Developer Interviews | Flash

Developer Interview # 3 – Lee Brimelow

This interview was in the works for a while but I decided to hold off till after MAX. Lee talks about his tutorials, MAX, and his career at Adobe. Enjoy!

First things first, are you still pissed off at Apple?

No not at all. My whole beef with Apple was surrounding their decision to ban all Flash-based apps from the store. But now they are not only allowing them, but are also promoting them as well. The recent example of Machinarium being chosen as the game of the week highlights this perfectly. Do I agree with everything they do? No of course not. But there isn’t a company out there that I always agree with.

How and when did you decide to produce video tutorials, and did you ever imagine they would become so popular?

When I first started it was an internal thing because people kept asking me the same questions over and over. Then I remember sitting at a Flash Forward event in San Francisco and the idea of gotoAndLearn came to me. Basically it was just realizing that there was no good free training for Flash. My definition of free is pretty strict. If I see an ad on a site then I don’t consider it free. But I never guessed that the site would have been such a tremendous help to so many people. People often come up to me and tell me that the site has helped them start their career. That is extremely satisfying to hear.

How much of a factor did your tutorials and blogging have on you eventually becoming an Adobe evangelist?

It’s kind of a funny story. I was really well known in the Flash community but it was my job at frog design that really got me a job at Adobe. Mike Chambers was creating the first Adobe AIR bus tour and he came to frog for the website and bus designs. Through that work I was invited to come on the bus for the first leg. I think the Adobe folks liked my presentation style and demos because by the end they had offered me a job. Big thanks to Mike Chambers and Mike Downey for bringing me on board and getting me this amazing job.

Do you have any advice for people that want to follow in your footsteps as and educator, speaker, and possibly even an evangelist?

First and foremost, start a blog and update it regularly. It doesn’t even have to be public at first. Just jot down things like useful code snippets or techniques that you are using. I still to this day look back at my old posts to remember how to do stuff. Eventually those posts will find their way into Google and you will be helping many other people who have the same questions. A big part of evangelism is obviously public speaking. I used to be deathly afraid of doing it. But it is just one of those things where the more you do it, the better you get at it. Now I am so used to it that it takes a lot to make me nervous. Obviously I also think that doing video tutorials is great for learning how to teach and present. You also get used to hearing your own voice, which is not easy at first. When I listen to the first set of tutorials I did, it’s funny how nervous I sound.

Do you ever miss client work, or is being an evangelist the ideal career for Lee Brimelow?

I don’t miss client work at all! The reason is that I still code and design all the time, but it is stuff that I want to do. I always tell my bosses that they are going to have to fire me to get me out of this job. They have come close to doing that a couple of times but that’s another story . For me the combination of travel, public speaking, and doing actual development work is perfect for me. I also get to hang around the brightest developers in the world, which is pretty cool too.

We got a sneak peak at a digital publication you and Mike Chambers are working on. Can you talk a bit more about the project?

I have always appreciated magazine design but I never had a reason or an outlet for trying it. I mean its not like you can easily publish your own print magazine. But with the new InDesign stuff you can. Mike and I started talking about it a while ago and once we had some free time we dove right in. It is amazing how fun InDesign is. Coming from a web development background it is great because you just design something and it will always look like that. Not having to worry about frame rates and browsers is a nice thing. I would say the first issue is about half done. Hopefully we can get this thing finished soon.

Let’s talk a bit about this years MAX. Do you feel Adobe did a good job of convincing the world that Flash is still relevant?

You know, I think it is almost impossible to create a message that both shows our commitment to HTML5 and that also convinces people that Flash is still relevant. First of all, the people who think Flash isn’t relevant will never think that it is. The bottom line is that Flash is still extremely useful and necessary for the web. People need to remember that Flash is not just for browser-based content. It is used for creating mobile apps, for character animation, and it is also used to create assets for HTML5 content as well. We obviously are really focused on gaming now and I think we will remain the dominant force in browser gaming and soon, also on mobile. But to circle back to your question, the first day of the keynote was focused on the creative cloud stuff. Day two was focused on HTML5 and Flash. Maybe we should have had more Flash stuff in there. But to be honest I think people read way too much into these things.

What do you say to the Flash developers who fear that Adobe still is’nt doing enough to help keep the Flash platform alive?

The industry is in massive state of flux right now so I would ask people to be a little patient. The reality is that the uses for Flash have changed somewhat. Some of this has to do with the new capabilities in HTML5, but it is mainly to do with the fact that more people are browsing the web on mobile devices. Big, FWA-style Flash sites are not appropriate for mobile. But guess what, big FWA-style HTML5 sites are not appropriate either. If we are talking about the desktop browser, then I think Flash is still king for gaming, video, and big experience sites. The Nissan Juk3D site is a great example of this (

Given the ongoing relationship with jQuery and Adobe, do you think it’s feasible that we’ll see Flex targeting HTML / Javascript? With jQuery UI perhaps?

Well I think that would be cool, but I haven’t heard anything about that happening. I have never been a huge fan of Flex, but that is mainly because of the type of Flash work I have always done. I do think we will see some big changes to it in the future but I honestly don’t know what they will be. In the meantime, I’m a pure-AS guy all the way.

Finally, what ‘words of wisdom’ do you have for people who are just now deciding to jump into this crazy field?

Well first just be aware that it is indeed crazy. You will work on crazy projects with crazy people. Also, if the idea of spending a lot of your time on your computer doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t even bother. Go be a banker or something. This is not a 9-5 job in any way. But you can go to work in shorts and a t-shirt, listen to music all day, and your eccentricities will be tolerated or even admired. Are there days when I just want to run away and become a farmer? Oh hell yes. That’s why it’s important to have non-tech hobbies and also get regular exercise. Just remember that all of this tech stuff is important and all, but don’t ever take it too seriously. Now stop reading this and go spend some time with your significant other. Chances are they are jealous of all the time you spend on the computer.

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