Last night (Tuesday, January 27th, 2009) marked the birth of the San Antonio RIA User Group. We met in a large, rustic room on the first floor of JungleTech's office building. A large two story adobe-style hacienda complete with ancient oaks, hand-tiled covered patios, and a pool with a waterfall, the accommodations provided to the group lent a personable ambiance to the meeting that, in my opinion, enhanced the learning experience. Josh Helpert, the group manager, mingled comfortably among the guests before the meeting started, getting to know a little about their backgrounds and their interest in the topic of the evening: Introduction to ActionScript 3. Then, with snack plates and drinks in hand, everyone took their place in one of the leather and wrought-iron chairs arranged in a large semi-circle around the projection screen and gave their attention and minds to the presenter.
Only one other individual in the meeting besides Josh had any background in ActionScript at all, but by the end of the presentation every one of us had an excellent grasp on the subject. Josh's background as a formal instructor combined with his solid experience, knowledge, and passion for Flash and ActionScript ensured that every individual received exactly the delivery, analogies, and verbage that helped him or her assimilate the information at hand. It was both brilliant and considerate on Josh's part, as well as a joy to partake of, as he took into account the background information he had gleaned during the initial social interactions and wove in terminology that he knew certain individuals could relate to in order to "connect the dots" for them between their world and the one being introduced to us. In addition, Josh made sure and not bore his audience by reading powerpoint slides, but rather did a LOT of coding as we watched, sometimes pausing during the process to ask US, his audience, what he should do, how he should do it, and why. He included everyone in the process, made it not simply a lecture, but a complete audience participation project from which we all learned mightily.
The outline of items covered included a brief history of the evolution of ActionScript and a bullet point comparison of differences between versions 1 and 2 and the paradigm shift that occurred in version 3. We then discussed what an .fla file is, where ActionScript code lives, tools to use to write AS3 code, and how to connect it all together. A solid exploration of basic syntax and data types followed, all topped off by all of us building a simple SWF that utilized ActionScript event dispatchers and listeners.
I'll conclude my review by saying that this group was actually born about two months later than it should have been, due to the inordinately lengthy process that Adobe has instituted in order for a group to become sanctioned (or perhaps it's simply a matter of they not supplying enough manpower to meet the needs at hand, I'm not sure which). In the end, after having applied and our application "lost", we were told that in the meantime someone else in the area had applied to be a sanctioned Flex user group, so we would have to "work it out amongst ourselves". Rather than delay any longer the official formation of the group, we simply opted to be non-sanctioned, and so when you come to our meetings you should NOT expect to hear any Adobe propoganda or receive yet another handful of Adobe logo-fied swag. What you CAN expect, however, is to be immersed in an atmosphere of learning, teaching, passion, and experience that promises to ensure the one thing all professional say they want: growth.