MAX tidbits

MAX was a big event. The last few days I’ve been reading reaction and news. Here are some items that I found interesting which haven’t been discussed as much yet.

groups.adobe.com has potential to bring people together in the real world, not just the online world. It’s essentially a portal to Adobe User Groups worldwide. Helps to find like-minded people in your own area, but also helps if you’re travelling too.

I was working the booth in the Community Lounge during the event, and was astonished by how many people wanted to set up a local user group in their area. Fortunately there’s a link on the front page to resources to starting a local group. Face-to-face, I saw a lot of interest in this directory.

We’re still populating the database and improving the navigation… it’s very much a work-in-progress. What you see in it today is just a taste of what you’ll see over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on it.

More from Ted Patrick, and also see the MAX Open Working Group page.

Videos of the San Francisco event will be online soon.

It’s a small thing, but I got a kick out of Linux first for 64-bit Player, and Mac first on the early preview of Flash Catalyst. In each case the situation made sense, but it can also serve to demolish some stereotypes and assumptions. (A full pre-release of Catalyst is expected on Adobe Labs early next year, and please be sure to install the MAX pre-pre-release into the default directory as explained on the Labs page.)

There’s lots of talk about individual initiatives, such as CoCoMo, Alchemy (check out Doom user reviews!), Stratus, Flash text, more… I don’t have a full overview yet myself, still learning.

One project which hasn’t been discussed much is Adobe Wave. It probably has zero impact on you — Wave is basically a notification system for publishers and service providers. But it’s interesting to consider why it works, why it has the potential to become valuable.

Sometimes there’s a trusted vendor you want news from… could be an online store that handles new models you’d like to know about, could be a hosting service, could be a musician or other artist… it’d be convenient if you could just say “let me know when something new happens”.

We tried this with email and it sucked. Sometimes the little “add me to your mailing list” checkbox is ignored, and you get spammed regardless. If you say “stop sending me email!” it’s 50/50 they’ll listen. And of course your mailbox is clogged with spam and malware you never wanted. Email put all the control in the hands of the message creator.

Wave is an AIR app to display system notifications from trusted publishers. The control over which publishers you listen to is on your own desktop. If you want to stop seeing messages from a given publisher, you can exercise that control directly. There’s a better blend of power between creator and consumer. You control your own experience.

This is an important principle. Lots of today’s technical problems arise from an imbalance of power between agents. Websites bulk down their pages with third-party widgets. Greasemonkey dissociates the content from the presentation. Movie producers charge big prices “because we can” and then they get Bittorrent’d “because we can”.

We’ve got to find better ways that people can opt-in to a communication, and opt-out when tired of it. Adobe Wave may not be a big, flashy project, but it seems a valid example of how things should be. Both consumers and creators have rights, and I think the successful internet applications of the next few years will find novel ways to respect those rights.

These next two links aren’t MAX-specific, but came up in the same timeframe. Zoetrope is an Adobe research project into searching the web — with a twist. Instead of focusing on “what pages are on the Web today?”, Zoetrope asks “What information has been revealed on the Web over time?” Like the old Recall engine at The Internet Archive, Zoetrope can search a site back through time. But there are also tools to extract changing information from those different versions of a page. Very interesting.

And Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch was quoted on fragmented JavaScript implementations by The Register during the conference. JavaScript implementations won’t reliably be improved until you can use a feature knowing that the overwhelming majority of your audience will actually support it. The browser brand with 80% marketshare is moving a little bit slower than the changing and under-standardized browser behaviors from Mozilla, Safari, Opera, Google. A multi-implementation runtime will always evolve more slowly than a single predictable runtime, but we need both types of runtimes in our digital ecology. The future is uncertain, but Kevin lays out Adobe’s priorities here.

One more topic… Silverlight is getting a bit of a bum rap. The MLB.com deal produced lots of headlines like “Silverlight strikes out” and such.

Part of this is Microsoft’s fault, for over-hyping its prior deal with the baseball site. The best info I’ve seen on the implementation was in an InfoQ interview last February… MLB.com has used Flash for years, and used Windows Media Player for years, and last year added a Silverlight client for the WMP stream. The MAX news was about MLB.com converting their backend from a WMP workflow to a Flash video workflow… about 80% of web video is Flash video now. It’s just a practical move.

But much of the blogosphere coverage was pretty brutal. Some of it is likely an over-reaction to the “execution of Adobe” and “reboot the Web” jive from last year — the “build ‘em up, then tear ‘em down” style of journalism. But the overall tone was more of a morality play, a soap opera, rather than neutral evaluation of technology. Harsh.

(This also shows there’s a danger in being a second-mover in the marketplace, because there will be pressure to mimic the first-mover instead of finding your own unique path. A lot of the reason SVG failed was because its advocates wanted to duplicate Flash. HTML5 is facing the same pressure, as is Silverlight. It’s hard to focus on what you alone can provide, when external pressure compares you to something else. Be yourself.)

I still think the Silverlight initiative is useful. It gives .NET developers a way to do richer things in the browser. It might have been more useful if Microsoft had just compiled to SWF in the first place, but that’s water under the bridge. The people who create this technology deserve respect regardless.

Those are some of the MAX items that I haven’t seen as much in the aggregators. But like I said, I’m still reading and learning, finding what other people found important. Big event overall…. :)