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MAX 2005 Day 1

Man what a long day. This morning I arrived at my hotel to just drop off my bags before going to MAX. But the front desk wanted to check me in since they had rooms ready. So I literally opened my room's door, set my bag inside, and rushed to make my first session (which I was late for). And it wasn't until after 9:30 pm until I made it back to my room to actually settle in.
My day consisted of 3 regular 60-minute sessions, 1 3-hour super session, one general keynote session, and 2 1-hour Birds-of-a_Feather discussion groups. Plus a half hour trying to win some prizes in the Exhibit Hall (and I did win a book thanks to CFXHosting.com).
Here is the quickest re-cap that I can provide (not too quick actually):
Dean Harmon presented on Advanced ColdFusion MX 7 printing and reporting, and stated that while not perfect, the reporting engine can do about 90% of what is possible with Crystal Reports. That's pretty impressive considering we are comparing a 1.0 product versus a seasoned 11.0 product.
In the keynote we were treated to a comedic 15 minute presentation by Ze Frank who was made an internet star by dancing in a flash animation. His punctuation chart for sending hidden insults in your e-mails was the tops.
Macromedia CEO Stephen Elop said that there was over 3000 people in attendance, which, to my knowledge, makes this the largest MAX yet. You really saw the Adobe influence when during a display of an altered image of Bill Gates holding a Linux penguin and sporting an Apple pin on his shirt, Elop declared "Gotta love Photoshop". I highly doubt in previous years the CEO would have selected a competing product over Macromedia's own Fireworks no matter how synonymous Photoshop's name has become with image editing.
Sho Kuwamoto had some problems walking the audience through the process of creating the exact same app that Kevin Lynch created at the Web 2.0 conference. When he went to compile the Flex app, it errored on him, and he tried to fix it, but it errored again. So then he decided to ditch his work and start over, but do it quickly. And when he went to compile, he couldn't see it work. And he kept hitting the compile button, but nothing was happening. Then finally someone in the audience yelled out "The browser is up, open it!" and was completely right. The compiled SWF was there waiting in an open for him. It's an impressive demo app no doubt. But unfortunately seeing it built for the 2nd time it's less impressive. Kevin Lynch in his original demo had one of the web quotes that was something along the times of "so we just built this in 15 minutes, imagine if you had an hour or two, what could you do?".
In a 3 hour super session all dedicated to Advance Features found in CFMX 7.0.1 a lot of ground was covered (by no less than 4 speakers - I left slightly early). You can now put ActionScript directly into your CFFORM tag. However later in the BOF CF discussion it was revealed that Macromedia has greatly limited the AS features you can use (to not make CF too powerful on its own lessening the demand for Flex). Macromedia is actively going to support the CFeclipse project, already working on RDS support and built-in docs. There is also some CF plug-in for Flex Builder 2 (eclipse based IDE) available on the new Macromedia Lab's site. Multiple event gateways were demo'd, and while I have seen these demo'd before, today's was the most impressive. Notable was that you are able use the exact same CFC files to power multiple gateways. They had a CFC that echo'd back whatever message you sent to it, and they called it via IM, via SMS, and via Telnet (which I was ubber impressed by). And while I never thought that this was an impossible task, I just really never thought about it at all. So seeing the examples definitely gets my motors going.
One of most impressive items slipped into CFMX 7.0.1 is that CFCs have a new returntype of XML. And if you call a CFC directly with a browser, if the returntype is XML, the output will be the raw XML your function returned, and not a WSDL describing the XML, which is a perfect setup for using CFCs to directly return data to JavaScript via HttpXMLRequest for AJAX-ifying your web apps. Which to me is pure gold.
Verity appears to have come a long way offering tons of features that make it look like you can offer your own little Google-like results with "Did you mean ________" spelling corrections, and searching within previous results.
If you were like me and hadn't heard the news, you too would have really enjoyed Mike Chamber's presentation on getting Flex/Flash to speak to JavaScript. Using the Flash / JavaScript Integration Kit available from osflash.org, or built-in functionality with the Flash Player 8 you can have ActionScript and JavaScript calling each other's functions. Pretty awesome stuff.
The Birds-of-a-Feather discussions are an under utilized part of MAX. But I do have to say that the size of attendees to the sessions seem to have tripled since my first year of MAX, which is a good sign.
In the "Meet the ColdFusion Team" users posed questions and comments regarding JRun's/ColdFusion's performance and I left the team maybe skirted around addressing the situation. But I guess they can't be blamed, they did make a valid point of that they have no open performance ticket open at work, and that if customer have problems they need to be making support calls and formerly filing tickets. I know one popular ColdFusion site specifically that has JRun performance issues, maybe Macromedia needs some tickets filed. They also pointed out that if a call you place to customer support ends up being a bug on their end, you support call would get fully refunded.
When questioned if Flex, with all the hype it's getting at the conference, will be killing off the need for ColdFusion, the team was quick to point out that Flex is just a solution for the presentation tier, comparing Flex to HTML. ColdFusion is still a vital server side technology that will deliver data to Flex.
Don't expect to see ColdFusion running on the .NET platform, but integration with .NET is a yes (it wasn't said if we can expect anything beyond just web services).
They read *ALL* items sent to the wish list form (CFSFTP please).
My last session of the day was another Birds-of-a-Feather discussion titled "The Power of a Great User Experience" led by the Macromedia Experience Design team. Unfortunately the session did not fully match the outline given in the conference agenda and the team did not show off anything they are working on. The team and other attendees referenced items that were shown off in other sessions that I apparently missed, but might make it on-line to see at other time. The discussion went in a direction where some attendees didn't like that "designers" were expected to have some development skills by employers. They wanted to be "design purists".
One team member made a comment along the lines of "we don't think that the emerging market will allow the separation of designers and developers" which is something I personally whole heartily agree with. As a developer I am somewhat bothered that a session on User Interface is overly imbalanced towards (or maybe just by) a designer crowd, when I think a heavy weight of the UI falls on the back of the developer's implementation with aspects data validation and user input control and error handling. But maybe I have these feelings because my background is mostly from a DIY approach with little to no input from a designer outside of the initial site templates and certain marketing pages.
One designer commented that he felt just should just be expected to know enough about development to know what is possible, so he can communicate with the developers. And this sparked another person to relate a story about a designer who had no idea about the capabilities or limitation about the technology that approached him with an idea that just made him say "this guy is crazy like a monkey". But after thought about the tasks changed his point of view to "it might be 2 weeks of hell to get it done, but I think I can do that". I both love and hate this story. I like the idea of being able to overcome something you previously that impossible. I hate that idea that as a developer, I may think I know the extents of the technology I work with, but really I might just be putting unnecessary limitations on myself.
Other notes I took from the session include comments along of the lines of:
  • "In the beginning, make something useful... then think about making it a great experience that they will want to come back to"
  • Forms need to convey a sense of reward for completing them.
  • Design sometimes needs to come last.
  • They didn't use these words, but the team basically said, "UI is not the design, but completing the functionality".
  • They also said that often they will argue most about a project when it is still in a wire frame stage, they aren't arguing about what color yellow to use.
  • Wow. I am beat tired. Looking forward to another day at MAX...

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