FOTB 2010 Day 3

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6 of the Best – 10 Mins Each
The final day of theis year’s Flash on the Beach (FOTB) kicked off with one of my favourite sessions from last year. Six of the speakers get ten minutes each to entertain and/ or enlighten us in some way. This year there was a great mix of silliness, cleverness and awe-inspiring beauty.

Julian Dolce kicked off by talking about Blackberry’s upcoming competitor to the iPad, the Playbook. Many folk on twitter complained that it was just a QNX/ Blackberry advert. I think these folk miss the point as I’m guessing they didn’t complain that the keynote was just an Adobe advert and they forget (or didn’t know) that Blackberry were major sponsors of this year’s FOTB.

Andre Michelle and Iain Lobb covered a AS3 sound framework (Tonfall) and game development respectively. Another game-orientated speaker, Jon Howard presented an amusing session which involved blowing up images of the other speakers using the “Kitten Conveyor-belt” imagery.

The best two in my view though were Seb Lee-Delisle and Robert Hodgin. Seb used the microphone support in the Flash Player to grab samples of the audience clapping and stamping. he then turned them into a crazy drum machine. The cleverness of this, combined with having a similar level of drumming skill to me – ie non existent – resulted in a very entertaining piece. Robert Hodgin by contrast simply showed off some more of his amazingly beautiful generative art, which was more than good enough for me!

Data Visualization Will Change Your Life
The next session I attended was by Doug McCune, who has mellowed so much since I last saw him a couple of years back. This is probably due to getting married 🙂

This was one of the best sessions of this year’s conference for me. Doug delved into the history of using graphs to help visualise data and demonstrated some clever uses of visualisation techniques to represent data about his home city, San Francisco, along with Britain.

Something that really worked for me was the use of the spoon metaphor from the film, The Matrix. In the film, most folk have the problem that they only see the spoon, rather than the data beneath. With data visualisation, the problem is reversed: we have stacks of data that most folk can’t make head nor tail of. The art of visualisation therefore is to create the spoon from the data.

Child’s Play: Live Wireframes with Flash Catalyst CS5
This was the first disappointing session for me. In previous years, I’ve attended a number of sessions that I thought were a waste of time. This year, I only attended one: this one.

Doug Winnie presented a session that he claimed showed how to use Flash Catalyst to create wireframes (mockups). I don’t believe he did any such thing and instead he showed us how to create throw-away rapid prototypes. Catalyst has a reputation for being of little use save to create prototypes and this session sadly reinforced that stereotype.

Digital Mythbusters
The penultimate session of FOTB called for something different. Laura Jordan-Bambach offered a session that was as far removed from my world as FOTB could offer. She went through a set of do’s and don’ts for – I think – digital agencies. As far as I can work out, a digital agency is a software-orientation advertising agency. I really didn’t get the point of the talk. Instead I mentally examined Laura’s slides, picking out elements that I loved and those I hated. Being as how this was near the end of the most exhausting, but easily the best, FOTB so far, that was just what I needed.

And what my conclusions on the slides? It was that UX is short for User Experience, not Designer’s Ego. But that’s for another day…

The Computational Artifact
And so that bitter-sweet moment arrived: the final session. Last year’s final session was a real “Oh shit, I get it now!” moment for me when the whole inspirational concept of FOTB connected with my developer brain. Jared Tarbell therefore had no hope of competing with last year. Jared is a generous man, who gave out some lovely gifts at the end (sadly I didn’t get one) and he makes some really nice looking pieces of art. It was a good end to the conference therefore.

So in conclusion, this was the best FOTB for me. I’ll close with a really massive thank you to John Davey for such a great four days and I’m already looking forward to next year.