Dear Reluctant.js: I have a friend—not me—who’s struggling with a self-identity problem. For the last few years my friend’s handle in various online environments was a phrase that contained the “f-word” (Flash). That USED to be a good thing. Now it appears there’s a full-fledged exodus–even denial of history—regarding Flash and its contribution to the downfall of desktop computers. Most of my friends and I have already changed their usernames to remove all references to Flash. I just wonder if it’s no longer politically correct or acceptable to associate with those describing themselves with the f-word.
A Once Proud Flasher
There’s nothing to be ashamed of except perhaps how all the “good Flash developers” have failed to rein in and stop the “bad Flash” folks (who built the true garbage) from defining Flash’s contributions. A balanced and sensible look at history will judge Flash as what it was—the most widely deployed and arguably the most successful piece of software in history. To think otherwise is tantamount to a revisionist’s wishful thinking.
Despite the challenges in renaming yourself, I’d agree it’s always best to describe yourself in present tense terms and to use words associated with what you want to do tomorrow—not what you did yesterday. To that end, yes, I recommend avoiding the word Flash when selecting a username. But picking something that you’ll stick with is as important as picking the right term.
A deeper, more concerning problem, has to do with how you explain what you’ve been doing in the recent past (which can actually exceed a decade for some old-timers). When you say you did Flash, say it loud and say it proudly. There is a chance people will impulsively say “HTML5” and then give you a look of pity. Something more interesting may happen. Instead of discovering an underground society of Flash sympathizers you’ll find that anyone who was in the tech business for the last several years surely knows the score. In fact, if they’ve been doing cool cutting-edge client-side projects they were almost certainly using Flash. Sure, it’s possible you reveal yourself to someone who has hated and avoided Flash since its beginning. With those folks don’t fall into the trap debating (ultimately moot) differences between HTML5 and Flash but rather it’s best to smile and let them feel victorious allowing you to move on to getting some work done. But please don’t grovel and apologize. Let the next letter serve as a model of how to react.
Dear Reluctant.js: All u wineing flash “progmmers”…LOL. if u had listened to me about webstandrds you wouldn’t be so sucking bad when adobe sux. ppl called me a masocist 4 doing ajax by hand… whos laughing now beotch? –code grocker
Yes, you win! I’m sure that’s what you’d like me to say. Okay: “Flash is dead and now you’re the only one who can help clients. No one will ever want to hire a Flash developer again.”
Actually, Mr. Grocker, what you fail to realize is that now all those flash “fan boies” are showing up in their jeans and t-shirts and—except for an occasional improved odor—are indistinguishable from you. In fact, if you see rates increasing because now there’s even more talent in the pool, feel free to thank your local Flasher.
Dear Reluctant.js: I’m a Flex RIA programmer (and sometimes I even dabble a little in ActionScript). The corporation where I work let me take an 18 month sabbatical. I’m back now but no one even works in my department anymore! I think they forgot to take me off the payroll, but I don’t even know who to contact. What happened? I started asking around and most people’s reaction to the word “Flex” is—“do they still make that?”
Was taking time off a bad idea? And, more importantly, what should I do now?
Dude Where’s my Department?
I understand the world’s economists are now studying whether your vacation had anything to do with the shit we’re in now. For many Flex programmers another date which will live in infamy occurred last November (11/11/11) when Adobe abandoned Flex. In the future, however, I’m sure you’ll look back and agree this was the beginning of something better.
The brick wall you’re facing with people’s willingness to discuss Flex is not exhibitive of the expected decline in the demand for Flex. To the contrary, while I do expect a decline, the demand for Flex will be slow and gradual now that the initial shock has worn off and most folks have moved on. But make no mistake: there’s a large base of existing code that is providing varying degrees of value—this code may need to be maintained or ported to other platforms. If played right, you can provide clients with huge value and you with huge dollars.
Deep down I think your question is less “what happened?” and more “where do I go from here?” Flex developers seeking insight where their future lies should consider taking the good part of a day to read Jesse Warden’s epic post discussing the viability of ExtJS being the next logical step for Flexers. Sencha’s ExtJS does include very sophisticated components that will allow Flex hacks to hobble together Flexy looking monstrosities but it also lets “good Flexers” crank out powerful web applications.
Dear Reluctant.js: I don’t know why it has taken people so long to move on. The writing on the wall was not exactly difficult to read. I completely abandoned Flash 18 months ago and haven’t looked back. I’m not sure if this advice column is helping or hurting the “Flash Holdouts”.
I’ll be the last one to suggest folks hold out for a Flash comeback. Whether you evolve beyond Flash today or wait until the last gasps of life are squeezed out of Flash and THEN move on, you won’t be any farther ahead in the great cosmic race of software evolution. It’s not a competitive sport after all. I suggest folks just do what they can to make money. There happens to be some real opportunities in Flash (albeit not “websites”). But… Flash folks should be taking every opportunity to suggest alternatives to Flash. This helps you identify the places where Flash really does have a value proposition. It may sound backwards but you’ll win either way and you’ll end up with the best solution (the one that withstood challenges from alternative technologies).
However, I don’t know if anyone can answer “why?” “Why does it work the way it does?” –it just does. Let me suggest that it’s often best not to ask why—but just to go along with code formatting rules from JSLint unless you know what you’re doing (that is, it works the way you want) and it offers something you can’t easily build another way.
I will gladly provide insightful answers to any questions–sincere or silly–that you post in the comments section below.