17 August 2009
What (Adobe and non-Adobe) technologies are you currently using?
I have two important roles in my work. On the one hand, I am the CEO of Flexis Corporation, one of the leaders of the RIA market in my country, Russia. On the other hand, I am the manager of our national Adobe User Group. Both roles make me highly involved in a wide range of Adobe technologies. Of course, all the projects are based on the Adobe Flash Platform, and most of them are Adobe Flex projects. The choice of server-side technology usually depends on the customer's infrastructure. It could be Java or .NET servers. As for Adobe server-side solutions, we work with Adobe Flash Media Server and Adobe LiveCycle.
What is your most recent project you've built and what (Adobe and non-Adobe) technologies have you used?
We have a lot of projects that are being developed in parallel. In most cases my part is to communicate with the customers and design the high-level architecture of the software. Our customers usually are government organizations or top national companies in industries such as oil and gas, telecommunications, retail, and finance—and some Silicon Valley corporations. Our customers have the urge to make their products in a modern RIA way and are looking for RIA consultants and highly professional RIA developers. Such customers already have their own server-side infrastructure.
Probably the most important part of the project is to understand all these business processes and server-side subsystems, which can be highly complicated for customers of this scale. My job is to go deeply into it, design the architecture of the solution, and find out which Adobe technologies should be used. After that, our development teams start implementing the product.
What is the most commercially successful project you have worked on and how did you get involved? What is the least commercially successful one? In your opinion, what made it a success/failure?
One of our most successful, recent commercial projects is one being developed for Cisco Systems. It is a Flex and Adobe AIR application that comprises the client side of a big analytical system that helps Cisco customers manage their corporate networks.
Regarding a "least commercially successful" project: I would not say that any of our projects are not successful. We have several online educational and community projects that are free for use and have no direct revenue. Yet they are successful in the sense of social value. For instance, our educational project OpenHistory was one of the first public Flex 2 applications on the web. It was released in August 2006. Now it may look a bit old-fashioned compared with modern RIA projects, but in those days the technology was really new; and one day we will release a new generation of this historical GIS.
What makes a project a success or a failure? Every project is an endeavor, and the success or failure is a point of risk or fortune. But as the head of the company, I know something for sure. Success depends on the quality of the project team, including individuals' qualifications and the interaction processes between the team members. Highly experienced professionals usually cost a lot. Hiring an expensive employee is always a challenge; and in the short term, it could be risky and profligate. But in the long term, it is always worth it. Great people share their knowledge, strengthen the team, and improve business processes.
In our company, we try to hire only outstanding persons with 10–15 years of coding experience, PhDs, community professionals, and evangelists. Oh, God! It may be really expensive, but it is the shortest way to success. Fortunately, my position of national Adobe User Group leader gives me a lot of friendly relations with exceptionally experienced professionals and helps to attract stars to our projects.
In your work, what are some of the biggest (top three?) technological challenges you've faced and how did you overcome/solve them?
In my opinion, the main technological challenge for the whole Flash Platform is all about its new position among other technologies. Flash was originally just an animation medium, but now Flash has become the face of the whole web as a leading RIA platform. It is a challenge for Flash itself, for Adobe, and for us followers of this technology. Performance is not fast enough, tools are not ready for mass (or even massive) production, developer teams are emerging and have no strong traditions and methodology, customers are too cautious and irresolute. In fact, Adobe still has to work a lot on many things and to implement many improvements in order to move Flash to the position in the technological landscape that it deserves.
For Adobe, I think, the natural way to overcome this challenge is to give more degrees of freedom to the community and increase the interaction with users. Yes, Adobe improves this interaction via user groups and community events, but it seems that the potential of the Flash Platform is so huge for the entire web that it is really very hard for one company (even as big as Adobe) to rule all these processes. There could probably emerge some kind of new business model, some kind of new principle of interpenetration and true partnership between technology vendors and thousands of technology followers.
What have I (or we) done to overcome the challenge? Well, we trust in the power of the Flash Platform, but we see that Adobe really needs the initiative of its users. Our national market is big and has thousands of technically skilled developers who are ready to adopt new web technologies. This market is very promising for Adobe, both from a sales and a developer mass perspective. We see that the expansion of Adobe technologies in our region depends not only on Adobe's investment, but especially on the initiative and self-organization of local communities. We, the leaders of Adobe User Groups in our region, are trying to boost that activity and help spread our beloved technology.
What are the top three things developers should look at to monetize their apps and skills? (If you build applications with the intention of driving revenue off of them, how do you go about monetizing your apps?)
Most of our projects are B2B solutions and have a traditional monetization strategy. However, B2C services have become more and more popular, and new monetization strategies have become a popular subject. It is evident that the strategies will change. Many startups are looking for fast benefits, creating social apps or online services based on micropayments. From my point of view, however, fast revenues can be the misgivings of fortune: easy come, easy go. There is no recipe for how to get rich fast; but the true recipe is to get rich evolutionarily by investing in your team and skills. It will take some time, but it will work. Don't waste your time building risky superstar applications. You're better off finding your market niche, building high quality, niche-oriented applications, getting integrated into the community, creating your own community. This way, you will fly up little by little, but steadily.
What excites you, inspires you, or makes you say, "Wow that's really cool" about the technologies you work with?
I love Flash because it makes the web casual. Several years ago, the web was used by technology geeks and a small number of people looking for information. Now the web has become the place to interact—not for geeks solely but for billions of people around the world. Flash makes these things happen with intuitive, colorful, user-friendly representation. Wow!
Where do you get your information about technology?
As a leader of a national community, I am the one who has to get information as soon it appears, and who has to transfer this information to local technology users. We have several active community members who are responsible for monitoring global Adobe community sites (the Adobe Developer Connection, Adobe Groups, Adobe evangelists' blogs, and others) to ensure that every essential global event or technology news has immediate reflection and discussions on local blogs and forums.
What are some of your favorite websites or blogs?
The main information source is Adobe Developer Connection. The blog by Rostislav Siryk, Флэш Потрошитель ("Flash the Ripper"), is a place where the Flash community can find all the recent news described and discussed in our local language (as well as in English). Constantin Kovalev has a famous local blog, riapriority.com, focused on RIA and Flex. Beginners usually find information about Flash at Flasher.Ru, which is one of the oldest online resources (started in 1999).
The number of developers is growing fast but the spread of technology is limited without having translated books and learning materials available. The leaders of our community are realizing the need for a special localized community portal to collect information, not only for Flash developers but also for people from adjacent roles: students, educators, graphic designers, and business customers. It's extremely important for technology expansion.
Outside of your work, what inspires or excites you most, and why?
The Flash Platform is not the only passion of mine. I am also a scientist. I have a PhD in computer science and applied mathematics, and have written several books on social self-organization and mathematical modeling of social and economical systems. Human society is a complex system that is constantly changing. Newly emerging social forms and institutions are the result of changing technologies. This is evident not only in recent decades but in all of history (my studies cover more than 3000 years, starting with agrarian societies and finishing with forecasts out to 2050).
According to my studies, society in next the 30 years will be quite different from societies of all previous centuries. The main factor of this change is global information interchange. Today's Internet technologies are just the early forms of this interchange. In next 10–20 years, people will be able to acquire and share their knowledge in much more efficient and natural ways. I am sure Flash technologies are an excellent platform for starting this evolution.
What's the one thing you'd love to see in web technologies in the future?
In the next decade, we will see much more collaborative applications and much structured semantic integration. Social networks and services are very popular today, but I think they can provide much more than just chatting with friends and sharing music. In my opinion, there is an application which could be a prototype for future apps. I speak about Wikipedia. Wiki technology is usually mentioned as a part of Web 2.0, but I believe Wikipedia is much more than just openness and social software.
Wikipedia is a global macro-project of structuring information being done not by one social group, company, or even country; it involves all humanity making this macro-project possible. I believe that the technologies of the future will be similar to Wikipedia, enabling macro-collaboration and starting macro-projects that will integrate humanity (not only geeks or other small social groups) and that require almost all humanity to be completed.
If you could build something you considered revolutionary, what would it be?
It will be a knowledge-sharing platform. For more than 10 years I have investigated learning systems, learning methods, and inventions. Today there exist several revolutionary methods fabulously improving learning speed and quality—for example, methods enabling us to learn foreign languages within one or two months, or to study university course of physics within three or four months. These technologies, however, are not yet developed enough for mass application.
What inspired you to use the technologies and do the work that you use/do today?
I am inspired to do something and develop technologies that will help other people in their lives and improve their education.
What's next for you? What opportunities do you see in your field?
In the short term, I would like to organize an educational portal for the Adobe Flash Platform community in our country. Other community leaders are ready to help with e-learning materials. In addition, we will increase the number of commercial projects in the enterprise sector. Flex is becoming popular, and we feel that demand for our expertise increases every day. Finally, I would like to establish more friendly relations with Adobe experts around the world.