Having returned back from Flash on the Beach 2008 yesterday I finally have time to sit down and collate my thoughts.
I had been looking forward to FOTB for months, the constant emails from them bigging it up, the “you must be there!” attitude coming from the blogosphere, the list of impressive speakers. It was set to be 3 days of Flash heaven. In reality it didn’t quite pan-out like this. I think my expectations were a bit too high to be honest, and should I attend again I’d know exactly what to expect, and crucially which speakers to avoid.
I have full respect for anyone who can get up on stage and talk to hundreds of people. It’s something I know I’d have real trouble doing well, so I do genuinely admire them for it. But what I don’t admire are speakers who are highly dis-organised, easily distracted / side-tracked, or who delivered extremely content-weak sessions.
A couple of the sessions were truly terrible from an organisation point of view – minutes of wasted time spent messing around in iTunes, or frantically trying to find a file somewhere on the hard drive (is it really that difficult to organise your presentation material into a single folder or set of short-cuts on your desktop?). It’s not like they didn’t have enough time to plan for the event.
A few sessions also felt like little more than a narrated showreel of work (most of it quite old). This really bugged me, I wanted to learn new tricks and tactics to take home and play with, that is why my company had spent good money to send me there. But in reality this didn’t happen half as much as I would have liked.
But it wasn’t all bad and some of the sessions were truly incredible. The absolute highlight of the whole 3 days for me was Joa Ebert talking about “Audio Tools Private Parts“. This was a superb session and truly inspirational. He covered object pools (and how they applied to their new Tween engine), lots of detail of approaching the seemingly simple problem of bending a cable around an object (lots of graphs, lists, sorting methods, etc). He also alluded to the fact that their AS3 disassembler is nearly ready. In short, the guy is a genius and I have absolutely maximum respect for him.
I guess his session appealed the most because I’m a coder, I’m not a Flash “designer”, I didn’t acidentally fall into coding as a means to get my artwork to move. I’ve always been a coder. So it takes clever code to impress me. Joa’s 10 minutes of “live coding” in the Jam Session was excellent, but full respect to the C64 emulator (written in AS3) with sound support too
I’m still kicking myself for not going to Andre Michelle’s talk, but it clashed with a session on decompiling and hacking SWFs which I hoped would be far more in-depth than it actually was (but again I can appreciate why it stopped where it did).
Keith Peters did a good talk on playing around with verlets. It wasn’t complex stuff, but it was nice to see it presented so well. All of his slides were in order, his code easily accessible, his timing spot-on. I liked the little bits of history he dropped into it as well (about the real mathmaticians behind it all). It convinced me to pre-order his new book, not because I think it’ll contain anything earth shattering, but just because he has an obvious love for this stuff, and that’s always a good thing to inject into your book.
I regret very much not hearing Grant Skinner, Richard Lord or Rob Bateman talk. They all clashed with things that sounded more useful in my everyday work, but sadly didn’t turn out to be the case.
If I go back to FOTB I’ll definitely know how to pick better, which should hopefully increase what I ultimately take away from the event. But I can tell this much already – if none of the uber-skilled German guys are talking next year, I certainly won’t go.
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