Rich Internet Application Jam: Silverlight and Flex

Last week, James Ward (Adobe), Josh Holmes (Microsoft), and Bruce Eckel (well, Bruce Eckel!) conducted a Rich Internet Application Jam at our office. This was NOT a competitive event.  Rather, in the spirit of CodeMash, people came together to learn about competing technologies in a cooperative manner.  Each attendee decided which technologies to explore, and how much time to spend on them.  Most of the attendees were interested in Flex, but Silverlight was represented as well.  And of course, the Jam included discussions of the strengths of each.  It appears that Flex has strong support for controls, yet to be provided in Silverlight.  Silverlight shines in its support of vector graphics, which Flex doesn't currently provide.

I spent some time looking at the AdvancedDataGrid in Flex 3.  One of the attendees had a customer requirement for a lot of grid data, including summaries and rollups.  The advanced data grid supported what he needed to do, using a combination of summary rows and groupings.  On the summary rows, he was able to choose one of five functions that are baked into the advanced data grid: min, max, average, count, and sum.  Nice!  If you're interested in this, note that the documentation is apparently not available in the Flex 3 docs that are downloaded, but is available online.  Sreenivas Ramaswamy's blog has a nice writeup about this control (and others!).

Andy Beaulieu's site has a cool Silverlight demo.  If you enter an address for which there is Virtual Earth data, you can play a game that allows you to destroy UFO's while flying over that address.  Impressive!

Once again, I was impressed by the Jam format.  With Bruce, James, and Josh to help people over any rough spots, attendees were able to work on exercises that interested them, and spend as much time as they needed on any particular task.  I like this better than the typical situation where a class is in lock step for exercises, and individual attendees are either sitting around waiting for someone to finish, or frantically trying to rush through so that everyone else can move on.  And these people were able to focus on using the technology in a way that is meaningful for their purposes, but have the support of an expert right there.

The attendees seemed to enjoy themselves and learn a lot.  I can't wait til our next Jam: it's a C# Jam with Bill Wagner, Jamie King, and Bruce Eckel.  It will be held at our office April 8-11.  Bruce and Jamie are working on a C# book, and Bill's working on his 3rd C# book.  This Jam will focus on C# 3.0 and its new language features.   The early bird deadline for that event is January 31.