These Are Experts?
It’s interesting when you meet online personalities in the “real world.” Listening to them speak, making eye contact, shaking their hand and watching how they interact with others usually shatters the pre-conceived notions we’ve built up.
There is no question that the internet has become the greatest tool of communication since Gutenberg first threw some paper into his new-fangled contraption in 1454.
But the immense power of communication comes with a certain level of given anonymity; anyone can create a certain perception of themselves, just through the design of their website, what they say in e-mails, or how they interact in forums. Without some physiological identity, the voices feel disembodied, one-dimensional and ultimately, not personal.
What’s really interesting is when you meet these online personalities in the “real world.” Listening to them speak, making eye contact, shaking their hand and watching how they interact with others usually shatters the pre-conceived notions we’ve built up. It’s like watching a movie made from your favorite book and being startled—and often disappointed—by how the director chose to present the story and characters.
I am typing this in a small room in the San Francisco Marriot. I am here for FlashForward 2004, a small conference that concentrates on all aspects of Flash, from animation to content delivery. Among technical seminars, the conference boasts numerous speakers in an interesting track called “Ask the Experts,” which is little more than a classroom of people throwing questions at a Flash guru to get their take on the industry, working with clients and Flash in general.
To be honest, the “Experts” were disappointing. For instance, Billy Bussey, who is an amazing 3D designer with some daunting motion graphics skills, came off as nothing short of unprofessional on just about every question asked. He laughs about the immense size of his Flash site (4.5 MB just to get in the door) and recommends dial up users “not even try” to load the site. When asked about 508 accessibility, he laughed at the notion. When asked how he decides on his price structure for clients (which are notable, to say the least), his reply was “as much as I can get.” When asked how he interacts with clients, he shrugged and said “half the time I don’t even pay attention.” He seemed proud of not knowing any ActionScript at all, and barely fielded technical questions about Flash. His expertise was obviously 3DSMax and After Effects; why he was brought in for a Flash conference was a little beyond me.
There were other examples. One “Ask the Expert” host openly admitted to not having a computer at home, or doing any of his own work. (He was a teacher.) And I swear at least two more were there just promote their books.
In the end, I feel that the presenters at FlashForward were lackluster to say the best, and I will be e-mailing Lynda Weinman about the issue, with a link to this article.
But don’t get me wrong. There were some aspects that I did find appealing. I got to see San Francisco, Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and the new Apple Store sans Steve Jobs. The Flash Film Festival was also good, with an encouraging number of international submissions and winners. But my attendance next year is in doubt. I come to these conferences to learn and be inspired, not watch self-involved designers set detrimental examples to a packed and eager room of students.