I interviewed Aaron West for DZone.com recently. Aaron is a long time ColdFusion, Flash and Flex developer. Aaron is the author of twitterAIR, the first Twitter/RIA integration based on the Adobe Integrated Runtime platform and he has a host of community contributions and accolades to his credit. In this interview, we get to know Aaron, find out how and why he built twitterAIR and hear his thoughts on the direction of Rich Internet Applications.
Give it a read at the RIA Zone
On the first day of 360|Flex Atlanta 2008, I presented my hands on session titled "Building an XML Reader in Flex" to a packed room. During the 4.5 hour session, we built a working application that pulled remote data and displayed it using charts and tables. The session was geared towards walking newcomers through building their first Flex application.
I really had a lot of fun during the session. The plan was a little ambitious, walking 35+ people through completing the Surfing Stats application but due to a stroke of luck, Michael Labriola graciously volunteered to play Teachers Assistant and assist course attendees while I kept us moving. It felt a little strange, almost like having Jimi Hendrix offer to tune my guitar and I was grateful for the help. Thanks to Michael for selfishly volunteering! (my offer to carry your backpack for you stands. Just say the word.) We finished the session on time and with a working application.
Through it all, we walked through basic Flex concepts, from MXML syntax to ActionScript functions, from Remote HTTP Calls, to Custom Components. Each concept was layered into the final application. The attendees were also given a copy of the fully working application to poke through on their own time.
I hope everyone left the course having learned something new. I know I did. :)
I've just released an article at the RIA Zone titled CSS3: A solution for applications, or are we the boiling frogs?. The article is about CSS and HTML for applications and begins like this:
I've made countless web pages using HTML + CSS and have no complaints about the technological combination for Internet documents and pages. The rub comes when trying to make an application. Note the distinguishing factors. HTML + CSS is a horrid combination for making applications.
To be true, the HTML + CSS isn't truly the problem, the problem lies in inconsistent rendering by the clients (browsers). However, a large part of my job is making sure an application works, not debating with users which browser renders 'correctly'.
When building an HTML + CSS based application, there will be some unanticipated time required to track down and hack around a strange edge case or rendering bug . The time spent to track down the source of the error, which by the way only happens in IE version 6.0.23234234 and in Firefox 2.098435 and not Firefox 2.102309, is lost time. I've even spent 8 or 9 hours tracking down the source of a CSS related problem, googling around, reading blogs to find a solution and then testing all the various browsers using various user interaction permutations to verify the fix didn't break another client implementation. While spending this time was necessary for the success of the application, I would have preferred to spend that time towards building another useful feature for the users.
The article is a lot longer. Give it a read and let me know if I am off base.
Thanks to Adobe and Ben Forta, I am the proud owner of a fancy Flip video camera. I've been tasked with recording 10 segments from the community answering the questions:
- Why Flex?
- Why ColdFusion?
- Why AIR?
- Why Flash?
Since I'll be at 360|Flex next week, finding 10 people to share will be easy. Come on over and let's hear your answers to these questions. Support your favorite platform!
360|Flex, be there or be square!
The ColdFusion community is full of intelligent developers who have experience on interesting areas of ColdFusion development. Many developers have blogs and share their experiences. Some do not have blogs because of the hassle in setting up a blog. You gotta get the design just right, figure out the right host for your budget, evaluate blog software, who has the time, right? Just because you are busy, doesn't mean you have nothing to say.
If that is you...
You are invited to share at ColdFusion.dzone.com. ColdFusion.dzone.com is a place where you can share your experiences, opinions, news and tutorials with the masses.
Here is what you can do...
Writing for ColdFusion.dzone.com is easy. Simply log in with your dzone.com account (OpenID also accepted), click Post Content, Choose Story and write your article. Once you submit your article, it will be editorially reviewed by one of the Zone Leaders. Once complete, your article will be available for viewing.
Here is how we all win...
We all learn tips and tricks from community articles. If you want to contribute to your community and have been putting it off for the reasons mentioned above, I invite you to share at ColdFusion.dzone.com. You get the recognition you deserve, we gain from your experiences.
ColdFusion has been on dzone.com for a week. We've posted some very interesting articles for the dzone.com community at large. Here are the top 5:
|How Do You Set Up Your Development Environment?||Scott Stroz (Boyzoid)||10/3||Views: 1229, Clicks: 950|
|Some HOT Flex Skins for your Flex app||Ralf Sczepan||9/0||Views: 780, Clicks: 489|
|Services DAOs and Functional-Organization||Author: Paul Marcotte||7/0||Views: 689, Clicks: 373|
|What Tools Do ColdFusion Developers Use?||Todd Sharp||11/0||Views: 358, Clicks: 133|
|Did you know that ColdFusion Arrays are Java Arrays?||Adrian Moreno||9/0||Views: 301, Clicks: 100|
Views: the total count of visitors that read the teaser on dzone.com.
Clicks: Traffic routed to the blog/website holding the article.
Scott Stroz can vouch for the 'dzone effect' on his post How Do You Set Up Your Development Environment?. Even though he wrote the article a little while back, his recent submission to dzone gave new exposure to a whole new crowd of developers. On his blog, it now shows 31 comments and a total of 2326 views.
Be sure and watch the new ColdFusion tagged links at dzone.com. If you like what you see, give it a vote. It is really easy and only takes a second.
On Feb. 5th, 2008 I'll be giving a Hands On Flex Training session to members of the Triangle User Experience (Flex User Group). This will be the first time I've had a run through of the Surfing Stats course I'll be presenting at 360|Flex Atlanta.
The training will last about 2.5 hours. We've capped the audience at 40, a number which is about what I expect at the 360|Flex Atlanta conference. Of course I'll have to trim a little off the course to account for a shorter time period. The attendees will learn a lot and get to build a working Flex application before they leave for the night. I'll also include the full application so the more enterprising ones can dissect it at their leisure.
There might still be space available. If you would like to attend, fill out the registration form on the Triangle User Experience website. If there is enough demand, we'll probably hold another one once the smoke from the 360|Flex conference clears.
Thanks goes to Adrian Pomilio for managing and coordinating the Triangles First Flex User group.
Bruce Phillips asked me about the code I used to generate the XML that feeds Surfing Stats. I wanted to look it over before I released it, thinking I would clean it up some. Plus, there was an annoying order bug I wanted to fix. I've fixed it now and am ready for others to use the code as they see fit.
How It Works
When a request comes in, statsexport.cfm looks for a value in the url scope called dataset which then is evaluated inside a large switch statement. If the passed value matches a case, then one or more queries are run. If not, the default case runs and an empty query is generated. The Blog Totals dataset actually runs a number of queries and uses the fancy Query functions in ColdFusion (QueryNew, QuerySetCell etc) to create and populate a query. (I used the queries that were in the stats.cfm page so there should be no difference between the table structure of your blog and mine.)
At the very bottom of the page we:
- reset the content (XML hates stray whitespace)
- convert the query to XML using queryToXML by Nathan Dintenfass
- set the content type to text/xml
- return the response to the client
You can download the file using the download link at the end of this post. I've also included it in the latest SurfingStats zip file located at the download link at the bottom of the Intro to Surfing Stats post. If you make something interesting with this file, let me know.
Every day, a whole lot of useful information about ColdFusion is created and delivered over the airwaves. ColdFusion developers are passionate about their platform of choice. We know better applications are built quicker using the only commercially supported platform offering Image manipulation (by the people who make Photoshop, nonetheless), RIA, Server-side printing/PDF forms, Charting, Integration, Reporting and other libraries/frameworks. So why the occasional bad press?
After looking at the issue for some time, I've had some relevations. The majority of the developer promotion and information about ColdFusion is spread inside the ColdFusion community. Yes, friends and neighbors, we preach to the choir a bit more than we should.
Where do you get ColdFusion news from? I'd bet you answer either MXNA, Feed-Squirrel, FullAsAGoog.com or ColdFusionBloggers.org. Am I right? Those are great community resouces. I use them myself. As a matter of fact, most ColdFusion developers worth their salt use those aggregators for news. The problem is, Java developers, Perl developers, .Net developers and Ruby developers do not use those sources for their news. Thus, a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it.
What the heck is dzone?
Dzone.com consists of a variety of internet properties all focused on meeting the needs of developers. As of late, dzone.com added a ColdFusion tag to their dzone.com link sharing website. The fine folks at dzone.com also added a special zone for ColdFusion. You can see this zone at the aptly named coldfusion.dzone.com. These two websites are for you, the passionate ColdFusion developer, to get the message out. ColdFusion is the best tool on the market for quickly building feature rich web based applications.
How Dzone.com Works
At dzone.com, you can submit links of interesting posts into a pool where developers from all sorts of backgrounds can find them. Backgrounds like Java (Natural ColdFusion Converts), Perl, PHP, Python and .Net, anything really. If you come across a helpful or interesting article somewhere in your Internet travels and the link will benefit your fellow developers, add the link into the system. When others read the article you have submitted via link, they may vote it up, or down. Links with a high number of positive votes will be shown more often. This concept is sort of similar to digg. As a matter of fact, if you took out all the whining close-minded users and focused the content on only developer-centric topics, you would have a pretty good idea of what dzone.com is.
How ColdFusion.dzone.com Works
ColdFusion.dzone.com is a targeted portal for ColdFusion information. It is managed and organized by members of the community. Content on this site will remain an open community resource. From time to time, there will be interviews, special articles, announcements and other items of interest. I expect this resource to evolve as time passes.
ColdFusion.dzone.com has a few Zone Leaders. Rey Bango is one. I am another. There will be one or two more additions in the upcoming future. The responsibility of the Zone Leaders is to moderate discussions, be a point of contact for ColdFusion related matters and to review articles submitted by community members.
It is my vision that coldFusion.dzone.com will be a resource for the ColdFusion community by providing a place to share information. We encourage quality submissions by members of the community. While not every article can be posted, we encourage those of you who want to share your experiences and lessons with the rest of the community. This is a great way to help others, get more traffic for your blog and increase your community visibility.
It is my vision that ColdFusion.dzone.com will be a resource for other communities. ColdFusion is a great language and a great platform. Not enough people know that. By having a zone full of good ColdFusion content as well as by submitting good content from the zone and from community blogs, we can help bring the reality of ColdFusion to the masses.
How You Can Participate
http://coldfusion.dzone.com/ is yours. Bookmark it now. Come here often and read the information and post content you want to share with the developer community at large. As always, feel free to add a link back to your own blog. You deserve the recognition and the traffic.
The queue of ColdFusion related content on dzone.com is something you should check often (Don't worry, there is an RSS feed). As I said before, submitted articles get votes and rise to the front page where tens of thousands of developers from all backgrounds can see, read and learn. When you see a good article in the queue, give it a vote.
The most popular ColdFusion content on dzone.com is another page to watch (RSS Feed Too). Articles that have made it to this page have proven popular and have garnered visibility for the ColdFusion community in general and the author in specific. You might want to read these articles because your peers have already voted them worthy. If you agree, give it a vote.
By sharing our love and passion for ColdFusion among other communities, we will grow the ecosystem at large. Please consider these resources as your personal way to engage the developers of the world.
I've interviewed John Wilker, who along with Tom Ortega, founded 360Conferences. John is an interesting guy who came up through the ranks as a ColdFusion programmer and later moved over to also developing Flex applications. Not mentioned in the interview, John has taken a co-host spot alongside Jeffry Houser on the Flex Show podcast. Be sure and tune in regularly.
Not academic nor dry, 360|Flex is alive, unpretentious and exciting! I learned more in some 1 hour sessions than I did in a week of pouring over Flex documentation. The food was always good. The conference was packed with lots of interesting people. You should get your ticket before they are all gone.