Adobe MAX 2008

Adobe’s MAX conference has finally come and gone for this year, so here are my reflections on it – highlights, things that could have gone better, etc. (all with the benefit of hindsight, of course…)

While I was in town a little early to catch up with people, we got the event started on Sunday night with a cocktail reception for Adobe Community Leaders. The beer was good (always a priority for me), the company better; there are a lot of new managers in our midst these days, and it’s really very cool to have people come up and say ‘I know you from Twitter.’ Of course, that means I’d better watch what I say, heh… and there were some people that have never been to a MAX before that I know from other events, so it was great to see everyone in one place. It was rather unfortunate that the speaker’s reception overlapped this event (as a lot of people had to choose which to go to), but since that ended earlier, may of them still swung by at the tail end to say hello.

The Day One keynote highlights are here, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about them. The Video DJ that they had was great. Looking around, most of the crowd had iPhones, and everyone was speculating and placing bets on if they’d announce official support for Flash on the iPhone yet. (The answer? Technically there, now it’s a business issue.) I think the biggest takeaway was the name changes, as many ‘codenames’ were replaced by official monikers. Flash Catalyst (formerly Thermo) is a game-changing app, and we were privvy to a DVD with not only an early version of the software (i.e., look out for bugs), but an exclusive ‘black hole’ feature that can wipe out anything you put in it (it was suggested that perhaps the LHC was used to burn the discs). Day One also saw the introduction of the new Groups area on Adobe’s site (http://groups.adobe.com). I have a group set up for the Northern Virginia Adobe User Group, so please join; even if you don’t go to meetings or aren’t in the area, we’ll still have (hopefully) useful information to share.

The Day Two keynote was the big product-centric one, complete with a secret agent/007 theme, lab coats, and most of the people on stage Twittering as they were waiting for their parts. Since CS4 was just released, most of it centered around features in those products. If you want a breakdown of all of the tools (as well as the archives of some liveblogs that were being done at the event), this is a good resource.

One new aspect this year was the inclusion of several ‘unconferences’ – lounge-style areas with specific topics that were usually more advanced than the regular sessions. These were a big hit and many people stayed exclusively in them. While I found it a little harder this year to find sessions that were advanced/relevant enough for me, adding on something like this in my realm would have been perfect.

There were mixed reviews of the sessions as usual; I can’t imagine a conference where that wouldn’t be the case. I went to a couple of good ones, and walked out of one when we saw it wasn’t going anywhere. This year they announced that all of the sessions would be posted onto AdobeTV, which I have mixed feelings on. I think it’s great to make them available, but I don’t think that they should be accessible to non-attendees for a few months. I paid for the conference out of my own pocket (as did many of us), so there should be some exclusivity for those who paid. And the session scheduling app and on-site process was horrid. Each year they make the scheduling app worse; focusing more on using technology-du-jour than on making it usable. Check a schedule on an iPhone? Can’t do it. If you wanted to change your sessions, you had to find a kiosk, update your information (if you were lucky enough to be able to even get it to log in), then you had to update your RFID. If you just wanted to go into a session you weren’t registered for, the evil Moscone Militia would glare at you as your badge beeped ‘access denied’ and hiss ‘go stand in the corner.’

The Event Night was interesting (we hit up the deYoung and Science museums), but definitely could have been organized a little better in terms of notifying people what stuff was closing or only done at certain times. Some people didn’t even realize it was two buildings until the next day, and most people couldn’t get any phone reception to meet up with people there. We got to see every ‘major’ attraction – the rainforest, the living roof, the overlook, the big head thing, the planetarium, etc., but a lot of people said that they missed stuff. And it probably wasn’t the best idea to have drinks with no food outside of the sneak peek/MAX awards right before the event…

There was a lot of stuff we did outside of the conference, as usual. From lounging at an old speakeasy with utterly incredible drinks to wandering along the cliffs overlooking the beaches to eating/drinking/miscellany at lots of fabulous places, it’s always great to spend time with the ‘family,’ and be with those kindred spirits. It never seems long enough, no matter how exhausting it is. And speaking of kindred spirits (ahem), this event also marked the kick-off of our new company, Kindred. Our first ad launched a little bit before we did, but we have a placeholder up now and will have our site up and running and more information/details about that very soon. I’m very excited/fortunate to be working with such a talented group of people, and look forward to the amazing stuff we’ll be doing soon.

Next year MAX will be in Los Angeles, a little bit earlier (the beginning of October), so I’m already preparing for that insanity… as should L.A!

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