Philly Creative Guide

Event Spotlight

Robert Hall | Independent Contractor | Feasible Impossibilities

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009
by Robert Hall, 1 Jan 2010

Rob Hall pushes the Flash Platform in unique directions. He is currently an independent contractor focusing on utilizing Flash with Flash Media Server for online video delivery, as well as leveraging Flash in interactive exhibits and kiosks for experiential destinations, such as museums, interpretive centers and other venues.

Rob also presents and speaks regularly about Flash in his role as the manager of the Philadelphia Flash Platform Adobe User Group as well as assisting with the local Philadelphia Flex User Group.


On November 7th, 2009 after months of planning, Flash Camp Philadelphia, an event revolving around the Adobe Flash Platform and focused on community, went down at the Kanbar Campus Center at Philadelphia University. One of the main goals of the event was bringing together professionals, students, novices, enthusiasts, designers and developers of all skill and experience levels with Flash, together under one roof to attend presentations by over 25 speakers and presenters. Encouraging the attendees to network, socialize and get to know one another and all the great work being created with Flash in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas was also a primary goal. I am proud to say that we succeeded on those goals and everything else we set out to do with Flash Camp Philadelphia, far beyond even our own expectations. The event simply could not have gone any smoother.

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009

Flash Camps have been happening all around the world over the last few years, so what exactly is a Flash Camp? They vary from location to location, but generally they are one day events focused on technologies revolving around the Adobe Flash Platform - the ecosystem of tools and technologies for developing and creating content for the Adobe Flash Player featured on computer desktops, mobile phones, settop cable boxes and other consumer devices. It would be easy to dismiss the events as just marketing for Adobe, but not so with the top notch speakers and presenters that are typically found at these events donating their own time. The focus on community in terms of encouraging networking and socializing, the localization of the events, and the general vibe of sharing knowledge, experience and information and giving back, really makes the events special in a sea of technology focused events that often are pure marketing gobbledegook.

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009

Specifically, Flash Camp Philadelphia was a full-day event featuring top industry experts on the Adobe Flash Platform from both inside and outside Adobe, with a special focus on presenters from the Philadelphia area. At Flash Camp you can advance your Flex and Flash skills, meet members of the Adobe team and network with local companies and fellow developers. Sessions are geared towards developers and designers with little to advanced levels of experience with Flash, Flex and ActionScript and other Adobe technologies. There were plenty of giveaways, raffles and swag with a continental style breakfast and catered lunch. The event itself stemmed from our local organization that I have managed since 2003, the Philadelphia Flash Platform Adobe User Group.

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009

In early August of 2009, after seeing the success of Flash Camps around the globe and other Flash focused events in other cities, along with interest from our members and a little encouragement, I gathered together the managers and co-managers of our local Adobe user groups, the Flex and ColdFusion groups, the newly formed Photoshop and Illustrator User Groups and a few other key volunteers, and floated the idea of organizing an event in Philadelphia. Everyone was on board and excited about the idea from the start, and over the course of the next few months, with the help of our tight-knit group, I focused on landing sponsors, speakers, venue, catering, printing, marketing, ticket sales, and beyond. We leveraged mailing lists, email and google groups to coordinate between ourselves, speakers and attendees.

Things really started to gel in early September, just about the time we publicly announced the event, and by early October, when most of our key sponsors were in place and we had an idea on the scale of the event, we knew we had something really special. We were also fortunate on the timing, in that the month of October in Philadelphia was all about Design Week - so locals were pumped up already. And our event was just a week before Beer Camp Philadelphia and Bar Camp Philadelphia - so the entire Philadelphia area was in a bit of a frenzy over developer and designer centric events.

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009

On the day of the event we had over 200 individuals from all over the Philadelphia area in attendance. We also had many attendees from studios and firms located in New York, New Jersey, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. One of our very special friends and well known Flash Developer, Stacey Mulcahy, took it upon herself to drive all the way from Ottawa, Canada straight through the night to attend. Now that’s dedication. The fantastic venue that is the Kanbar Campus Center, located in the center of Philadelphia University campus off Henry Avenue, really made the event special. The University was our venue sponsor, providing us with a perfect place to hold the event. From the main presentation hall to the breakout rooms, conference rooms, lounge like chill-out areas to the subdued lounge atmosphere where our main registration desk and sponsors exhibited, to the large "Common Thread" area where we served lunch, it couldn't have been a better lay out or more suitable. A top notch facility all around on a truly fantastic Fall day, cool weather, plenty of sunshine, and lots of happy, eager attendees lined up to check in and get the day started. The line for the registration desk snaked around the room as we zapped barcodes on the event tickets to check attendees in, using a system from another one of our sponsors, local Philadelphia based company TicketLeap.com. TicketLeap's event system leverages Flash and Flex for their core application and user interface and is quite a slick solution. The line quickly disappeared as everyone was checked in and provided with a custom name badge, a very cool Flash Camp Philadelphia event t-shirt and a custom printed tote bag emblazoned with all of our corporate sponsor and supporter logos, and full of goodies provided by them. We couldn't have pulled off the event without the support from our sponsors, I encourage you to take a look at our list of sponsors, and see the kinds of companies that believe in supporting community based efforts like our event. Each and every one of the companies is a pleasure to work with.

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009

The day kicked off with an introduction from one of our key contacts, advocate and champion at Philadelphia University, Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Digital Design, Sherman Finch. Sherman then introduced me. I had a few brief words about the goals of the event and then we handed things off to Ryan Stewart, alumni of University of Pennsylvania, former employee at the Wharton School of Business and currently Platform Evangelist for Adobe. Who better to handle the keynote than Ryan, with his ties to our area and his daily focus on the Flash Platform and all of the related Adobe technologies. From that point on our speaker line up consisted of other very well known individuals in the Flash space, from Jamie Kosoy of Big Spaceship, graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, to Elad Elrom, prolific author and developer. A break for a catered lunch at 12:30 marked the dividing line of the day. In the afternoon the event split into 5 separate simultaneous tracks. Every hour we had 5 rooms, including the main hall, dedicated to individual speakers, allowing attendees to pick and choose the specific topics that interested them. The approach was inspired by barcamps and unconference events, stemming from Tim OReilly's Foo Camp a few years back. We added a bit more organization to the process by having the speakers, topics and designated areas pre-determined, but were able to keep a nice balance between formal and casual due to the setting and distribution of attendees. The full list of our amazing speaker lineup and their session descriptions is still available on the event website, and even via our custom mobile schedule app - but to say it was diverse would be an understatement. We had speakers covering topics ranging from brand new technologies such as publishing to native iPhone applications, game development, best practices, leveraging 3D libraries, unit testing, team based development, experimentation and embracing standards. Just a really large variety of topics. One of the most amazing things was that all of the speakers had donated their time to come and speak at the event, paying their own way to get to the event and attend and share their knowledge with others in the true spirit of community.

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009

We wrapped the day up with a special session in the main hall with Sherman Finch, Geoff DiMasi and Alex Hillman leading a roundtable on Community, focusing on technology in general and how it affects Community in many ways. From the impact that User Groups like ours have, to city pride, to community work spaces like Independents Hall - which Geoff and Alex founded together, to the importance of education and fostering the cross pollination of technology groups and common interests, a wide variety of topics was touched upon. I was there to help tie it all in to the context of events like this and foster interaction with universities, user groups, students, professionals, etc. The time flew by and we actually had to cut it short in order to stick to our timetable. I gave a few parting words, and then we proceeded to give away the mountain of prizes our sponsors had donated. We literally had over 80 lbs worth of books from publishers, O’Reilly, Peachpit and Wiley, including several custom made galley copies of books by one of our speakers, locally based Jeremy Wischusen, whose book on Cairngorm, a framework for working in Flex, had literally just gone to press that day. We gave away books, more t-shirts than I could count and many packages of software licenses from our sponsors. We ended by giving away a complete full copy of the Adobe CS4 Master Suite to one lucky winner. The event wrapped after a completely full day of nearly 11 hours. We then all proceeded to Old City Philadelphia to our after party at one of our favorite local hangouts, National Mechanics off 3rd and Market. A fine ending to a splendid day.

Flash Camp Philadelphia 2009

We are already discussing plans for next year and hope to be able to offer something on an even larger scale with more options for day long workshops and specialized hands-on training sessions. We are still in the process of gathering feedback from attendees, posting an official wrap-up summary, testimonials, photos, links to presentations files provided by our speakers, and rewarding a few more prizes. Our goal is to have those things complete within the next 1-2 weeks. If you attended the event and want to provide feedback, additional photos you might have taken, or inquire about next year, please contact us. We would love to hear from you. I'd like to end by thanking our sponsors and speakers, without which the event would not have happened. I also want to offer special thanks to our internal team of managers/co-managers of our other local Philadelphia Adobe User groups and several volunteers: Jason Marziani, Derek Wischusen, Arpit Mathur, Nathaniel Dodson, Anthony Profeta, Sherman Finch, Gary Houk, Ruth Kalinka, Jennifer Herman, Kelani Edmonson and Howard Ross. You all did an incredible job in helping pull off the event in such a successful and smooth manner. Here's to next 2010!

Print Article  Brought to you by: Robert Hall | Independent Contractor | Feasible Impossibilities

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