Grant Skinner’s Things Every Flash Developer Should Know talk

One of the sessions that I was really looking forward to seeing at MAX was Grant Skinner’s “Things Every Flash Developer Should Know.” I’ve really been inspired by some of his work and although I’d seen his slides (they are posted on his site), I wanted to see him present it. I’m hoping that they will post a video of it on Adobe TV, because I got a lot more out of watching it than I did by just reading the slides.

The Actionscript and Flash parts were the main draw for me, but I actually got a kick out of the software architecture and software engineering-ish slides as well. He ended up presenting a nice overview of some of the core of software engineering and development in a succinct and easy to understand way. I would certainly recommend this talk to the folks in the community without formal training, especially as a gateway to finding areas to learn more. I think as more and more experienced developers with formal software training move into RIA development with Actionscript, you’ll start to see the general level of software quality in the community rise (especially if the new-to-Actionscript developers embrace the sharing ethos of the greater community).

I didn’t agree with all of his edicts – especially about commenting, documentation and some of his personal coding guidelines, but those were pretty minor quibbles with a really great talk.

I also have to give him big props for his Flash-movie-as-slide-deck. A lot of times, I’ve seen developers create their own slide software as an intellectual exercise which all-too-often results in presentations that look a lot worse than powerpoint templates. His deck worked well, looked good, and was cool without being too distracting.

At the beginning of the presentation there is a quote from Dune that I hadn’t seen before. I grabbed a longer version of it here from one of his other posts.

‘Above all else, the [architect] must be a generalist, not a specialist. Experts and specialists lead you quickly into chaos. They are a source of useless nit-picking, the ferocious quibble over a comma. The [architect] on the other hand, should bring to decision-making a healthy common sense. He must not cut himself off from the broad sweep of what is happening in his [application]. He must remain capable of saying “There’s no real mystery about this at the moment. This is what we want now. It may prove wrong later, but we’ll correct that when we come to it.” The [architect]-generalist must understand that anything which we can identify as our [application] is merely part of a larger phenomena. But the expert looks backward; he looks into the narrow standards of his own specialty. The generalist looks outward; he looks for living principles, knowing full well that such principles change, that they develop. It is to the characteristics of change itself that the [architect]-generalist must look. There can be no permanent catalogue of such change, no handbook or manual. You must look at it with as few preconceptions as possible, asking yourself: “Now what is this thing doing?”‘
– From Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (1976)