Archive for March, 2012
I attended FlashInTO last night. The event bills itself as a “Toronto Flash User Group”, a monthly gathering of anyone interested in Adobe Flash and related technologies. I hadn’t attended in well over a year because the turnouts were becoming depressingly low, probably due to the previous subterranean location in Kensington Market, the regular mid-week date, and the exclusive availability of overpriced bottled beer and very little in the way of anything else.
Still, I thought, I’d give it another try – schmooze a bit, maybe chat about SocialCastr, and just see what was happening out there in the world of Flash and AIR. After all, Adobe recently released its roadmap for the Flash runtime, and just a couple of days ago announced even more news surrounding upcoming features and new pricing models. If anything, one might think that such topics would at the very least have been brought up at some point during the evening.
The “Emerging technologies in the real world” topic was interesting enough, with Demi Kandylis describing how his company used Unity to produce an interactive shadow puppet display for Sapporo, the Japanese beer maker. Demi’s team happened to use Unity, a 3D engine that can also be used to output to Flash, which could have become an interesting launchpad to at least mention some of the interesting work being done with Flash and 3D. But no mention of Flash, of course. Not even a hint.
The next presentation was part of what I see as the ongoing, and frankly insane push to get everyone to develop in HTML5. Here, Ken Peleshok demonstrated Adobe Edge, now in its 5th version and still able to perform only basic animations of the kind that Flash was capable of 15 years ago. The demonstration was pretty much a failure as Ken couldn’t get basic animations going with his code, but there was plenty of Apple-wielding supporters standing to the side exclaiming, “just you wait!” There was certainly enough opportunity to at least draw parallels to Flash animation, but of course that was never brought up. But why would anyone want to discuss Flash at an event called FlashInTO?!
I had to walk out on the final panel discussion because it turned into one of the most disgustingly overt Apple advertisements I’d ever witnessed, not to mention the conclusions that the panelists came to. The Apple logo featured prominently in every slide along with the panelists’ children, and everyone took the opportunity to casually wave around their iPads, Macs, or whatever piece of Apple hardware they were carrying to show that, yes, they were just the coolest people ever and could be trusted to deliver unbiased and reasoned opinions. Simon Conlin, the founder of FlashInTO (and later Flash In The Can…see below), started off by saying, “This isn’t supposed to be an advertisement for Apple or anything…”, and then motioned to the front of his laptop with the glowing Apple logo just to drive the point home before starting the accompanying slide show of panelists’ kids brandishing Apple hardware, often with the company’s logo as the primary focus and the kids in the corner of the images. Most of the time the kids weren’t in the picture at all, it was just photos of iPads, iPhones, and other iDevices.
Despite this end-of-night panel being billed as “A look at apps for kids, what’s good, what’s bad and much more”, there was literally one app that was shown while the discussion centered entirely around the “brilliance” of Apple’s marketing and design. And once again, not even a passing mention of Flash, Flash Builder, Catalyst, or any of the other Flash-related products that could easily have been incorporated into the discussion. Even Adobe wasn’t mentioned…it was a complete Apple circle jerk.
Believe it or not, though, the couple of overpriced pints I had downed allowed me to stomach things up until that point; it was only when the conversation turned to, “What the youth of today can teach us” that I packed it in. Once again with all attention on how Apple was genius for doing so, the panel began discussing how we, as software developers, should be tailoring our apps towards infants. After all, kids are completely uninhibited and have no preconceived notions about interacting with hardware or software, and so we should all be striving to dumb down our own products and make them as basic and infantile as possible. That way everyone could use what we produce without any real learning curve or impediments. And wouldn’t it be a good idea to cripple device functionality through our software to ensure that people only use our software when, how, why, and where we want them to?
I was this close to standing up and reminding them how their device-weaned spawn don’t have the wherewithal to keep their hands off of hot stoves or not run out into traffic (maybe that’s why adults think for a few moments before adorably mashing $800 devices with ball-peen hammers), but it was clear that they were really only into publicly masturbating to Apple propaganda and rhetoric. When, at some point in the past I’d mentioned that Applites offer up their firstborn to Steve Jobs, I thought I was only exaggerating – clearly I was wrong.
And just to drive home the point of the evening, a draw was held for tickets to this year’s FITC. That’s Flash In The Can, if you’ve never been. I haven’t, mostly because the tickets are ridiculously priced, and partially because even when I might’ve had a chance to attend, people who had deigned to call me their friend ended up attending, on free tickets, with other “friends” who had absolutely no interest in Flash, and without even mentioning the event until I found out about it accidentally afterwards. And that the FITC was held directly across from the street where I worked at the time just helped to drive that screw in a little deeper. Then there was the childish crap they pulled and subsequently tried to cover up using threats and intimidation, that just completed the picture of what kinds of people self-avowed Applites really are. Not all, of course – you may have an iDevice right now — but be aware that going down the Apple path almost always invariably ends up leading out of the asshole of one thing or another.
Out of the 80 or so presentations, five mention Flash. And these are: “Deep Dive in the Flash Platform Roadmap”, “Flash and HTML5″, “Moving Forward with Flash (or Not?)”, “OpenFrameworks 101 for Flash Developers”, “Tangled: HTML5 <video> and Flash”. In effect, that’s one presentation on the Flash Platform Roadmap I’d mentioned earlier, one presentation for beginner Flash developers, and three about how you should be abandoning Flash for HTML5 hype.
And just in case you had any doubt about their dedication to Flash, the only Flash element on the FITC website is the banner, FlashInTO has no Flash elements whatsoever.
Yeah, this is what things have come to. The word “ridiculous” doesn’t even begin to cover it, and although I tried not to make this into an Apple-bashing post, it’s unavoidable considering how it’s flaunted in everyone’s face so openly and readily; exclusively, even. And I can’t help but wonder when it’ll stop. What will it take for people to notice this insanity?
Sarah just got off a phone call with Ipsos Reid about the home care she receives as part of her MS care (specifically the companies and individuals she deals with), and about halfway through it became apparent that not only was their poll not balanced, it was in fact extremely skewed and primed for an awful lot of abuse. The questions were so clearly biased that the only conclusion I could come to is that they (some level of government) are getting ready to reduce a services for the disabled and needed a justification for such an unpopular move.
A sample of one of the misleading questions is (somewhat paraphrased…it was a long poll): “Thinking about the past two months, how often would you describe the care provided by your therapist as helpful or adequate? Always, sometimes, never?”
Sarah asked for clarification since she’s only seen the physiotherapist for all of about 7 hours, and certainly not in the last two months. In fact, her agencies are so chronically understaffed and over-scheduled that she has only really seen most of them once in the past 6 months.
“This only applies to in the last two months”, replied the pollster. Well, being honest she had to say “never”. Of course, this “never” was only to apply to the last two months, but there was no way to clarify the answer, and the pollster’s impatience was evident on the other end of the phone (like I said, long poll). There was not even a way to specify that “never” didn’t actually mean “never” according to their own questionnaire. And the following queries continued to be within the two month period without this time frame being included in the questions, so that taken in isolation, the answers would literally be interpreted as never.
There were other questions that were equally, if not more misleading, essentially implying that the physiotherapist has been doing an awful job (“never” showing up, providing the “poorest level” of service, etc.), except that there were no options to clarify when, or even if the physiotherapist was here. “Only in the last two months”, was the constant reply, and Sarah wanted to answer as honestly as possible. I too can attest to the fact that the therapist was dedicated, caring, and a genuine helpful person, something that the Ipsos Reid poll twisted into literally the opposite thing. The options were always always or never, worst or best, etc. etc., with no way to qualify them.
Maybe if the remainder of the questionnaire was similarly misleading I might not have been so taken aback, but immediately afterward the section on the physiotherapist, a “Not Applicable” option suddenly became available in the list of possible answers. So the one service that is the least available and genuinely most useful is presented by the poll as a complete waste of time and money, and with an obvious and glaring bias when compared against the other home care services being reviewed. While Sarah could answer “not applicable” at some points, there were other questions where her answers were forced to be applicable even when they couldn’t possibly be.
To put this into context, imagine being called by a pollster and being asked, “How severe was the crime for which you were most recently arrest? Very, somewhat, not very?” What, you’ve never been arrested? Well that’s not an option (and hurry up and answer the question, we have other people to poll).
Now consider that such incredibly biased data were later used to justify new police powers, the building of mega jails, and the suspension of your civil rights. Or maybe it’s used to underpin the cutting healthcare services. Or maybe it’s being used to raise taxes, ban driving, or whatever. It’s not not a far leap.
I’m not sure what can be done about this except to share our polling stories online to expose such bias and to take every questionnaire result with a big hunk of salt. At the very least, when being presented with the results of a poll, we should demand to see the whole question, the whole set of answers, and most importantly be critical of what (and why!) things may have been left out.