Tonight my colleague Victor and I were presenting were presenting Adobe Flex to the one of the largest and most active Java Users Group in the world: New York’s Java SIG. This is one of the toughest audiences to talk to for a couple of reasons:
1. People are very technical : these are Java developers with many years of experience.
2. This is New York – they’ve seen it all. Frank Greco, the leader of this JUG usually invites well known speakers in the Java community – see for yourself. Tonight’s meeting was held at Google’s NYC site and more than 100 armed and dangerous Java developers came to listen to the next big thing.
First, I spent 50 minutes or so showing different live sample business applications that would retrieve data from various servers using POJOs, JSP, HTTPServices, displayed charts, etc. I was targeting mainly Wall Street crowd. Then, Victor spendt another 30 minutes showing our components that automatically generate Flex and Java code and a really useful reporting component that we call FlexBI.
Our presentation was well received: no standing ovations just applauds, but now I know that I should have done it differently. My main message was that using Flex 2 is easier (read less expensive) than similar development in Swing. The rich Internet application that I demoed, would have taken three times longer to do in Swing. But after the presentaiton one developer stopped by saying, “I can do everything you did in Java Swing”. I repeated again that it’s cheaper, but he was not too convinced. Then I realized that he’s looking not so much for business applications, but for a cool stuff. So I ran an application that connected to Flickr downloaded photos with a fancy scroller and zooming, and he was immediately impressed.
The bottom line: people are looking for a cool looking things. Next time I’ll start with 15 min foreplay showing flashy multi-media applications. And when the audience will be impressed, I’ll go down to the dry details like data binding XNL parsing and integration with Java.
The other person asked me if Flash is applicable for his heart research programs. I showed him a chart component that look similar to Google Finance, and he agreed that the same way he could display data points with some useful data about the heart.
Here’s another typical question: we are using a no-name framework and can produce similar screens. This was an easy one: there are lots and lots of semi-professional tools or frameworks, but Adobe Flex 2 ia a well designed and well documented plaftorm that offers the entire stack of solutions required by modern RIA.
Another thing I’ve noticed is a silent resistence hanging in the air: “I can do everything in Java”. Adobe technical evangelists will need to work hard to break this ice in the eyes of Java developers.
One more observation, Java developers are used to having of large amounts of the boilerplate code generated for them by IDEs and other build automation tools. It’s hard to impress them with compact and elegant Flex samples. And, to be honest, when it comes to real worl applicatoins, you still need to write code regardless of what programming language you are using. My message “size matters – the smaller the better” was well recieved by other audiences, but this time it was like “So what?”.
In general, it was a well spent evening, and in three month I’ll repeat this presentation at Princeton JUG , but I’ll make it more Flashy as is required for all normal people such as Java developers.
Adobe is very strict about about certifying their instructors, and they have a special program called “Train the Trainer” after which you have to conduct a standup lesson to get certified. After delivering a couple of more presentations like today’s , I’m planning to start a class called “Train Adobe Flex Evangelist”.