Well, I’ve just returned from my fourth attendance of Flash on the Beach. I think I enjoyed this one more than any others since the first one (which, in my mind, was legendary and incomparable).
Actually, I was in England for over a week, spending three and a half days in London before going down to Brighton a couple of days before the conference started.
I was in London to give a 2-day training workshop with the London Flash Platform User Group. My good friend, Tink, had been asking me to come out and do that for close to a year and finally nailed me down. I arrived last Wednesday morning, relaxed a bit and helped get the workshop venue set up, got some food and a couple of pints and got to sleep early to be prepared for two full days of standing up and speaking. The workshop was on ActionScript Animation. Basically, most of the material from Foundation ActionScript 3.0 Animation: Making Things Move!, and a bit from Advanced ActionScript 3.0 Animation. There were 12 attendees. The venue would hold about 14. We had 13 but one guy had something come up at the last minute. Overall, I think it went pretty well. Those who I talked to seemed pretty happy, though, to be honest, it was a lot of material to cram into their heads in two days. I discovered that planning for a presentation that size with an unknown audience is pretty tricky. Thought I had enough, but 2 hours before the end of the second day we had covered everything I had prepared. So I winged it and taught them about old school 3D – perspective formula, moving things in 3D space, vanishing points, etc. First with some images, then plotting points and drawing lines in 3D. I think that for some it was the most interesting part of the whole two days.
Saturday, I got to meet Tink’s little boy and spend some time playing with him. This was great, as Tink and I have been friends for a while and I’d never met his son. Chuck Freedman also arrived in London and hung out with us in the morning, as well as Pedro from Brazil, who had also flown out for both the workshop and Flash on the Beach. (Thanks for the Cachaca Pedro!)
Saturday afternoon, Chuck, Pedro and I got a train down to Brighton. From there, I went over to a house that was being rented out by a whole bunch of attendees, where I stayed on Saturday night. We had a barbecue on the beach and when it got dark and cold we went back up to the house and did the usual things Flash people do at conferences – eat, drink, and be silly.
Sunday I worked a bit more on my FOTB presentation, as well as did a few things for my regular job. At 2 p.m. I was able to check into my hotel (MyHotel), so made my way over there. Sunday night was the speaker’s dinner right in the restaurant at MyHotel, same as last year. Really great to see everyone again. Way too much manly hugging was done, but it’s all good. I left there relatively early as I was speaking the next morning, and wanted to add a few final touched on my presentation, run through it one more time, and get a decent night’s sleep.
The conference started with the keynote done by Richard Galvan and Mark Anders. I recall the first bunch of conferences I went to, where the keynotes were usually done by Mike Chambers and Mike Downey. They were really part of the community – hung out and talked and drank and played XBox with everyone – so when they did a keynote it was just them talking to us. In recent years, it seemed like keynotes have gotten very … infomercially. But I felt Richard and Mark did a decent job of turning that around, just presenting some cool statistics and tech demos and sneak peaks. Some cool stuff.
It’s also worth noting that because the keynote is one of the single track items, everyone attending was in the Dome at the same time. This was the first year where the balcony was opened up in order to accommodate everyone.
Me, me, me!
After the keynote I was up. I was also in the Dome (with no balcony though). My talk was on “Casual Game Architecture, or How to Finish Coding a Game Without Despising It”. As the keynote was ending, I had one of those, “what the hell was I thinking???” moments, sure that hardly anybody would really be interested in that. Certainly not enough to fill the Dome. But, surprisingly, it was decently filled up, and many people came up to me later and said they liked it. Many others tweeted their approval.
There was one particular point that several people expressed disagreement with – polling for input as opposed to using events in a more direct way as I advocated. In fact, I wasn’t at all surprised, and expected that would be a bit controversial. I plan to do a separate post on that to explain more what I was talking about. I look forward to the discussion that it may spark. While I love to be right, I’d be just as happy to learn something or see the situation in a new way.
Interestingly, however, on the idea of combining the model and the view and putting display objects directly in the model (HERESY!), I got a TON of agreement and even some respect for having the guts to say something that on the surface just seems so wrong. I’ll probably do a full post on that subject too, which I’m sure will also spark some fun conversation.
Them, them them!
There were lots of great sessions, as usual. I remember last year I said I probably went to more sessions in a conference than I had in a long time. This year I also had a pretty high attendance ratio. In fact, there were several slots where it was a real tough choice because there were two speakers I really wanted to see. The iPhone app created by Chris, Havard, Paulo, and Paul was fantastic. So much better than trying to carry a crumpled up paper guide around in your pocket all the time.
After my own session, I tried to get over to see Chuck Freedman talk about sound visualization, but he was in the Pavillion, which was packed and I couldn’t get in. So I went in to see Carlos Ulloa talk about several recent projects. Some great deconstructions of how he and his team went about doing the projects, the problems they encountered and how they solved them.
After that was another tough choice. I really wanted to see Rob Chiu, who is an amazing photographer and film maker. But as I’d seen him at every other FOTB so far, and had never seen Mike Jones, I decided to see Mike. Also, Mike was talking about the new Spark components in Flex 4, which I didn’t have the tiniest clue about, so I thought I ought to at least get a tiny clue. It’s still a bit mysterious to me, but I have a better concept. The Adobe Town Hall meeting was also going on at that time, and I wish I could have seen that as well.
After that, another impossible choice. Dr. Woohoo – say no more – and Josh Hirsch were both speaking. But also, Thea Eason was talking about Accessible Action Games. I decided to go with the game track. It was a bit of an eye opener to see how accessibility could be applied to games.
I skipped the Hillman Curtis single track slot to go do a bit of needed work and came back for Joel Gethin Lewis’ “Inspired Talk”. In a way, it was a bit like Jonathan Harris’ talk last year, without the preachy bits. Lots of large scale arty installation pieces and the concepts behind them. Then some non-judgmental philosophical messages. All good, but not so much my cup of tea maybe.
That wrapped up the first day. The night’s party was at Audio down the street. I remember last year we went to Audio and it was a dark, crowded, somewhat smelly place with loud music. We stayed about 10 minutes. This year, it was a dark, crowded, somewhat smelly place with loud music and we stayed about 5 minutes. Oh the joys of bashing on conference parties. I know John understands that we want to talk to each other, not scream at each other over loud music, but as he says, where is he going to find a venue for that, that will fit 1000+ people in Brighton. As usual, a good chunk of those people found their way over to the Old Ship hotel, where the conference was located the first two years. It’s always fantastic to hang out there, drink Leffes and have good conversations.
I woke up in surprisingly good spirits, surprisingly early. Went and had a massive breakfast at Bill’s. Missed the “Elevator Pitch” session, where a bunch of individuals get 3 minutes to say what they want, but made it to the next session. Although I pretty much knew what he was going to say, I decided to go see Grant Skinner’s optimization session. Personally I feel there is sometimes too much emphasis put on code optimization, but Grant did put everything in the right perspective, which was good.
After that was Joa Ebert, also on optimizing AS3, but in quite a different way. Joa is an amazing individual. I’m sure you’ve gotten a taste of what he’s done and what he talked about. I’m sure if I turned around, I would have seen hundreds of jaws hanging open. He got the only standing ovation I was during the 3 days.
Then another tough choice. Jer Thorp on data visualization stuff, or Richard Lord on application frameworks. Gah! I went back and forth in my mind a dozen times and settled on Jer. Very cool stuff indeed. But I really wish I could have seen Richard’s too.
From there, Joel Baumann on “Numbers in Art”. A no brainer with that title, but I should have read the description better. I thought it would be more algorithmic stuff.
That was my last one of the day, as I needed to phone home and do a bit of work. Went to the party at Oceanic, where we’ve been before. It was the one that had the various themed rooms. That was pretty cool. But this year all the rooms were closed off. Only the center disco area was open. So we got a dark, crowded, VERY smelly place with loud music playing. And a nearly empty dance floor. Sigh. But the good news is it is very close to the Old Ship! Guess where we ended up.
As much as I wanted to see Koen speak, and as much as I wanted to see Andre speak, my body really, really, really wanted that extra hour of sleep. So I made it in for the second session. Again, a brutal choice: Mario “Quasimondo” Klingemann, or Stacey “Bitch Who Codes” Mulcahey. I chose Stacey and was well rewarded with a very insightful and very funny talk.
I stayed in my seat and watched Hugh Elliot who was up next in the same run. For this, I had to skip Colin Moock and Seb Lee-Delisle. So I told him it better be worth it. He talked on “The 10 Best Excuses To Not Do Amazing Work”. To be honest, this was probably my favorite session of the conference. Very inspiring, funny, and really well organized. This will probably be the one session I go find the slides on line for, and maybe even print them out.
I skipped the next session because I had just spent almost 2.5 hours straight in the Pavilion theater, which is in dire need of air conditioning. I was almost ready to pass out. But after a long lunch, I was back in the Pavillion for Ralph Hauwert. This meant I had to skip Jared Ficklin. Dammit. As usual, Ralph showed some amazing examples, and ended off dropping the bomb that he’s leaving the Papervision team. I know this news spread around the world within minutes via twitter, so you probably know more about it than me by now.
The final session was one track in the Dome, with balcony – Joshua Davis. Didn’t really like this one too much, for a number of reasons that I’ll keep to myself, but no big deal.
There are several factors that cause FOTB to be a great conference. One is the location. Brighton is a really fun city to walk around, shop, eat, etc. It really is on the beach and there’s the pier with a full amusement park just minutes away. You are away from anything really city-like so it’s almost impossible to get a corporate, serious attitude there. It’s just fun.
And the venues and hotels have really great atmosphere and charm (that almost make up for the lack of air conditioning). Another aspect is, of course, the speakers. As I’ve just outlined, there are always many great sessions. John tries to keep a core of key speakers (which I hope I remain on) but always switch new speakers in and out so there’s fresh content.
And of course, one of the biggest things about FOTB’s charm is the organizer, John Davey.
The conference is obviously a labor of love for him. He puts so much into it and treats every speaker as well as the attendees like they were family. In fact, I think he used the term family at least a half dozen times when he was on stage. That shows in the fact that almost every year, the speakers have gotten together to do something for him – some kind of token gift of appreciation, both as a group and many individually. I’ve not seen that at any other conference.
This year we decided to take a group photo. We gathered as many current and former speakers and supporters as we could and went down to the pier and did a professional photo shoot, then had it printed out poster size. This was presented by all the speakers to John on stage. As usually, he struggled to not get emotional.
And like that, it was done. A whole bunch of us planned to meet in front of MyHotel at a certain point to decide what to do for the evening. As people were waiting for other people to arrive, we moved into the hotel bar and started ordering pints. Then as people arrived, they moved into the bar too. Finally it became obvious that nobody was going anywhere so we wound up in the hotel restaurant for the evening.
I eventually made it upstairs to bed and was able to get up in time to make the trek to Heathrow. Back to the family for dinner Thursday – much missed. Back to work on Friday – much work. And now a weekend to unwind.
For all my pics of the week, see here.