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Getting the Most from the MX Community

There are a lot of resources out there

When Macromedia first announced last year that it would be joining the old UCon and DevCon together, combining the best of the two events into "Macromedia MAX 2003" - subsequently held in Salt Lake City in November - there were the inevitable rumblings in the user/developer community.

By now, however, everyone has seen that not only did joining those two events make good business sense, it also made sense in the context of the enormous impetus that it gave to the MX product suite.

Last month's announcement of the "MX 2004" product line, with its new versions of Dreamweaver, Flash, and Fireworks, as well as Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004, ought to have silenced anyone who still had any lingering doubts. Whether looking at new building blocks like the MX Elements for Flash and the MX Elements for HTML, or at the new look-and-feel for Internet applications, called Halo, MX developers - yes, let's use that term - are increasingly sitting in the catbird seat.

Flash Player 7 was also announced last month, with performance optimizations and support for new technologies. And let's not forget "Macromedia MAX 2004 Japan." Both developments confirm just how all-encompassing the commitment is to taking rich media apps to the max.

What does all this mean in real terms for you as a developer? It means, above all, that Macromedia is building out its offerings. But it is also building out the community of developers using them.

Let's look at just one of the many technologies within the MX family, ColdFusion, as it's the one I know best. Every month when writing the editorial for ColdFusion Developer's Journal, one of MXDJ's sister publications in the SYS-CON Media family, I try to encourage our readers to get involved in the developer community. I get technical questions e-mailed to me all the time, with folks looking for advice on where to go to solve specific problems that they're having, or to get in touch with other members of the community to help them learn and grow. I often assume that everyone knows the major resources that are there to help, but it's good every now and then to have a reminder.

In addition to the magazine you're holding, and ColdFusion Developer's Journal, there's a wealth of community resources for both ColdFusion and MX developers at no, or little, cost that are well worth taking advantage of. Having covered many developer markets over the past several years, I can unequivocally state that we've got one of the finest groups of folks, more willing to share with and help each other than any other.

Here are the "Big Four":

  • Macromedia's Forums: www.macromedia.com/support/forums/

    Every self-respecting developer using one of Macromedia's products should visit their very extensive support forums on a daily basis. Each gets hundreds of posts a day on a variety of topics, and they're monitored by Macromedia as well. It's a great way to see who else is having the problems you are, as well as learn the techniques that others in similar situations are using.

    There's no company out there (that I've found at least) that's more responsive to its core customer base than Macromedia, and we've seen several of the MX 2004 products (most notably Flash) receive updates over the past couple of months in response to customer problems that have now brought the MX 2004 line into many more production environments. You can get the latest information on these on the forums as well.

  • User Groups: www.macromedia.com/cfusion/usergroups/index.cfm

    You can find user groups specializing in ColdFusion, or Macromedia products as a whole, in many local areas throughout the country and the world. These generally meet once a month and range in size from a handful to a hundred attendees, with periodic visits from Macromedia guests. These are great for networking, as well as technical tips and shared learning.

  • Blogs: www.markme.com/mxna/index.cfm

    Several Macromedia employees - as well as many independent developers and consultants - have gotten into this latest craze in Web publishing, posting about their daily trials, tribulations, and triumphs using the various MX products. Macromedia's XML news aggregator makes things even easier because you can view the latest posts in these by technology, or overall as they aggregate (as of this writing) 208 different blog feeds.

  • Events: www.macromedia.com/macromedia/events
                        www.sys-con.com/edge2004/

    Macromedia MAX is a don't-miss event for developers using any products in the Macromedia MX family. It's an invaluable resource for support, great technical sessions, demos of Macromedia products, third-party solutions, and lots more. Watch for news on next year's U.S. event.

    In addition to MAX, there are dozens of national and local events that you can participate in. This month, for example, you can find many of the key players in developing MX technologies at Edge 2004 (East) in Boston, where there's an entire MX track reflecting the momentum that Macromedia is helping to build around its product line. The conference is the eighth successive "Edge" event produced by SYS-CON Events, a sister company to the publishers of MXDJ.

    You'll be able to learn from senior evangelist Christophe Coenraets how to use Macromedia's "Flex" technology initiative to create rich Internet apps - using components, layouts, and managers - to build user interfaces, as well as using Flex's XML-based language, MXML, to create and manipulate client-side data models. Senior sales engineer Kevin Hoyt will teach you how the Flex initiative fits into today's new service-oriented architectures, with a look at design patterns for rich clients, accessing Web services, and securing your Flex application.

    Simon Horwith will help you see how, compared to other application server platforms, ColdFusion MX makes creating and consuming Web services easy. True to the MX 2004 theme of interoperability, Simon's session will look at how Dreamweaver MX 2004 allows you to create a ColdFusion Component (CFC) in Dreamweaver, then expose that CFC as a Web service by just toggling one attribute of the component. His session will also explore built-in support for browsing and consuming Web services in Dreamweaver MX 2004, as well as the advantages of using Macromedia products to design and develop Web services-enabled applications from start to finish.

    And for the ColdFusion faithful, there's a session on the basic principles of tuning software for performance, concentrating on tuning Web applications written in ColdFusion. Jim Schley talks from experience as the lessons he's learned and will discuss have come from working on the latest version of ColdFusion, CFMX 6.1 (Red Sky).

    For those in search of a 35,000-foot overview, one of the Edge 2004 (East) keynoters is Macromedia's own David Mendels, who, since joining Macromedia in 1992, has played a major role in the development of product and business strategies. In his current role, David supervises the gamut of Macromedia's designer and developer products, including Flex, Flash, Dreamweaver, and ColdFusion - so his keynote presentation, intriguingly titled "SOA + RIA = ROI" is a definite must-see.

    You can visit the Web sites above for full details on this and other conferences that Macromedia is participating in, either as a sponsor or a presenter. Additionally, Macromedia runs local training seminars and product showcases as new products are released. Generally run in a hotel or local training center in your area, they give you the opportunity to go and see the products firsthand, and to learn from the experts.

    Until next time, happy developing - and don't forget to comment your code!

  • More Stories By Robert Diamond

    Robert Diamond is the founder and editor-in-chief of BroadwayWorld.com, the premiere theater site on the net now receiving over 100,000 unique visitors a day. He is also the owner of Wisdom Digital Media - a leading designer of entertainment and technology web sites. He is also the lead producer on BroadwayWorld.com's consistently sold-out Joe's Pub concert series, and Standing Ovations benefit concerts. Diamond was also named one of the "Top thirty magazine industry executives under the age of 30" by Folio magazine. Robert holds a BS degree in information management and technology from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Visit his blog at www.robertdiamond.com.

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