360Flex Open Source Panel tomorrow at 10am, my open source talk at 2:30pm


So tomorrow at 360Flex at 10 am we’re getting together a bunch of open source Flex developers to talk about a few key open source projects, what it’s like to start an open source project, and whatever other random stuff people want to talk about. The truth is, I don’t know what will end up being covered, it’s sort of an open panel discussion thing. The basic idea went something like this: since we’ve got a bunch of guys involved with various open source projects all at the same conference, why not shove em all in the same room and see what happens? So Adam Flater’s going to talk about Merapi, some dudes from the Degrafa team (Juan, Andy, Pavan?) are going to talk about Degrafa, Ben Stucki’s going to talk about OpenFlux, I’ll probably say something about FlexLib, and Ben Clinkinbeard will talk about flexmdi. This is going to be pretty informal, I don’t think we’re going to have slides (unless someone is going to be a dork and over-prepare). So we’ll just hang out and talk open source and Flex. And if you’re working on an open source project be sure to come by and tell us all about it.

When: Tuesday @ 10 am
Where: Maple Room A (Hands-on room)

My talk at 2:30 – Using Open Source Community Projects
I’m also giving my presentation at 360|Flex tomorrow at 2:30pm. My session has a similar theme, but will be entirely different content. I’ll be talking about a wide range of open source projects out there that you can use (physics, 3D, graphics, audio, etc etc). The official sub-title of my presentation is “How to be lazy and make cool shit.” I’m showing a bunch of cool examples (well at least I think they’re cool…) of mashing up various open source projects to make impressive looking stuff without much work. I won’t be digging into Degrafa, OpenFlux, or Merapi, since those will be covered in the panel discussion in the morning and other individual sessions later in the conference.

Oh, and I’ll have an extra hand-bedazzled 360|Flex shirt (like the one Matt Chotin wore at today’s keynote) to give out at my session, so if that doesn’t make you want to come to my session I don’t know what will. Come to my session, it’ll be fun.

When: Tuesday @ 2:30
Where: Pine Room (Custom Components room)

This conference rocks hard
360FlexThis is probably the most fun I have ever had at a conference. Seriously. This community just frickin’ rocks so much, it’s like hanging out with good friends for a few days. Juan Sanchez and I filled in for Jesse Warden today (get well Jesse!) and had a really fun session about building your personal brand. We got a sweet discussion going and people had awesome stuff to talk about in terms of marketing yourself and getting famous. I had a blast and I hope the people in the session enjoyed it.


We’re not waiting for Flex 4

Ely Greenfield presented some cool ideas about the future of the Flex framework during his presentation at MAX in Chicago last year. The core idea is that they’re considering drastic changes to really apply an MVC approach to the full component set, which would mean the core components themselves would be viewless controls, allowing you to easily apply custom skins and have complete control over the look of each component. I wrote up more about Ely’s session here. The future of these changes is still unknown, I think we’re all hoping that stuff becomes the Flex 4 framework whenever that gets released.

But the Flex community isn’t waiting. There are a number of people working on similar concepts outside of Adobe. A recent post by P.J. Onori triggered this blog post. I’ve noticed a few others working on very similar ideas, so I just wanted to point this out, and make a note that it’s worth keeping tabs on these guys/projects because there’s going to be some seriously cool shit that’s going to be possible.

  • P.J. Onori released a set of layout managers. These layout managers are very lightweight, are not tied the Flex framework, and in fact aren’t really even tied to the display of the components. They handle different algorithms for laying out objects, ie in a grid, in a circle, etc etc.
  • Stephen Downs (aka Tink) is working on some layout algorithms for use within a ViewStack. The basic idea is very similar, create a set of layout algorithms that determine how the children get placed, but make those algorithms independent of the actual visual component. Tink’s stuff hasn’t been released just yet, but keep an eye out for it soon.
  • Ben Stucki is working on an ambitious project he’s calling OpenFlux to create a complete framework for containers, layout algorithms, and component creation techniques. At a minimal level this will allow you to do similar stuff like P.J. Onori’s layout algorithms. But then Ben is going to be combining his stuff with 3D and we’re going to have flexible 3D containers with complex custom layouts (ie you could build CoverFlow using these base classes in a matter of minutes). Ben is calling the OpenFlux + 3D stuff PlexiGlass. In case you saw the session list for 360 Flex in Atlanta and wondered what the hell Ben’s topic meant 🙂 His session is definitely going to be one to watch at the conference.
  • Degrafa has just been released, which allows you to write complex graphics tags using MXML. A core piece of Ely’s presentation relied on the new mx:Graphics tags that are going to be in Flex 4. The Degrafa team has basically done the same thing, but you can use it now instead of waiting for the next Flex release. What this means is that if you have a set of core components without specific visual designs, you can easily create skins using Degrafa in MXML. This idea of MXML skinning and skin-less base components is crucial to what Thermo is going to allow you to do.

So we’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close. What I’m seeing is that gradually we’re moving toward a highly-customizable, display-agnostic full component set for Flex, coupled with some advanced display options (using both 2D via Degrafa and 3D via PlexiGlass). What would that let you do? You could define a base data-driven list. Then you could choose to render that list as custom 2D graphics using Degrafa, or you could choose to render it as 3D components using PlexiGlass. The underlying component is the same base list component that has a list of data, selectedIndex, etc. But you could swap the rendering at runtime, letting you toggle between 2D and 3D views, or fluidly switch between different 3D layout algorithms, etc.

Some of the stuff I mentioned is released now, some is coming in the next few months. But keep an eye on these projects, they signal a shift in the Flex framework. I suspect that shift will officially come from within Adobe eventually with a future release of the Flex SDK, but it will come from within the community sooner. It’s gonna be fun 🙂