even when I talked to the education sales people, I couldn’t get a clear picture of what this means for licensing for educational institutions. Part of that’s probably me. I don’t deal with that side of Adobe, and I’m sure part of it is the wait until June 17 to actually begin sales. From my understanding, there will be term- and an enterprise-based solutions. Students that don’t subscribe to the Cloud will still be able to get a free account with a minimal amount of storage. Apparently, there will also be an easier way for enterprise customers to install and for students to be able to log in (that’s good because we have students that aren’t serious designers or developers so they won’t want to invest).

Here’s another thing to think about Adobe: Many of us in education end our fiscal year in June and you just dropped a really big bomb on us and budgets that are already set. You might not see as many educational institutions switching over to CC this year for that reason because updating budgets in quasi-governmental organizations doesn’t come quickly.

Also on the not-so-happy side, I ate lunch on two days with some attendees that were really-not-happy because in their little freelance businesses they don’t upgrade every version. Or, they don’t use more than two products. Many of these people and others online report feeling highjacked. Adobe will be doing one-product subscriptions, but by the time you do two products, you might as well subscribe to the whole CC. I’m probably not going to see much of that side, since we are on the educational side of heavy Adobe users.

Whew. Ok. Where is that steward? I need a drink.

Time for the good news: The Cloud will provide updates on a steady basis. No more trying to keep up with the latest version. It should be much easier to standardize labs across campus because we’ll all have the latest and greatest. And reportedly, installation will be much easier to push out on the enterprise solution.

Of course the social aspects I mentioned in the last blog post are also good news for educators for several reasons. As is the access to more products. As one attendee told me, she was excited to dive into Premier and After Effects “since she was now going to get it whether she liked it or not”. Will we see our students branch out of their product limited world and experiment more? It’s hard to say. I’ll report back in a semester or two.

One of the other good aspects to the Cloud is that this is going to push Adobe to keep innovating. I was worried when this MAX got pushed from the usual November conference to May. Now I see why. Ten minutes in Dreamweaver and you know what Adobe has been up to. Rethinking the web/mobile workflow is producing not just terrific new products like the Edge tools, but the Dreamweaver experience is vastly better if you do any CSS at all. Hopefully, this is a trend we will continue to see. If more new and innovative tools come out of this subscription model, the monthly charge will be well worth it.

Plus, my students don’t seem too fazed. One of them pointed out how the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Play Gaming, but you probably already knew that) has operated quite successfully on the subscription model for years. Subscriptions and micropayments are fast becoming the norm, even if Adobe did cut to the chase faster than most other software developers and really cut to the front of the line for a company of this size with this many members.

We’ll see what the shake out is. I’m sure Adobe isn’t surprised by the grumbles or the praise. Anything you try something new, there’s going to be push back. When the telephone became available to the masses, one of the prevailing attitudes was that people would never leave their house again. When the VCR came out, supposedly no one would ever go to the movies again.

Wow. That was a long post. Onto the most exciting part of the conference for me in the third and final blog post: The support and development of new open-source solutions, better web tools and the updated multiplatform options for Flash.

9:05 PM Permalink

One educator at MAX and three blog posts. Part I: Socially expansive

I wrote this last Thursday on my flight home from MAX. My head is full (as was my belly this past week–thanks, Adobe, for great food and beverages to go with great content). As usual, there were great sessions and keynotes and a few surprises. And the Black Keys! Here’s a rundown on this educator’s experience and perspective on the Creativity Conference. (This will be a three-part blog, focused on this instructor’s take on the social direction of the products, the much-discussed subscription issue and, finally, the promise of a healthy but quickly-growing web/mobile strategy and delivery.)

Part 1- Social-ly Expansive: Adobe goes social media big time

The social media theme of the conference started to become apparent when attending a session on the Adobe Exchange on Sunday. The old exchange has become a train wreck, or at least it had for me as a web, mobile and Flash girl. Instead of trying to clean it up, Adobe is redoing the entire exchange and encouraging more user content and plugin development. I had never considered contributing to the Exchange, but the three entry points—via Extension Builder 2.1 (3 is coming this spring), Configurator 3 for custom panels in Photoshop and InDesign and the Adobe Exchange Packager—there should be an entry point for almost any designer or developer to submit. And as educators, it gives our students a new possible (and possibly financially beneficial) outlet for their content and development. And the social media aspect of the new Exchange will let you vote up or down products so the good stuff should rise to the top.

Of course, the push to the Cloud also is incredibly social. File sharing and collaboration will be much easier for teams. I’m excited to see how my students will use the Cloud since most Media Informatics courses have team projects. I’m considering how I can require groups within the Crowd. I think the chief benefit here from the instructor’s perspective is to be included in those Cloud collaborations. I’ll be able to see what’s going on. I won’t have to rely on student reports, I’ll be able to see who procrastinates and who contributes what to the project as well as the process itself. For that, I’m very excited.

Of course, the other social aspect of the Cloud is the inclusion of Behance. After watching the keynote online from NKU, students have Facebooked me to say they signed up for their account and “know what they’re going to do this summer”.

9:00 PM Permalink