« Off Topic--Back from vacation | Main | Nonprofit weblog interviews »

Is the Flash Community Dead?

Is the Flash community dead? I don't think so, but it certainly is changing. Forums have slowed down, and many have the feel of a ghost town. We've all noticed the changes, and it's even been discussed on some forums. Where did everybody go? Have needs changed, and have forums failed to meet those needs?

Here are some possible reasons for the apparent slump in the Flash community:

1. Flash has gotten too serious--folks have forgotten to take time to have fun and experiment,

2. Time is tight--not much time left over for community or experimenting after work is done,

3. Fewer independents--less reaching out to other independents,

4. A lot of the communication is shifting to blogs.

A thriving community of developers is important for a thriving medium. What can we do to ease the growing pains of our community?

Comments

All of the above. But in addition, I think a lot of us have outgrown the forum scene. Flashkit and were-here were great for a few years, but it winds up being the same round of questions over and over. When you get to a certain level, it ceases to be stimulating. Even Flashcoders has become a way to excersize my index finger by hitting delete a million times a day. Blogs are cooler in that it is people posting DATA and DISCOVERIES, hints and tips.

Also let's not forget, I think everyone working in Flash right now who is even mediocre is too busy making money! The good times are back again if you're a Flash developer unafraid of server stuff who can create RIA's that deliver the goods for your clients. AMEN!

Me, I always feel that way in August.... ;-)

Keith's got a good point, in that the reader's eyes change after awhile with a certain group... reminds me of that Yogi Berra line "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

One way to check time-based changes is to look at Yahoo Groups... the front page for each group contains a month-by-month posting total over a couple of years:
http://groups.yahoo.com/search?query=macromedia+flash&submit=Search


The Macromedia newsgroups/forums can be time-sliced on Google Groups, but I don't have the bandwidth right now to submit multiple queries to see deltas... Philipp Lenssen recently automated similar queries but some of the results seemed odd to me... here are links, if you'd care to pursue:
http://groups.google.com/advanced_group_search?hl=en
http://blog.outer-court.com/archive/2004_08_27_index.html#109361292897581795

I'd definitely agree with topic-specialization and the increasing number of media (like blogs) having an effect on existing groups. I'm not so sure about the "lots of work" effect, though, because offsetting this is the influx of new people, although these two trends don't always act in unison. (The academic season has a big influence on new entrants.) There are also definite effects when people you know move, and when you're already familiar with topics under discussion.

Anyway, yeah, it's August, I feel that way too.... ;-)

jd/mm

yeah, i used to frequent forums (actionscript.org) and flashcoders a lot...i hardly ever visit forums now, and only use Flashcoders for a query if i have problem.
I spend all my btime on blogs now.

I'd say that even blogging has decreased this month (august, isn't it? :)).

Although I like to help whenever I can, mostly at flashkit, when I have some work in hands, I don't have the time to do that.

As there isn't much time, I go to fullasagoog and just catch up with the latest news.

So I just don't think the community is dead.
And there are so many forums to chose from these days...

Hey Kristen,

I have to wholeheartedly agree with your first point. I've seen this shift over the past couple years.

I think that due to the widespread discussion about technical stuff, new and intermediate users are having a hard time being inspired.

I mean, there's all sorts of information out there about this class and that class, and how to script this and do remoting with that, but that's all techo-talk that provides the average user or business person with very little inspiration.

Personally, I'd much rather see a creative and practical use of Flash (http://www.2entwine.com/) than discuss how to shave .034 off the execution of a script, but the latter seems to get most of the attention these days.

I think that a lot of people out there want to know how their small/medium business can benefit from Flash. Developers want to know how they can make money with Flash. They want to solve problems with Flash. Not much of this kind of info is coming through the airwaves these days.

One cause I see for this is that, for some unfortunate reason, Flash has become more of a enterprise tool in many peoples' eyes, and less of a tool for the 'little guy'.

This has created two groups of developers - the grand masters (who usually have incredibly deep knowledge of Flash, and use it mostly in enterprise situations), and somebody like the average Joe Realtor, who wants to simply use Flash to create an interactive slideshow of his property listings.

I think the effect this is having in forums is that:

1. Grand masters of Flash need to ask fewer questions, because they're pretty knowledgable already.

2. The little guy with a question, when seeing all the techno-talk about Flash, gives up on requesting help, for fear of looking stupid.

3. For the brave little guys that *do* go ahead and ask a question, they sometimes find it goes unanswered due to the fact that their question has probably been beaten to death everywhere online (no one 'wastes' their time answering it - again!).

Has the Flash community become more of a group of geeky code-heads instead of the group of innovative users of days gone by? I kind of think so.

I wish there was less info out there about how Nike and Intel, and IBM were using Flash, and more information about how the small/medium - sized business could.

How can Doctors, Teachers, Lawyers, Realtors, everyday average Joe businessman use Flash?

Not only do Flash users need to be inspired, but so do the great crowd of small-medium business owners out there.

I mean, there's no shortage of small business owners, they have money, they want to be profitable, why not show them how Flash can make them moreso, which will drive up demand for Flash/Flash developers.

Bottom line, the obsession/focus on the technical in the Flash community, and the dwindling flow of inspiration and innovation is really harming the community in a lot of ways.

The industry over here in the UK is growing again. Their are jobs everywhere for good Flash Developers. I find it hard to make the time to do my rounds on the forums as often as i used to. Just too busy with work, trying to make a good living. However i do still make an effort, but i tend to stick to conferences and my blog to share knowledge. It has died down i agree, but it will be back. Most of the questions that can be asked about Flash, have been asked on more than one occasion, there is nothing really new about which keeps the community buzzing.

I gotta agree with Guy. There's nothing new and cool to be discussed. AS2 is just syntax and how much cool is there to be said about a flawed MovieClipLoader and a PrintJob class that ... well ... handles print jobs?

Macromedia have to be sure to deliver the goods on the next release, or the whole community could die out. Unless there's something really cool for the creatives/coders in 8ball, Flash may become a nerdish thing for a few professionals doing RIA's (The serious animators have moved to other better suited tools already).

On the other hand: Flashmagazine (my sparetime project) has had a steady increase in viewership the last years, so theres still a lot of Flash users surfin. I myself are REALLY busy these days, so I can vote for that theory too.

What about searching? You know the whole search wars thing? Yahoo & MS and whoever vs Google to be search king... searching is in. Searching is what the net is all about now.

I think, and this relates to what Keith originally pointed out, that (most or *more* should I say) people are smart enough, or "in-tune", to search for the answers to their questions before taking the time to ask about them. Like Keith said, most questions have been asked. When people are keen enough to know how to find them, they have no point in asking about them themselves. With people finding what they are looking for on their own, there is less activity on the boards/mailing lists. We've been complaining for years that people don't search forums to find the answers to their questions. Now, its happening and we're upset that our community is dying.


And, as an aside, I think that the direction Flash has taken with MX04 (for RIAs etc.) has also brought more professionals on board which know enough than to ask why their preloaders always start at 40% (or again, know how to search for those answers). And this can relate to Kristin's #1, that Flash is now more serious. You wanted something serious for the web before, you'd use Java. If you wanted a spiffy intro, you used Flash. Now Flash is taking Java head on being more widely adapted, being able to do most of what Java applets have been doing in the past (such as chats) and even sporting a spiffy new syntax to let Java developers feel right at home with ActionScript.

La fin de l'émerveillement

I agree with most of what's been said already (mainly the "Yeah, it's August" part :) ), but I wanted to add something: it's been a long time since a Flash website, or a Flash experiment really blew me out. I remember, back in the days when I was just starting off, I used to look up to people like Josh Davis, Yugo Nakamura, Natzke, Andries Odendaal (sorry for the spelling), Whats-his-name from Ray of Light, Kimble, the whole A-Team from NRG... Those guys were magicians to me. There are some left, but I have the feeling they're nearly extinct. Current Flash Gods are badass developers that spend their time recreating what could be done with crappy softwares 10 years ago. I'm talking about MS Paint, Text Editors, things like that. I don't thing anything magic about that.

I don't know, maybe I've grown up. Or maybe it's just August...

I'm too busy building RIAs right now!

Yeah, it's August...well, it's almost September in my time zone.

Is it really that the gap between novice and master is so great? Is there no intermediate anymore, or has it all gone behind closed doors. It's a gap that we should all be concerned about. We need to come up with a way to help others up--forums are too tedious, wikis too uncertain.

Running a non-profit, I'm acutely aware of the current economy--it's dismal (even if it may look ok on the surface). Perhaps we're all so busy making ends meet that we don't have time to do anything else. But all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.

I don't think the forums are dying out lately, at least not the forum I'm running with my Ultrashock partner.

I have to agree, the gap between professionals and wannabees is enormous, and that difference is growing lately. Pro's know that it can take ages to build a hi quality website, while the novice think they have a site ready in 1-2-3, without taking creativity, experience etc even in consideration.

And speaking about creativity: IMHO Macromedia made an enormous mistake by letting the Normal AS Mode out of Flash MX2004 pro in the first place, and focussing mainly on AS2. People call me a Flash god, while I'm just a creative person fooling around with Flash, and I didn't need AS to create megacar, kimble, nrg and all the other 5 year old sites (and no, I didn't have an A-team as a backup for that either).

You need to be a rocket scientist these days to build a total full working Flash AS2 powered website, and as we all know, that's a very small group of people. So I think MM is focussing on the wrong target audience with the latest release. Novice people can only start with such an application if there are some sort of extensive drag'n'drop code wizards to help them out. The Behaviors panel is a beginning, but lacks a lot of preset features that where 5 years ago already in the Normal Mode editor. BTW, how many Flash7 sites did you see already?

I see a lot of creative Flash persons (including myself) shifting to another market: video! You don't need to study code to create masterpieces with AfterEffects, all you need is the creative talent (the same talent you need to make artwork in Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash3 (hehe) and other graphical creative tools).

And coming back to the initial question: are forums dying out? Do you have any idea what it takes to run a forum containing more than (1)50.000 members? Dedication of the admins every single day, enormous bandwith bills, a team of mods you need to thrust, etc etc. If this sort of dedication cannot be fullfilled, then it's normal that a forum will die I'm afraid. Dedication & financial backup, that's what it takes to run a big forum. If the forum owners don't have a future plan to serve the two main backup needs, it will die, wheter it be a Flash forum or whatever else forum.

Everyone's still welcome over at our Designer to Designer forums! http://friendsofed.infopop.net

We seem to got through peaks and troughs of activity. The same issues do come around again and again as people start out in flash as the previous generation did, I think it's partially because of this that people do outgrow forums, as Keith has already pointed out.

The large jumps between 4 and 5 then 5 and MX were perhaps larger than MX to MX 2004, these earlier changes in version helped drive the community, and maybe we need a 'next big thing' from Macromedia to bring everyone back together.

Pete