This Week in ColdFusion Episode #3

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I posted my review of TWiCF episode #4 yesterday, and today on the drive home I listened to episode #3. The first half of the episode was a discussion of conferences, since the episode was recorded at the same time that Adobe Max 2009 was underway; the second half focused on the question “To Flex or not to Flex”, which basically means “Should I spend my time learning Flex, or should I learn a rich javascript framework instead?”. Or, perhaps it also means “If I were building a project that required X, Y, and Z, what does Flex give me, and what does <insert fancy JS framework here> give me, and why should I choose one or the other for my project?”. 


The line of inquiry for the first part was “Is it worth spending the money to go to a ColdFusion conference?” I can picture some listeners thinking, “What? Are you mad? That’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard”. But I have to say: I think it’s a completely valid question. Mike brought up his experience with conferences and I think he describes a feeling that a lot of people encounter: that feeling of “I’m here to bask in the glory of the presenter”… to be talked to, to be lectured. To soak up their wisdom and be grateful for this brief glimpse of their brilliance. Lo, a star!

I’d bet that more people than are willing to admit have had those Stuart Smalley moments. “Am I worthy?” “Am I good enough to be here?” Perhaps. Perhaps not. Regardless, I can understand the sentiment.

I want to say to the TWiCF guys – and to any listeners out there with whom those thoughts resonate – you will not find a more inclusive, caring, friendly, willing-to-engage community than the ColdFusion community. And I’m not just saying that as a guy who’s fairly outgoing. I attended cfObjective for the first time in 2008, and I was so grateful for the warmth and inclusion that I saw amongst people whom I consider heroes: Andy Powell, Simeon Bateman, Peter Bell, Brian Kotek, Bob Silverberg, etc. These people rock! And they love to talk about this stuff with people, no matter whether you’re a constant blogger or just a guy/girl who wants to learn some CF and possibly something beyond CF that maybe, just maybe, will become useful down the road. In fact, if I’m reading the pulse of these people correctly, I’d bet they’d be just as or more passionate about talking to people who really, really want to engage than to some super-smart know-it-all blowhard. And you get these small, intimate BOF sessions where it’s you and a handful of super awesome people simply talking about a topic you’re all interested in. Seriously: how often do you get to sit in a room – as peers – with Barney Boisvert, Joshua Frankamp, Laura Arguello, Oguz Demirkapi, Luis Majano, and no-names like me talking about Git in a session led by Peter and Sim? And it’s not because you’re a Git superstar, it’s because you just want to learn more about it face-to-face?  These are the reasons you pester your bosses to go to conferences.

This year’s CFUnited was outstanding, as well. The content was superb. The speakers were everywhere. It’s so easy to spot a dude who you saw speaking a few hours earlier, walk up to them, and start firing questions. Interestingly enough: one of the strangest takeaways for me from CFUnited this year didn’t happen as a result of me sitting in a session or picking some speaker’s brain. Rather, it came from a conversation I had after my session on automation with Sumit Verma. He asked me if I had ever heard of a certain Windows command for working with Services, and I hadn’t. So I emailed him afterwards, we chatted, and now what I learned from Sumit – a guy who wasn’t speaking but who was in my session – has had a profound implication for something I’m doing at work right now. How sweet is that? Teachers and Students? Speaker and attendee? Nah. The blurrier that line, for me, the better. It’s people who know things interacting with people who know other things. That’s where magic happens.

You always hear “You get out of it what you put into it”. It’s true. When you go to these conferences, try to engage. Walk up to people and say Hi. Even if you don’t like hanging out in the hotel bar, go sit down anyway. Order a coke. Eat peanuts. Whatever. Just open yourself up to people. When some funny-lookin’ bald dude says “yo, you wanna go hang out with us and smoke a stogie?”, say “yeah, sure”, even if you don’t smoke stogies. You don’t have to suck down a Cohiba! Grab your beer or your coke and you might be hanging out with Terry Ryan and Ryan Stewart and Adam Lehman, talking awesome stuff about what’s coming up in CF and the Flash Platform.

Notice how I spent three paragraphs talking about stuff that wasn’t sessions?  If the value from 5 pm to 12:00 am is this good, imagine how good the stuff from 9 to 5 is! Brian said that for one of the conferences he attended, he was “required” to give a debriefing to his team when he returned to work. I can’t recommend this enough, for several reasons:

  1. It encourages you to become a more active audience member. Rather than being a passive mouth-drooler, you’re more likely to at least take notes during sessions
  2. It provides you an opportunity to revisit the material afterwards. Consider: you’re going to go to one of these conferences, sit through 15-20 sessions, and no way will you remember it all. Going back through your notes – several times – gives you more time to think and interact with the material
  3. Your team members benefit from the time you spent at the conference. Surely it’s not the same as being there. But maybe something you say during your talk will inspire them to go check something out themselves (“What’s this CouchDB thing? Sounds interesting. I’m gonna go play with it”). Who knows, maybe you’ll present on something you learned at a conference, it’ll intrigue one of your team members, and you might collaborate on a small project down the road where previously you’d have going it alone.

I strongly believe that if you attend either cfObjective or CFUnited in 2010, it will be worth your while. Each conference has a great variety of tracks: ColdFusion, Flex, Air, Project Management, etc. Each conference is run by people passionate about what they’re doing. Each conference brings in wonderful speakers. Each conference LOVEs to get new speakers (Brian Carr… I’m talking to you! Suck it up… we need solid presentations on real-world ReST with CF).

The guys also discussed presentation formats other than the traditional “eyes forward” style. Dudes… I hear you. I don’t know what CFUnited has in store for 2010, but I can say that the people behind cfObjective are taking this very, very seriously. This will be a shake-up year. This will be a year when engagement is paramount.


The whole way through the 2nd half of the episode, the guys talked about “XJS”. I was like “WTF is XJS?” Is this some new javascript framework I didn’t know about? They didn’t mention CF8 at all, so I wasn’t sure if they were talking about ExtJS, which is used for a lot of the CF8 Ajax widgetry. I was cornfused, as we say in Pennsyltucky. A look at the website shownotes afterwards cleared it up. They were talking about ExtJS. So my question is: How DO you pronounce it? Since I was introduced to EXT in 2007, I’ve always said “E-X-T”. Can I get a ruling from the line judge on how to pronounce this?

LCDS, push/pull, comet, and CF9

There are probably a dozen people in the world who haven’t been confused by “what is LiveCycle? what is LCDS? what is BlazeDS? What can you do with Flex and XXXDS? and with ColdFusion? What DS hoogie comes bundled with CF, and what are its license restrictions?”  I know I surely was confused by this. I think I have a handle on it now though. Bottom line: if you’re running CF8, and you want Push technology, you can use the “honor license” LCDS that comes bundled with CF8, and you can also use BlazeDS (free, open source). Apparently LCDS will scale beyond more than a few hundred simultaneous users, though I do not have confirmation or links for that. Also, I believe CF9 now comes bundled with BlazeDS, so you needn’t worry about licensing for your push/pull applications. In the real world, what this should mean is that you can drop messages into your Blaze-backed gateway, have them pushed out to all your Flex clients registered on that endpoint, and you’re good to go.

If you’re creating a 20,000-user online Flex-based push/pull poker game, well, you’re probably looking at some LiveCycle Data Services licensing (note: this does NOT mean you’re spending 250k on a LiveCycle ES license. LiveCycle DataSevices != LiveCycle ES).

If I’m one of the hapless masses  who is still putting out incorrect information, please, someone, set us all straight.


Mike started off the episode with a baby crying sound effect that almost caused me to wreck my car. Egads, man, that was too real. But funny nonetheless… pulled Brian right into that one. At the end, Mike pulled Micky into another gag, too, which I thought was pretty funny.  I hope Micky lets the air out of Mike’s tires.


Till Next Time…

Thanks again, gents, for enjoyable company on the commute home. Till next time…

Marc, out

1 comment:

Micky Dionisio said...

I'll get him! I need to configure my sound to come out thru my speakers during the podcast and have some soundboards ready :D