Ed Bott, I expected more of you OR Am I a Flash Zealot?

I have not hidden it on this blog that I favor Flash. The reasons for that are simple in my area of expertise; it allows me to use my creativity and deploy it how I want, without having to worry about programmers who’se creative vision is too limited to see the value of a great user experience. And for every programmer trying to say something now, I would like to point out to Apple, who shows us that an excellent user experience gained them the advantage on mobile phones and media players and a good looking OS.

There is no other platform that allows creatives to do what they do best without too much technical interference. But even then, Flash works perfectly with other technologies combines. On a daily basis I work with Flash productions that are hooked up to .Net servers and services and we received a 99,9%+ uptime of our sites.

So I was a bit disappointed to read a blog posting of a by me well respected blogger and specialist Ed Bott on ZD.net claiming that Flash had become the new Vista.  Now, I like Ed and Ed’s opinions and they are very valuable, and maybe that is why I was a bit amazed about this article, because it shows, and I got this feeling more often lately, that people do not really seem to understand what the problem of Flash is.

The problem is not the technology, it is that it is a platform nowadays. And quite a difficult one for programmers to play around in. Flash is a platform that a team needs to play in; not just a programmer or a developer. And both need to understand what is happening in the production that they are making.

Most programmers do think in objects, and objects have their properties, variables and are of certain classes. It is abstract and mathematical, and because of that, quite easy to work with if you have an abstract mind and you can think in abstract concepts. Creatives and artists do not have that, but have a visual mind (usually) and they think in visual results. An animation is a flow of one visual moving, changing, interacting, and not a thing that transforms from state1 into state2. It is emotion. And that is something other productions cannot seem to understand. That is also why Macromedia at first, and now Adobe, were starting out as companies for artists and with their years and years of experience they know how an artist works.

When a programmer gets a flash project, it might be a bit of an overload, because in their objects there are so many extra elements available that are outside of the scope of his or her world. Frames, morphs, alpha channels, motions, ease-ins and outs. Mixing of sound on the fly, making it work together with the flow of animations. 20 play-heads on different reels. It is all complicated to handle when you are a normal and qualified programmer. This is not a bad thing, but it is reality.

And an artist is not used to programming. If they want interactions, they need to dive into ActionScript, which with version 3 is quite a difficult task. And even if they master it then, it is difficult to do it very well. This is why a lot of coding errors are made. Companies often do not let developers work in Flash, because in their mind it is not a programmers job to use that tool. And designers often do not want to work in the coding, and if they do, there is usually too limited experience of doing this well, ending up in buggy code.

And this is where it goes wrong. When Ed Bott also describes the errors in his blog, he actually shows examples of where it goes wrong. That is fine. But that proves my point; it does not always go wrong. On the homepage of ZD.net for example is a flash ad-rotator that works without a problem. Now, why, if Flash should cause these problems, doesn’t this ad rotator cause for any errors? You can check the site, it reveals no errors. And visit the thousands and thousands of other flash based pages, and tell me how many show a steady error message so we can blame Flash?

It is not Flash that is the problem, it is the developer. Just like it is not a car that is the deadly weapon, it is the person driving it. Do we blame the car manufacturer because a drunk driver killed a pedestrian? It might sound like an extreme comparison, which it is, but it is a valid comparison alright.

Ad might be right about one thing though, and that is the actual comparison to Vista. Vista was not bad, and it never has been. It was a solid step forward and a lot better than XP ever was, but in the media it was brought to the people that it was bad. That the drivers did not work, that it was slow. But also here, Microsoft delivered a good and far more stable operating system that required the danger areas of XP like the drivers, to be updated and brought into the 21st century like people had demanded. But now, those same people did not like it when they needed to upgrade.

Sure Microsoft started to say that Vista was a mistake just before Windows 7 arrived. They had to. If they did not do that people would think of Microsoft to support the in their eyes broken system, and the follow-up might not be that much better. The sales would drop even more! So, a fake Mea Culpa and go on with the show. It did work out. Windows 7 is not much faster in experience than Vista, and it uses exactlythe same drivers as Vista. Other changes are under the hood and for the normal user undetectable. But still they say they notice the major difference… hmmm… placebo anyone?

Maybe that is what Adobe should do. Do a complete overhaul in marketing, get rid of the CSx names again in the adobe suites, and produce it as Adobe flashX, the new revised version of Flash. It is all marketing, this all has nothing to do with technology anymore.

And Ed, I expected out of all the people in the world, that you would see this.


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