Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Hall floor conversation: Samuel Wan, Branden Hall and wifr Patti, Beau Ambur: On the floor, literally... we started standing outside a crowded presentation room, then sat cross-legged, finally ended up prone. Kept talking, though. No notes taken, so the following is missing a lot.

Branden noted the many of the requests he's getting now for teaching Flash are coming from programmers. In this MX version there's a much deeper acceptance of the idea of SWF as a smart deliverable file format, and new people are attracted. But they're coming to this field with a different idea of how to go about a project. The current Macromedia Flash authoring environment gives too much freedom in where to put scripts, how to construct them... it's hard for them to learn this environment, compared to previous environments they've used. But now, after a few generations of the Macromedia Flash authoring tool, UI changes run the risk of interrupting the workflow of existing users. The file format is attracting new developers, even though the authoring tool is foreign to them.

There was talk of new devices, why some PDAs don't include phones, discussion of Mike Chambers wiring up his cam to his body to do a cyborg-type thing around the show floor, condemnation of the interface design of the restroom facilities here (details omitted in this blog to spare readers' tender sensibilities), lots of other stuff I don't remember.

Good crowd here this year... lots of subject areas too, I don't remember a Macromedia conference which covered such a range of material, or went as deep in topics which needed it. I'm glad I have the book of slides of the conference for reference, and understand that there will be some type of material on the Macromedia website soon, although I'm not certain of the online scope. Time to catch a plane now.... zzz
Offline for a few days: I'll be here at DevCon through late afternoon, but am not sure if I'll be able to add more entries here during that time. I'll be taking a few days off, and am scheduled for jury duty next week. I'll probably be able to blog a bit starting Monday evening, but am not yet sure of my full schedule.
Team Macromedia and User Group get-togethers: I was happy to be able to attend a lunch with attendees who worked with local Macromedia User Groups or in the online communities with Team Macromedia. These folks are the heros of this movement towards letting more people do more things, more easily through computers and new devices. Getting the chance to put faces to names I know so well is always rewarding.

Kevin Lynch of Macromedia gave a short talk. He noted how he visited a local user group when he was deciding to join Macromedia, and how the degree of passion and communication at the group swayed him to joining. Even though this DevCon is the main get-together for all of us each year, there's only a few thousand of us here, and there are half-again as many people attending the various local conferences put on annually throughout the world. This is in addition to the much larger group of people who meet in their own hometowns each month through User Group meetings. And in turn, this number is dwarfed by the people who use the Macromedia Forums online, and then again this is only a subset of the total number of people in all online communities who work together in this area. The folks who organize local meetings and who shepherd online discussions contribute a heck of a lot towards fostering this revolution.

(Me, I did some work with friends in VIC-20 and other computers, then got out of it for a few years. When I came back to computers I learned a lot from attending the Berkeley Macintosh User Group and the San Francisco PC User Group. One day I went to a demo for MacroMind Director 2.0 and a sneak-peek of MacroMind Three-D, and started attending the local MacroMind User Group, eventually chairing the San Francisco chapter for a year, and being a regular in online communities on America Online, CompuServe, Planet BMUG, Morph Online and other bulletin boards. Once I met people inside the company I joined in as tech support, and, well, you know the rest of the story.)

Tom Hale joined Kevin for Q&A afterwards. There was a question about some type of developer program, something like the certification program but more oriented towards the field of work and connections in the community than just knowledge of a tool. Tom said that something like this is in the work, and the DRK CD was the first step in this direction. The initial DRK was a success -- we had hoped that a thousand people would find it of value within the first three months, and instead 2500 bought it in the first four weeks. Two big requests for the DRK were licensed downloads and an annual subscription deal, and both of these are in the works for the next quarter's release.

Someone asked about which components might be in the next DRK release, and I learned that there were frequent requests for some type of SWF text editor component. There was talk about increasing the ease with which Team MM and User Group members could get product Certification. Tom mentioned that some type of Macromedia clothing will be offered in the online store towards the end of the year, so that it's easier to show what type of work and skills you're committed in.

For me, meeting people face-to-face was a big reward for coming here. I didn't have my computer out to take notes, and my brain is too fried to trust my memories of them at the moment, but I appreciate that so many folks found it worthwhile to come here, and particularly appreciate those community-fostering attendees from Team Macromedia and the local Macromedia User Groups.
More Flash polemics: This time the Republicans started, but it has higher production values than the "bush shoves granny down stairs" ad... they use "Trace Bitmap" on a lot of the original art, and also use some filtering Effects... we're movin' on up to 1999 here, folks.... ;-)
[via Matt Drudge]

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Conference store: One of the big surprises for us on staff has been the crowds around the store which sells various Macromedia-related goods. Business has been much higher than expected, and it has been hard to walk around the throngs surrounding it.

Part of the reason is the 20% sale on all books in stock there. I'm not certain whether it's the range of titles or the discount that justifies the airline carry-on.

But another big surprise was how Macromedia jackets, shirts, shorts and other clothes were in such big demand. I know there have been frequent requests to have such clothing available online in the Macromedia Store, and I'm not sure why such things aren't available there but are available here. Still, lots and lots of people here at the conference are finding such items to be of sufficient value that they're parting with cash for it. I'm guessing maybe it's a badge, may be a way to show others they work with their accomplishments and depth of commitment? I know some folks have found a livelihood through these software tools and feel warm-and-fuzzy towards the company, but it's hard for me to accept this as sufficient reason for the depth of response we've seen at the conference store this week... I'm guessing that such clothing also means something practical in people's day-to-day lives as well. Will try to find out more, see if we can generalize this to the online store as well.

Update: I asked Tom Hale about this at the lunch for Team Macromedia and User Group leaders, and he said that there would be clothing of some type in the online store for December.
Another email pest: CNN has an article on porn sites enticing people to click in an ActiveX Control scenario. There's an odd quote in there: "[H]e suggests disabling the Internet Explorer function that allows browsers to instantly download ActiveX Controls. Doing so will cause a warning box to appear anytime such files are encountered, which could get annoying because Macromedia Flash, used to create Web animations, uses ActiveX Controls." I rarely use IE/Win these days, but my memory is that the setting for auto-installation of ActiveX Controls is distinct from the setting for using ActiveX content which is already installed. You don't want to *accept* new controls from suspect sources, but that's a different issue than using known controls that you already have installed.

What's funny is that that page in CNN uses SWF ads themselves. I wonder how they'll explain that article to the people who pay their bills.... ;-)

(A lot of time on the Flash wishlist we get people saying "Macromedia, quit trying to install your software on my machine!" Turns out they're using IE/Win with its ActiveX scheme, and then visiting sites which use Flash, which does show a prompt to install system components. Changing the browser or changing the sites you visit will change the symptom, but it's hard to explain this retail to the general public.)
Real goes open-source: Interesting. The Macromedia Flash Player had its source code distributed a few years ago (and file format is still openly downloadable), but we ended up pulling it back to just strategic partners to minimize the player variance. I know I'll get asked about this on mailing lists next week ([grin]), so I'll try to buttonhole some Macromedia decisionmakers on this today, see if I can get a wider response from the group ASAP.

(This subject would be a good candidate for the webcam approach... right now I'm using a DHCP connection in the community room, but I don't have an Airport card to take advantage of wireless in the halls.)
CF Community Suite live: hah-HA! These folks are too cool... they're doing a live webcast from their hotel room upstairs. I'd hook up my cam now and beat the elevator 'cept I've got to run somewhere else. I hope this can stay up after the conference so I can look at it more deeply. Excellent!
[via Sean Corfield]
Breakfast conversation with Billy Ray: Disney is impressive, because they precisely target the middle of their desired audience. But those of us on the edges feel something slightly askew... a slightly broader targeting may not exclude us as this precise targeting does. It's like watching TV... each news story, image, vocal inflection, anchor hairstyle is tuned for a precise effect among the middle of the audience, and it can be subtly offputting if you live just a little outside the area they target so precisely.

(For my own targeting here in this blog, I'm still working through who I think I'm writing to, and why ya'll find it worthwhile to invest your time reading it. Best I've got so far is to warp myself around to a better match with what I understand Macromedia developers to be, and then to write things that are of interest to me, in my own tone of voice. I figure there can be distortions here if I misunderstand what's important, and my own voice is probably illegible to many potential readers, but this is the best approach I've got so far to doing something useful here.)
Tuesday keynote: I caught about 15 minutes of it before leaving to do other work. Today no one told me to leave my coffee outside or where to sit, which was nice. Yesterday a loudspeaker was pointed directly at me and often caused me to flinch, so today I sat away from a speaker and had difficulty making out the words, much less the message.

As I was walking out I heard Jakob Nielsen say "Get to the point". That's true, and I'd expand it to (a) get a point, (b) get to it, and then (c) check the point was gotten.
Fragments heard when walking around:

"We've got a health risks assessment program, which fits your profile to risk for various lifestyle disesases...."

"... tie it in with a Reuters newsfeed...."

"I'm stoked by all the people here who know more than me. But lots of people know less than me too, nobody knows it all. Everything is personalized, one of the best events I've been to."

"I went to two birds-of-a-feather sessions, and they were totally different groups of people, different conversational and development styles, everything."

"When Miriam showed Director on MacOS X I emailed my buddy and he wrote back 'falls on the floor [thump]."

"It's really weird, for all these years I've been doing ColdFusion, on my own and not knowing anyone else who did it, and now to be thrown in the center of all this...."
Conversation with Paul Catanese: He wrote "Director's Third Dimension", and although I knew him from online we happened to bump into each other face-to-face for the first time outside the BOF sessions. Both of us are 3D hounds and had a fast-paced discussion on visualization. He went through two cigarettes, but I only made it halfway through my pipe.

Like Chuck Neal yesterday, he said that the procedural bitmap generation in Director turned out to be a big money item for him. We floated the idea of stripping out just the Imaging Lingo commands into a new programming language which already has 60% consumer web viewership, and how web programmers would go nuts over such an ability. But because this is in the full set of unique things that Director offers, Imaging Lingo often gets overlooked in describing everything else Director and Shockwave can do.

Both of us are surprised by how constrained the use of realtime 3D rendering in Shockwave 8.5 turned out to be in the field. He teaches classes and finds that the discussion often turns to games instead of realtime data visualization. Even among web 3D users he still sees confusion between pre-rendering and realtime rendering. (Hmm, maybe programmers can use the analogy with late-binding, or client-side interactions vs server-side interactions, same type of principle.)

I remarked that I was surprised that so few ColdFusion developers latched onto this perfect separation of data and presentation, with many instead opting to take advantage of the "stateless page" abilities Flash offers. But if you can generate 2D or 3D images on the client, and need to continually transfer only the changing data while retaining a common one-time download of interface and clientside logic, you've got far more efficiency than if you have to pre-render and pre-download the range of visuals you might need. Maybe if we can get a set of data-driven templates up on DesDev then that can help show the benefits of realtime 2D or 3D data visualization. Heck, with certain templates you'd only need to change the XML feed and wouldn't need to open Director at all in order to use this. I'll check with Bob Tartar when he gets back from sabbatical this month.

Paul noted two objections he has gotten from clients: (a) with increased computation required on the client you need to do more environment testing of a project against different hardware and connections; (c) the number of developers familiar with principles in 3D and web delivery and data management is smaller than the number of developers familiar with web delivery and presentation, so clients can feel more locked-in to a particular development team. I don't know yet whether the Macromedia Certification program includes an online database of people who passed, or if we'll have a certification series specifically for realtime 3D developers, but there may be a way to solve that second problem through the Macromedia site.

Director has had over a decade of engineering invested in it, so there's always a discussion in the community about how much new work should be oriented to existing users compared to attracting new users. Director 8.5 had a massive "big power feature" in realtime 3D rendering, and from what I see at Miriam's sneak-peek yesterday the next release aims more at expanding the audience with ease-of-learning and efficiency-of-use designs. Yesterday Branden Hall made a comment which surprised me: the MX-style interface on Director will likely make it easier for him to approach Director development because he can leverage his familiarity with Flash... academically I knew this would be the case, but I was surprised to hear someone like Branden spontaneously bring this up himself.
Ran into Jim Inscore at the Sun booth Monday night. We met when he came from Kaleida to Macromedia six years ago, and wrote up the Xtra architecture and documentation. He then moved to Sun and handled the series of Java books, then the Blueprint series online (PetMarket, eg) and related work, and is now doing something similar to what the Macromedia Designer & Developer Center is doing, helping to connect people so they can make better realworld projects. We both have the sense that software development is changing, from a series of things to a set of relationiships between people, whether that's tool creators with their developers, or developers with their clients, or clients with their customers. We're looking for ways to engineer a set of processes, not just engineer a package of bits and bytes.
Hallway conversation with Jonathan Kaye on simulations: Outside Jon Gay's birds-of-feather group last night we got into a quick neuron-snapping conversation. He is using a background in existing simulation science and applying it to software emulation of realworld devices in Flash. People learn by doing, not just hearing about something, watching something, or playing at something. The way to test such learning is by their actual final performance in the actual environment -- "the meaning of a message is the response it elicits" -- does the training actually make a difference in what people can do?

He wrote "Flash MX for Interactive Simulation" with David Castillo, showing training examples on medical equipment, emergency response equipment, even consumer equipment. The cool thing about this work is that it ends up having a real effect in the real world... the skills gained during screen-based training affect how physical things are handled out in-the-world by real people. With web delivery more people can get these simulations more economically than before. (It's funny, too, that devices are starting to move to embedded SWF interfaces... you could conceivably end up training on the actual final UI with only a different set of effectors outside the box to distinguish device training and device use.)

I asked him for his top wishlist item for people considering doing simulation work... wanted to know what he thought was most important for other people. Key takeaway was that too many projects reinvent the wheel without ending up with a smooth circle... there is an existing methodology for understanding and simulating a system, and ad-hoc designs run a real risk of missing or distorting certain interactions. "I don't have time to do the job right" can be a real problem, but if you're not tailoring the experience to the actual person using the app then you're not climbing that chain of value to the end user. There is an existing methodology to abstracting interactions for simulation.
Conversation with Phillip Kerman: We stood off to the side during a reception, avoiding the flying hors-d'oeuvre servers and the crushing decibels.

The cattle auction he worked on has some interesting social aspects. Many of the farmers had very old equipment (no local audio-mixing, eg), but even after they upgraded they liked the live auction, because for the first time they could track the bidding themselves in realtime. The use of cams also helped greatly, because they didn't have to move the cows from place to place. The big advantage may be in the social aspects: the auctioneer can address all participants, but can also hold private audio conversations with individual bidders. This changes the underlying dynamics of the auction itself. If they were typists they could have done this in a text chat, but most people don't type as fast as they think, so similar control over audio channels seems like it can open new types of interactions for new audiences.

The auction organizers wanted some type of app like this, and they investigated Java for quite awhile but never saw a way to actually pull it off. Once Phillip came in he was able to implement it in one-two months in FlashCom, is surprised that it just keeps rolling along and hasn't needed maintainence yet. The weekly auctions can accommodate up to 200 spectators, at 10am Central time on Wednesdays if memory serves.

(Phillip made it through this downturn by keeping a triangular base of teaching, doing projects, and writing on top of that... keeping a wider array of incomes seems to keep things stable.)

Monday, October 28, 2002

Speaking of efficient user experiences: This hotel has three floors in its conference area, with odd angles and unexpected stairs, and conference rooms with names like "Atlantic" and "Europe II" and "Oceanic 4" and so on. Near as I can make out, if you look in the guide and see a session you'd like to attend you have to remember the codename for its room, then find that room on a map, find your current floor on an adjacent map, figure out if you have to go up or down (the hotel maps don't say whether "ballroom level" is above "exhibit level" or "lobby level"), find the stairs, go there, then go back and look up the room codename again, and so on. What's wrong with plain room names like "Lunch" and "2nd floor" and "eastern conference rooms" and so on? (And where are the trash receptacles in this joint anyway? I *know* Disney plans everything, do they want me to drop my gum wrapper on the ground...?) (PS: Don't mind me, I'm just grouchy because Eisner owns the Angels... :(
"End Hassle" project: This is a little odd... there was a sneak-peek today of an upcoming piece of software, and mobs and mobs and *mobs* of people outside the door. It's not quite close enough to announce it, but if you sign an NDA you can get an orientation to it. (I haven't seen the presentation myself, and so can't provide a good context for it yet.) From what I've heard publicly stated at the keynote and the quarterly analyst call, it's not some sexy new development tool with 3D vectors for JSP pages on PDAs, it's more a way to let various people contribute to a website without hassling the HTML approval process. It can make you money if your clients can benefit from such efficiency, but won't cause the key creatives in a group to go swooning to the floor in ecstacy. Or maybe they were just swooning to get the limited-edition mystery shirt, I don't know. Anyway, please keep cool, it's just some software, and full details will come online soon.
Monday keynote, continued: Kevin Lynch then hosted product-specific presentations from David Deming (Dreamweaver), Miriam Geller (Director), and Ben Forta (ColdFusion).

Kevin showed a running version of Macromedia Flash Player 6 for PocketPC. This can run as a standalone, not just as a browser extension. His PPC had a wireless card and he pulled live language-translation services from BabelFish. The DevCon conference guide is available on the Macromedia site for PPC display. This new Player supports both remoting and communication services... live video, etc. Release date? "Coming soon, not available yet, getting close," endquote.

He then showed the Macromedia Flash Player on the Sony Clie running Palm OS 5. Sony used Flash for their own demo of the device... you can use a zooming navigation metaphor to keep your place as you explore the features of the CLIE. Phil Torrone's scientific calculator is a full application, adding functionality to the device although being written in software as a SWF file.

The flip side of portable devices are embedded devices, such as automobiles and large appliances. Kevin tore a home-control system out of its wall to bring up on stage, where you can control a house's music or environmental systems through a Flash interface.

David Deming gave a run-down on the template features in Dreamweaver, because it ties in with something that will be sneak-peeked later on today.

Miriam Geller showed the next version of Director for the first time. It's not formally announced yet, so there's not yet an estimated ship date or published feature set. It was running in Mac OS X native as well as Windows, and used an MX-style interface. SWF launch-and-edit was shown... just as you can use Fireworks within Dreamweaver and don't have to manage different sets of authoring and deliverable files, Director can invoke Flash to directly edit embedded SWFs... faster, smoother. Screen reader accessibility was shown which does not require a dedicated screen reader, it's all built into the app, cross-platform, with control over which items are read and in what order. This is also pretty close to delivery, although I haven't seen a ship date committed to in print yet.

Ben Forta showed how ColdFusion Components separate data from presentation, and how the same business logic in a component can be accessed by varying front ends (SWF, HTML, etc). The way to create or consume web services in MX is faster and easier than anything else I've seen out there... you can get similar results by handcoding, but both learning costs and implementation costs are much higher if you're not using MX.

Monday keynote, Rob Burgess: This is all heavily paraphrased, and may not capture the salient points... if you picked up something else, please feel free to drop a note in "comments" here, thanks.

He started with a thank-you to the developers who actually create this stuff. Not everyone can come to this event in the US, particularly this year, but it's the people who create actual user experiences who drive this whole thing forward.

What Macromedia has been about has been consistent since day one: enabling a better user experience. It started during days of floppy-drive distribution, where various media types could be integrated into a single presentation. CD distribution came and the tools were optimized for this, then web distribution arrived and prompted another round of evolution. This faster distribution method makes digital delivery "indispensible stuff".

In the first flush of fast delivery there were lots of experiments, almost a mania, but "in many cases we left the user behind." The key point isn't how clever the presentation is, but how it lets the user achieve their goals, do what they want to do. (He brought up that we tend to call them "users", even though a more appropriate term may be "guest".)

"In the last six to nine months I've seen an opportunity for rapid change that we haven't seen before, because now people are starting to develop experiences that work against phones, TV, stores." The focus on actual user experience that helps people do things brings these screen-based experiences right up against realworld experiences.

He cited the book "The Experience Economy", which describes how value proceeds through stages of commodity, goods, services, to experience. At the left end of that growth spectrum you're mostly focused on the item, towards the right end you focus more and more on the person for whom that item is intended -- from user anonymity to user knowledge. The value of the work increases with better fit to the actual user of the item. (Example: coffee beans are a commodity, and pretty cheap... when you brew a pot of coffee at home it's worth more... going to a restaurant and getting a cup of coffee as a service increases the value which is paid for it... now people are paying $2-5 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks because of experience details like comfortable chairs, meeting people, predictable bathrooms, wireless access. Same bean, different values attached to it depending on the final experience which surrounds it.)

The net drives the commoditization of news, information, contacts, communication. When you can slash the distribution costs news can become more anonymous. The value remains in how you tailor the experience to what the visitor is actually trying to accomplish.

He showed some URLs which I couldn't catch... a training series from the Davis, California fire department... a single-screen online email service from Postio (think HotMail but in a single screen, no full-page refreshes, separating data from content)... a video + interaction corporate presentation from Ego7 in New York City... an IBM ad which also used scripted video sensibilities along with user-controlled interactivity... the DateCam site where he did some cam exchanges with Jeremy Allaire.

He said there will be a "quick spin" on the next version of the Flash Communications Server, that the new Flash Remoting will also have a short development cycle to quickly respond to first requests. ColdFusion MX is being picked up by more and more people... 25% of licenses are being bought by people who had not used ColdFusion before.

Right now development is still difficult... you have to learn a lot about general techniques in order to accomplish a specific goal. But you also have to deal with learning about client and visitor needs too. This first generation of MX tools makes tasks much simpler than before, but we still have to reduce the learning and implementation costs further so you can concentrate more on the actual enduser experience. The more you can tailor your work to its audiences, the higher up that value chain you can go.

Research & Development is very high at Macromedia, at 30% of revenues. Of the top 100 software companies that's at the 99th percentile. There's a lot of investment right now in building atop that MX infrastructure to make things faster and easier for more people to develop... lots going on in the shop.

Poolside conversation with Barry Sherbeck, Mark Brenneman (sp?), and Rob Romanek: I met Barry in Nick Arnette's "Multimedia Forum" on CompuServe ten years ago. People used their own names back there, and there was a cultural difference with the pseudonymity of America Online. Later Usenet's anonymity changed the online culture still further. We spoke here of changes to Director, and Mark remarked that Macromedian Kevin Lynch hinted in a partner meeting that there will be some news at today's keynote. Rob is teaching development at Humber College, and some students come in wanting to design and develop for just one environment, one delivery method, instead of seeing how their skills could be best used regardless of medium... he sees a trend in current interface design where UIs are built around teeny little screens, and these students can feel lost when designing a fullsize application for a computer monitor. Some people think their skills are very strict and vertical, while others feel they can learn easily across a range of related interests.

[These are all notes I typed after conversations, so they're just what I remember people discussing... please correct me or clarify in the comments if necessary, thanks.]
Lobby conversation with Chuck Neal (MediaMacros) & Lori Hylan (Macromedia):
It took awhile to adjust to autocompletion of URLs in browsers... kept it turned off at first to prevent the machine from driving you crazy, but then after getting used to it it became vital, so much easier to just type a few letters. Similar to code-completion in Visual Studio... going back to Director after a bit you ended up waiting for the program to auto-complete. This is a UI change which sneaks up on you... a little disconcerting at first, but doesn't require a long learning curve to take advantage of it.

Same issue with code-completion and attribute hinting in Dreamweaver: how to balance the change between program and habits to take advantage of the new efficiencies? (Lori slows down auto-completion to five seconds or so, so it doesn't break the author's train of thought... it's there when she deliberately wants it but isn't used all the time.)

Chuck has been doing some edits on some Director 5 projects, and the old UI was a shock: "How did I ever do this here?" Incremental change in interface hides the total set of changes.
Lobby conversation with Peter Kaizer & Chuck Neal: [These are all notes I typed after conversations, so they're just what I remember people discussing... please correct me or clarify in the comments if necessary, thanks.]

"There's a perception that a CD can be paid for, while web content is free... there's a resistance to paying for stuff on the web, but if you give them a CD it's easier to pay for."

Chuck is doing Director development for Flash folks... gives them an API to write to make it easy to transport among hosts. [note to self: see if we can get this approach written up in DesDev.]

Why do we still use a mouse? It's not the best interface. But it's like a QWERTY keyboard, you already know it, so why would it be worth it to learn something new? The optimization benefits don't outweigh the incremental learning costs.
Attendence is over 2300 folks, even though we were aiming at 2000.

There's wireless access at various points in the building, nice touch. Wired connections and connected machines are available downstairs in the Community Connection center. This area will also have additional mini-presentations throughout the conference; check with them for additions. They're also conducting a high-value raffle... swipe your badge through the reader for the daily drawings.

There's a sneak-peek session each day... see the "end hassle" ad in the back of the "Final Agenda" booklet. You'll need to sign a non-disclosure agreement to attend, so I don't have public details yet.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

You blogging here? I notice Sean Corfield already has been writing from here... please drop a note in the "Comments" to this message if you're blogging from DevCon, so we can each navigate to each other easier, thanks!
Registration chatter: People still arriving through today. The Nielsen course is already in progress, and the Macromedia certification tests and partner meetings are also underway, but the next event seems to be a reception at 5pm.

The conference bags are very nice this year, although lots of us had trouble figuring out which way to put them on... seems like it goes on easy unless you stop to think about it first. Inside is a *massive* conference book... turns out it contains slides from many (if not all) presentations. That's useful for me, because I like to preview things ahead of time.... gives a better flavor about what the speaker is actually covereing. I wouldn't be surprised if there were last-minute divergences, but it's good.

(I was talking with one of the speakers while looking through this book, saying "I hope each of these slides were SWF and not PowerPoint", and learned that the first template sent out did in fact include a PowerPoint file, but that these are now all SWF. Do me a favor, if you ever see a Macromedia staffer not eating our own dogfood, call us on it, okay? I realize that people are often hired because of the high-level skills they can bring to the company, but we've got to get each of them familiar with SWF presentations and HTML pages too, and they've got to build upon their Microsoft Office skills. Can ya'll give us a hard time on this? Thanks! 8)

Interesting quote, paraphrased: "Right now I can get plenty of web jobs, but it's just setting up a site, easy stuff. I want to build my chops with Flash Communications Server instead, I don't want that other work." I'm glad you're getting enough work, but right now it's indeed early-adopter stage with this MX stuff... the people who succeed in making apps during this first period will be hailed as pioneers, but it's _hard_ to get clients to buy into something that they haven't seen yet. The first generation of such communication apps are coming online now, so they'll have some models to consider, but I think these apps still at the stage where we're calling them "horseless carriages" instead of "cars".... ;-)
At DevCon: Got into Orlando last night, will get set up today. Good buzz in the lobby... snatches of conversations about people completing, in the middle, or just starting large new projects. Stayed up late in animated lobby discussion with Ben Forta and Greg Rewis about where the future is. Surprises so far include how so many developers are already seeing possibilities deep within the new technologies; hearing people discussing layering their MX work atop work done by Java or .NET crews; how international attendence may be shifting because of the increase in similar events globally. Mike Chambers is setting up a DevCon-specific page here, and Vernon's already got some audio up here.