Adobe's Director of Evangelism Ben Forta has spent countless hours preparing keynotes and sessions for Adobe MAX 2009. In this interview, Ben takes a break from planning to provide the inside scoop on this year's premier community event.



JULIE CAMPAGNA: Hi, I'm JULIE Campagna. I manage the Edge newsletter. This week, people have phoned in from all over the world to help finalize plans for the MAX conference. And I believe Ben Forta is in the studio here, so we're going to try to see if he can take a break and talk to us a little bit about this year's conference. So, come on. Let's go.

JULIE: Hey, Ben.

BEN FORTA: Well, hi.

JULIE: Hey, do you have a moment to chat with us about this year's conference?

BEN: Sure. MAX, I assume you mean. Yes, yes, I'd love to talk to you about MAX.

JULIE: Great. So, first, when and where is MAX taking place this year?

BEN: MAX is October 4th in Los Angeles, California. This year, there is just one MAX, and it is in North America. We'll, unfortunately, not be having MAX Europe this year. Hopefully, in the future, we'll go back again, but the economy made it a little tough to have MAX in as many locations as we did in the past, but we are making an effort to make it easier for our European friends to join us. We're working on discounted airfare and sessions geared for other audiences as well. So, yeah, MAX is in North America, but it's definitely a global event.

JULIE: And what is the focus this year, and how is it different from last year?

BEN: What's different this year is the amount of stuff we have to talk about. There are a lot of important product launches at MAX this year, a lot of the products people come to MAX for being updated, and they can know a lot more about them. Also, we've got some important surprises, stuff people will want to know about. If you were paying attention to Kevin Lynch's keynote last year when he was talking about the future of Flash and Flash on devices and he showed some innovative products and technologies we're working on, I think people will be pleased and surprised to see the progress we made during the last year.

JULIE: Why do you think people attend MAX?

BEN: I think people come to MAX for two reasons. Part of it is education. They want to learn about the new products. There are all the sessions about products and technologies and trends, and that's really important. The bigger reason to attend MAX, actually, is the social and the networking side of things. So, be it chatting before the keynote starts, or the live blogging and Tweets during the keynotes, or the chats over lunch and late-night sessions at the bar, comparing notes on laptops, it's that social-networking interaction side of it that for many, including myself, is the highlight of MAX.

JULIE: A big part of the conference, or a big celebration of the conference, is the MAX Awards. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

BEN: The MAX Awards is our own awards ceremony to honor and celebrate those who are doing some pretty cutting-edge and cool things with our technologies, and it's inspiring. Last year, we had nominations and finalists all over the world, not just local, in some pretty diverse categories. People were doing very interesting, very different things. It's a great way to get ideas and just to see what some interesting companies, both big and small, are doing.

JULIE: Is there anything else we should know about MAX this year?

BEN: Oh, there's lots to know about MAX. So, one of the highlights for me, for MAX, is after the MAX Awards every year is our MAX sneak session. So, this is the kind of irreverent session where engineers or product teams get up and show you stuff that may or not make it into a product. It's interesting to gauge people's reactions and see some of the futuristic, sometimes really cool, sometimes rather bizarre things that the teams are working on and see how the public react to them. It's very cool. Oh, and there's beer. Beer always helps the sneak session. So, you don't want to miss that. It's a lot of fun. It's going to be a really, really great MAX this year. On top of everything else, the content itself, it's grown dramatically. We have far more sessions than ever before. Last year, we came up with a concept. We called them, last year, Mega Labs. That wasn't a very cool name. But it was basically bring your own laptop, far more free-form. It was very, very successful. We only had three of them last year. This year, we have a lot. We're calling them our BYOL, Bring Your Own Laptop, sessions, and we'll give you everything you need, tell you the pre-reqs, make sure you have the software installed, and provide power, and provide WiFi and room to sit and work with an instructor, and spend time building stuff on your own environment so that when you go, you have a fully configured setup, and you can keep working on it. These sessions are going to be great. There's a lot of them this year. The venue supports far more sessions than we've had before. That's going to be a lot of fun.

JULIE: Well, Ben, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today.

BEN: Yeah, thank you. I hope to see you at MAX.

JULIE: You will. All right, so there you have it: MAX 2009, October 4th through October 7th in Los Angeles, California. We hope to see you there, and in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this edition of the Edge.