FAQu Volume II, Issue II Is Totally Flextasic
Posted November 21, 2007 at 9:36 AM by Ben Nadel
I finished the most current issue of the Fusion Authority Quarterly Update (Vol. II, Issue II) this weekend, and I have been debating on whether or not to put up my review. It's not that I didn't like it; just as with the previous issues, V2I2 is of a fantastic quality. My hesitation stems from the fact that I don't think I am the target audience for this particular set of articles.
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While we do get some great ColdFusion based insights from Peter Bell, Michael Dinowitz, and Charlie Arehart, the majority of the issue is dedicated to Flex, AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), and their related topics (IDEs, Frameworks). As always, the articles are well written and the code samples and screen shots are highly informative; but, as someone who has never really touched Flex outside of a single "Hello World" example many months ago, the information felt just beyond my reach. See, Flex isn't like ColdFusion where you can open up a text file, edit it, and then run it in a browser; with Flex, you have to have the right IDE (not required, but super helpful), you have to have compile the code into a SWF file, and you have to really be in the mind set of using Classes as this all that ActionScript 3.0 will play with. As such, I don't think that I am in the best position leverage all this new information.
I am in no way saying that you will feel the same way about this FAQu issue. My brain is funny in that it has a hard time following concepts if it cannot draw analogies to things that I already know. I think if I had a week of Flex under my belt, this issue would have been 100 times more understandable.
Now, don't go thinking that this issue is totally lost on me. I'm putting this issue right in the toolbox along with all my other FAQu's and technical manuals. Then, when I finally do get around to trying out Flex in a serious way, I'll be re-reading this issue and reaping all the benefits. I am sure that if I came back at it from within more of a Flex context, it will be as rewarding as all the other FAQu's have been.
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"I am in no way saying that you will feel the same way about this FAQu issue."
Well, I do. I have been a subscriber since the beginning, and this issue was pretty disappointing. I am not a Flex developer, and frankly I don't want to be. I think Flash based interfaces have a lot of downfalls that I am not willing to live with. So when ever I see Flex in the title of blog entries, I generally just skip it. I did the same thing with this issue of FAQu.
Just the same, when the day comes (and trust me, it will come) when you need to do some Flex work, you'll be very happy that you can pull this issue off of your bookshelf. ;-)
I understand how you feel. And to some degree, I feel that way as well. I am very slowly warming to the idea of a Flash interface. I think the biggest leap is to realize that it's no longer a "web page" but rather an application that happens to be viewable through an HTML page (or an AIR app or something). As such, it doesn't live by the same usability rules. I think it's the context of the browser that makes this a difficult leap to make (at least for me - I can't tell you how many times I screw myself using the BACK button in a Flash app).
Exactly. The back button, the mouse scroll wheel, browser plugins, search engines, these are all problems with Flash interfaces. I am not a Flex developer, obviously, so there my be fixes for the above mentioned problems, but these are things that deter me from using Flex.
100% agree. But, just to play "devil's advocate", if you think about Flash as if it were a desktop app, a lot of these things no longer apply. When's the last the time you tried to use the back button or a firefox plug-in on a desktop app. Never (or very rarely) because the control are either not available or don't translate.
That being said, I rather dislike Flash interfaces as web SITES for all the reasons you mentioned (and then sum - if I never see a "custom" scroll bar again I will be happy). However, I see a place for it as a web APPLICATION, which in my mind is entirely different.
Certainly, if it's outside of the browser, like an AIR app, I have no problem with it.
It will be interesting to see how far Flex goes, as far as market share. Right now it seems pretty popular, but I haven't exactly seen it taking over the web. I wonder how many web developers are using it, beyond the rabid Adobe fans...
Keep in mind that Flex is not meant to replace web pages. Flex is meant to be used to build applications, where search engines don't really apply. If you have a hotel reservation application, stock market dashboard, or a dynamic reporting engine with charts and PDF generation, you can see that search engines have nothing to do with it. Also note that most of these issues (back button, search engines) also affect AJAX apps.
I can tell you with certainty that as someone who is moving from HTML AJAX applications to Flex applications, there is no comparison. Flex crushes AJAX in terms of functionality as well as ease of development. Working in FlexBuilder is a joy compared to trying to build AJAX applications, even with Aptana.
For the specific applications you mentioned, I don't really have a problem with it, Brian. But there are some Flex fanatics that are moving beyond that. For example, there are a few bloggers that have converted their entire blog to Flex. This is a bit much, in my opinion, but to each his own. :)
Ben, thanks for this valuable review of the Fusion Authority Quarterly Update Vol. 2 Issue 2. It was valuable for me because it gives me a view into how the issue was received... Jake, I'm sorry you were disappointed, and I hope it's just because the theme wasn't what you wanted and not because of the quality of the content. Hopefully, the next issue, which is extra heavy on ColdFusion 8, will be more to your liking.
No, I'm sure the content quality was great, as usual. Now that FAQu is the only CF magazine left, I hope you guys take a much stronger ColdFusion focus in future issues. But it's your magazine, you run it how you like. :)
You'll be happy to know that our future issues are a lot more ColdFusion-centric, especially the next one. We've got articles on many of the new features of ColdFusion 8, and we touch on a lot of little details that the documentation doesn't cover (or even gets wrong). This should prove to be more attractive to you than the Flex/UI issue was.