Dec 192006
 

Well, the word in itself maybe not, I just made that up myself.
But as you probably guess I’m talking about using Flash and AJAX together.

After my last post that also involved Flash and AJAX, “Right tool for the job…or right job for the tool?”, I came across the following blog entry: Ajax and Flash Together
Some good examples of AJAX and Flash integration and I couldn’t help to ask myself a couple of questions.

In what way does it affect me as a user if the buttons controlling flash is in the HTML page or part of the swf?

Looking at Yahoo finance and Google finance I really have difficult to see that the user would have advantages or disadvantages from an AJAX mix compared to only Flash.
The only case would be if there is browser incompatibilities with JS or that they lack the flash plug-in.
Obviously buttons is no good without graph and vice versa, so not having to rely on two separate technologies being available as expected is better. But to me it could just as well be one big swf…I would not notice any difference apart from when I right click.

On the google page I can agree that it’s neat how it highlights the headlines to the left when you click the corresponding box in the graph. Using HTML for those headlines makes it possible to completely retain their visual identity, even if the result in Flash could be made very similar looking.

In what way would it affect me as a developer having to implement one over the other solution?

I cannot see that it would have any advantages when developing to move buttons to control the graph outside of the swf.
Anyone who can make the graphing app can in no time add the buttons instead of making a handler to respond to JS calls from the HTML buttons.

What have I missed?
In what way does combining Flash and AJAX help the user in those examples?
In what way does it help developers?

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Oct 142005
 

Here we go again.
What is the future dominant platform of RIA development?
The latest discussion that triggered me to reflect on the issue again is over at ajaxinfo.com

Actually I find discussions like this quite interesting and don’t mind dissecting the pros and cons. I guess I just like a good argument :)
But I’m also aware of that it is impossible to judge what is the most suitable technology to use without knowing what the goals of the project is, and most of all, who’s going to develop it.

The article by Alexei White on ajaxinfo does seem to reach a similar conclusion in a way. The major drawback with Flash according to the author is that it’s hard to find developers skilled with the technology.
I do find the evaluation questionable though.
Sure there is more developers specializing in HTML and JS than ones specializing in actionscript.
But that doesn’t mean that the HTML/JS developers usually can put together a complex RIA using their existing knowledge. To get it all to work together in a way that give reliable results seems to be a skill in it’s own right.
That the developers have the “basic skill set necessary for interacting with components” for working with AJAX is not of much value if they don’t have the full skill set needed to get the job done.
They could hopefully acquire it, but they could also learn a new language.
I would not think it’s actually hard for someone already skilled in JS, Java and PHP to learn actionscript, and for sure Flex or Laszlo with their XML based markup can be worth the effort to learn if you want to be working with RIA development.

Sure finding a technology that matches the skill set available is beneficial, but I would say that there has to be a balance.
So you also have to consider finding developers that is capable of handling the technologies best suited for realising the goals.
What is the most efficient balance has to be carefully evaluated.
With large companies you of course have an inertia due to having invested in certain technologies and they can’t sack their whole IT team every time a new and better technology come along, so hence there will be a large dose of conservatism involved.
And that’s I think a big reason why AJAX is getting all the hype it has at the moment. To me it does seem like an attempt to squeeze the last drops out of a heavily invested skill set, financially by companies and intellectually by developers.

There is often much talk about all the variables one have to consider in the choice of technology. And sure many of them can be valid in very specific circumstances, but usually there is few variables that really matters and would outweigh any other benefits or disadvantages. And evaluating them properly can be hard enough without adding more to the equation.

From the perspective of the customer it’s mainly two variables:

  • How much will it cost to develop?
  • How successful will it be at achieving it’s goals?
  • From the developers perspective it’s more of a conflict:

  • How efficient are the technologies compared to each other in achieving the objectives of the project?
  • How comfortable do i feel using one technology over the other?
  • How long can I go on what I feel comfortable with and still stay in business?
  • The user should of course not have to reflect on the technology and one has to presume all that matters is the result they are presented with and that they can get to it.

    The arguments often brought in to the discussion about Flash and FLEX being proprietary tends to be very superficial to me.
    Especially considering that the swf format is open.
    Alexei White mentions in his summary that Flash “suffer from the Vendor lock-in problem“.
    I actually have problems understanding in what way it might been a problem for any project. Sure i prefer to support an open standard and open-source software based on my sentiments.
    But if we look at the standards based formats like HTML, CSS and SVG there is a lot of real problems that will have very immediate effects on any project involving such technologies.
    The “vendor lock-in problem” certainly pales in comparison to the problem of getting web standards to be standardised.

    Sep 262005
     

    Some nice additions to the big names making serious use of what flash can offer lately.

    The most impressive that been blogged a lot about already is the IKEA matrix kitchen.
    Clever and skill full piece of work that really uses the internet as a media in an efficient and inventive way.

    The even bigger news that even more people blogged about is Googles adaptation to using Flash to deliver video.
    It seems like a surprise to many people since it somehow seemed like they have an aversion to Flash considering the efforts they made building AJAX contents.
    Maintaining separate versions for different browsers to get your RIA applications working I guess is something you only consider if you don’t consider Flash :)
    And using a proprietary video format that requires user to download and install your software can of course be seen as a similar attitude trying to avoid Flash at any cost.
    But now they have finally come to their senses it seems at least.
    Of course the service itself it’s not anything revolutionary to get excited about. It’s video, in flash. The big news here is the big name.
    That google uses Flash can seem like a seal of approval for serious large scale deployment of Flash content.

    Peugeot’s use of flash is not all that exiting, although nicely done.
    The animation work is stylish and well carried out, but a bit bland in my opinion.
    Clicking on a key flying around to test the sliding of the doors is hardly especially fun and doesn’t make me feel closer to the product really.

    It’s how close you feel to the product that I love about applications like the one IKEA done.
    It shows the possibility that multimedia technologies like Flash give for taking communication to a new level.
    A video or an animation can be extremely good at delivering an experience, but when people figure out good ways to use interactive multimedia it gives you a presence previously unseen.

    A picture says more than a thousand words, but a Flash application says more than thousand pictures :)
    And in IKEA’s case I guess it makes sense since it wouldn’t surprise me if the application actually use about 1000 pictures.

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