John posed a question to me the other day: What’s important to you? I’ll leave out the obvious answers: wife, two kids, and church. He was asking more in relation to business and in particular, our business: 360|Conferences. So I was noodling on an answer for him.
Saturday morning, I finally caught up on a thread on an internal Flex list. The list was about a fairly common problem we have in the Flex world. There seems to be a nefarious void that people learning Flex tend to fall into. One where they’re beyond “This is a file. This a tag, made up of brackets and text in between them.” and below “I just rewrote the AdvancedDataGrid component to run 50% faster.” I have feelings in regards to how to help folks cross that void, so I started noodling a response to the thread.
Then it dawned on me, my two noodles were of the same type: helping folks grow and learn.
My last personal project (before jumping into the Flex world) was an online fiction magazine. The main purpose of the site was to give honest, indepth editorial responses to every entry that I received. The goal was that this type of response versus the “Sorry, this ain’t for us.” type could actually help the writers become better at their craft rather than let them stagnate at the same “unpublishable” level, i.e the writer’s equivalent to the void mentioned above.
For the conference biz, I’d say my two goals are these:
- To help people get so good at Flex that they can find a better job or go solo as a consultant
- To help people learn how to network with their peers
For the first item, I was so intent on helping that I wanted to do it myself and taught a lot of hands on sessions at our first conference. I realized though, with some help from John, that I’m better at being one of the organizers and leaving the teaching to the pros. However, the goal is still the same: help folks better their Flex skills. With Flex exploding, the opportunities for those looking to do better for themselves is amazing. This goes for folks who just want a nice paying FT job or those looking to move out on their own.
For the second item, I’m an introvert at heart. Therefore, I know how painful it can be to network. However, in this day and age, networking is a requirement for success. Therefore, John and I make sure that our attendees have plenty of opportunities to meet and network with their peers from all over, not just from their hometown. I purposely try to remember what one person said they were interested in and when I find a matching interest in another attendee, I make an effort to introduce them.
Now that John’s answer is out there, let me share with you the contents of my post to the list (modified to make sense without the thread).
The idea of finding an easy way to move from very basics up to knowledgeable in Flex is very dear to me. When I was handed Silvafug, I had this problem in mind. When I started my free training for people in the valley, I did so with the goal of helping solve this dilemna. Lastly, when I wrote my articles for the Flex ADC, it was in my thoughts and probably my best personal contribution to the cause.
I’ve been approached by publishers to write a book, but have declined. I even had the audacity to tell one publisher “I think the tech book medium is on its final leg and so writing a book for you would be pointless.” I have to admit, they took it better than I thought they would. LOL Note: I mean just instructional tech books, I still love me a good novel or biography.
I sorta run the gambit on Flex training from blogging tips to writing that article series to holding training sessions over connect to putting on a full blown 3 day conference. Whether I’m good at all those things is still up in the air, but one thing is for certain: it’s allowed me the opportunity to survey the land from many different angles. In addition to my personal output, I’ve read some of the Flex books out there, helped the Flex documentation team on their initiatives and even created a captivate session on Flex for the Edge awhile back.
I have a few ideas up my sleeve that I’d like to try to pull off: the future teaching tool to take the place of the now useless tech book. However, I’d like thoughts and input from those who feel they’re stuck in this unreachable void. You say what’s out there doesn’t work, but what would? How are you learning other things? Why is the tech book, which was once the bible of tech (before someone named their series the Bible) failing so much these days? Is it just poor writing/editing? Or is it the limitations of the media? What has lead to your most recent “Aha!” moments and how could someone help you have more?
I come from a tech background, not an instructional background. However, I’m pretty confident that if 360|Flex (a 300+ person, 3-Day conference) can come into being without prior knowledge of conference planning, there’s no reason why I can’t try to tackle the task of filling this void everyone seems to be referring too. Granted, three of us (me, John Wilker and Ted Patrick) got the conference started and John (luckily!) still makes up 50% of 360|Flex. All I need is some pointers on what you’re looking for to help you get over the Flex learning hump. This way I can narrow down my scope. To quote good ole’ Jerry McGuire, “Help me help you.” 🙂