Grant Skinner

The "g" in gskinner. Also the "skinner".

@gskinner

FitC Edmonton: All-Star Speakers, $99

Just a quick reminder to everyone: FitC is coming to Edmonton in under 3 weeks (Oct 17-18). I think it’s going to be the best Flash / interactive conference Western Canada has ever seen. We have an all-star speaker list, including:

    Lee Brimelow

    Mike Chambers

    Ralph Hauwert

    Mario Klingemann

    Erik Natzke

    Stacey Mulcahy

    James Paterson

    Chuck Freedman

    Grant Skinner (moi)

    Phil Chung

    Randy Troppmann

    Victor Rubba

    Erik Johnson

It should be a fantastic event, and it’s only $49 for students, $129 regular ($99 with discount code “backintime”). Even if you’re flying in, the cost of the flight, hotel and admission is less than the cost of registering for most conferences.

You can get more info, and register at:

http://www.fitc.ca/events/speakers/?event=99

Hope to see you there!

HossGate09: Finding Balance.

I’ve been trying to decide how I feel about all the commotion over Hoss Gifford’s session at FlashBelt 09, and whether or not to chime in on the whole matter. However, as I watched a few understandably upset individuals snowball into a torch wielding mob RT’ing themselves into a frenzy (ex. @hudsonakridge “Hoss Gifford should be set on fire”), I decided I would proffer a few thoughts.

This was a very tough decision for me, because I’m between a rock and a hard place. On one hand I am risking becoming a new target for the frothing mob, and on the other hand I risk damaging my friendship with Hoss, whom I have known for years. At the end though, I am a believer in moderation, truth, and positive action, and I hope that by adding my own thoughts I can help to steer all of this energy in that direction.

I’m also distressed to see all the bad press this is causing for Flashbelt – Dave did an awesome job on the conference, and I would hate to see this become the primary thing it was remembered for.

I’d like to begin by clarifying some of the things that have been stated about Hoss’s presentation:

  1. Yes, his session did open with a photo of him looking up at a (largely obscured) picture of a woman’s groin clad in panties that read “drink me”. No, this was not photoshopped – it is the entrance to a rather well known club in Amsterdam. Was it irrelevant, and needlessly obscene? Probably.

  2. Yes, he did draw a penis on stage (poorly). It was in the context of explaining that any time you give people a blank canvas to be creative on, they will immediately draw penises and swastikas. This is unfortunately true. Did he go beyond what was necessary to make the point, and wring it for frat house comedic effect? Most definitely.

  3. Yes, he did show a “orgasm simulator”, which showed a female face working through 4 or 5 expressions up to orgasm as he moved the mouse up and down. It was crude, and didn’t really have anything much to do with his theme, but it wasn’t explicit. It’s also worth noting that it was originally built for a bar setting at Flash conference in Amsterdam (context matters).

Was Hoss’s session crude, juvenile, and unprofessional? Absolutely. Was it inappropriate for the conference? Probably. Was it poorly described in the session book, and a mistake to run it as an all-call “keynote” session with no warning as to the content? Certainly.

Was the session sexist or misogynistic? I don’t believe so. It was definitely crude and borderline obscene, and I can see how it could be offensive, but I think you’d have to work hard to describe it as sexist. I actually feel strongly (as does my wife, who was in attendance) that the people calling the session sexist are showing themselves to be sexist. To suggest that showing crude sexual material (including genitals of both sexes) to an audience of men is fine, but to show it to women isn’t, demeans women’s sexuality and their intellectual/emotional ability to handle crude material. My wife agreed that the material was not appropriate for a professional conference, but she was at no time offended or felt that it was sexist.

–EDIT–

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the definition of sexism and misogyny. People are confusing sexual harassment (unwanted sexual contact or advances) with sexism (discrimination based on gender) and misogyny (a hatred of women). I can understand lumping Hoss’s talk into sexual harassment, but it was not directed at only the women in the audience. The crudeness of the content was targeted at everyone in the session, and was reasonably balanced in terms of gender participation. Likewise, calling it misogyny is just being sensationalist. Hoss at no time indicated or promoted a hatred of women. Let’s get our labels straight so that we can talk about this maturely and reasonably.

I wonder whether the accusation of misogyny was leveled because it carries more weight than crudeness and obscenity.

While none of the following excuses that the session was inappropriate, I think it is worth knowing a little bit about Hoss before you polish your pitchforks and light your torches. Hoss is a marvelously friendly, fun, intelligent, and generally respectful man. He is a good friend, and an excellent father, and from what I know is very good at his job. He has a crude, juvenile streak a mile wide, and definitely jumps over lines of appropriateness without a backward glance. This can be pretty entertaining over some pints with a close group of friends, but doesn’t always translate well into public speaking.

Hoss has been doing crude, frat-humor laden sessions for years now, and I’ve never heard of a complaint in the past. This isn’t to suggest that makes it ok, but it’s worth noting that this is what he’s known for, and what has become expected from him, both by attendees and conference organizers. Recently he confided to me that he would like to do more professional sessions oriented on his work, but has met resistance from conference organizers that want him to entertain, not teach (I’m not at all suggesting Dave is one of these). While I’m not defending his content, it is important to understand that he has been pigeon-holed into it. He chose that path, and he could likely break out of it, but as everyone knows its hard to give up on something that people say you’re great at.

I can also sympathize with him a bit because I had an attendee complain that a session I ran a few years ago (playing with yourself for fun and profit) was full of juvenile humor. I haven’t had a complaint before or since, but it showed me how people’s threshold for appropriateness varies wildly. It only had a few slightly suggestive jokes (none any cruder than the title), but it obviously offended someone.

With all of this in mind, I think we have the opportunity to make a positive change, rather than just lynching Hoss and Dave. I can guarantee that other conference organizers are following this, and revising their plans. Likewise, I’m sure Hoss is trying to reconcile this reaction with his previous experiences of being congratulated for identical behaviour, and pondering his future as a speaker.

I don’t think anyone wants the Flash community to become a dry, corporate, politically-correct group of stuffed shirts. At the same time we definitely want to be sure its inclusive and comfortable for everyone. Let’s look at how we can encourage this environment in a positive manner. Rather than taking the easy road of joining a witch hunt, provide feedback to organizers and speakers, support programs that encourage diversity in tech, and model positive behaviour to your peers. It’s always easier (and hey, more fun) to be sensational than productive, but hopefully some of this energy can be steered into creating real change.

— UPDATE —

Links

Stacey Mulcahy, a fellow speaker at FlashBelt, has posted a great response everyone should read.

Niqui Merret, another fellow FlashBelt speaker, has posted her thoughts.

Hoss has posted his response. You can read it here.

Upcoming Conferences You Should Check Out

Two of my favourite conferences are running events across the pond this year, and I’m totally stoked about it.

FitC Amsterdam

On Feb 22-24 FitC will be running a conference in Amsterdam. I spoke at Spark Europe a couple years ago, and I have to say that Amsterdam is an awesome city for a Flash conference. Pair that with FitC’s solid reputation to deliver a well-organized conference with a great vibe and a killer speaker line-up, and I think it will be an amazing event. Downing a magic muffin prior to some of the inspirational sessions (Josh Davis?) could be interesting too. FitC Amsterdam sold out last year, so you might want to grab tickets while you can.

Flash On The Beach Miami

I’ve been to Flash on the Beach in Brighton two years running now, and it just keeps getting better! This year, John (the organizer) is bringing FotB to North America with an event in Miami on April 6-8. This means you will get to experience all the awesomeness of FotB, and there will actually be a real beach! (sorry John, a bunch of pebbles on a cold, grey stretch of ocean doesn’t count as a beach for me) It’s hard to quantify, but there’s something special about FotB, my theory is that it’s a trickle down effect from John, whose boundless enthusiasm, good humor, and general niceness rub off on speakers and attendees alike. FotB also sells out every year, and “Double Early Bird Pricing” ends December 19th.

I’m going to be running a rewritten version of the “Things Every Flash Developer Should Know” talk that I did at FotB08, focused more on the technical specifics of architecture, optimization, and memory management. Basically distilling things I’ve been working out for myself over 10 years of working with Flash into a one hour session.

With the uncertain economy, now is a good time to upgrade your skills, and get in some networking (time and money permitting). Hope to see some of you there!

GPSD’08 Results are in!

Another year is gone, and another gPumpkin contest has come to a close. Many a beer and chocolate was consumed, and overall it was a great break from our normal routine. Congratulations to Grant and Wes, whose pumpkin “The Horror of Corporate Conformity” took first place. Between Grant and Wes, one of them have been on the winning team each year. Conspiracy? Probably.

Highlights this year included:

  • A landslide victory by the “Horror of Corporate Conformity”, which sat at around triple the votes of the second place pumpkin
  • Carving with steak knives instead of the traditional tools, which have been lost since last year
  • The very first “dropped” pumpkin. It didn’t break, but it took a good dive from the table.
  • Phantom votes for a non-existent pumpkin, which showed up in the voting app. It turned out to be an old testing file

Overall it was great fun. We leave you with a shot of all the pumpkins together. See you all next year!

More Conferences

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been neck deep in client work, and prepping for a plethora (as in, too many of a good thing) of conferences.

In addition to Flash on the Beach, FlashForward, and MAX San Francisco, I’ll also be speaking at the following events:

Austin Game Developers Conference, Austin Sep 15-17

I’ll be giving a talk about Flash as an interface tool for traditional game development. Looks like there will be a strong Flash presence, with an online track, and one of the keynotes being given by Lane Merrifield, cofounder of Club Penguin.

Flash On Tap, Boston Oct 7-9

Flash and beer is always a perfect combination, and now it comes in conference form. These guys are geniuses. I’ll be giving a talk on “Things Every Flash Developer Should Know”. It’s basically a digest of everything I wish someone had taught me 10 years ago. Though if I speak late enough in the day, I don’t know how much anyone will actually learn. 🙂

San Flashcisco, San Francisco Aug 18

While I’m in SF for FlashForward, I’ll also be giving a casual talk at the local user group. Basically I’ll be speaking about whatever people want to hear about, or whatever I’m most excited to talk about at the moment. Topics will range from the technical to the creative, from art to business, and from early works to the future of the Flash platform.

I hope to see some of you at one or more of these events. In the meantime, I’ll try to carve out some time for some new posts here – there’s lots of things I want to blog, just not a lot of time to do it in.

Upcoming Conferences: FF, FotB, MAX

I will be speaking at a number of conferences over the next few months:

FlashForward San Francisco Aug 20-22

I’m excited about seeing what changes the Metaliq crew bring to the granddaddy of Flash conferences. In particular, I’m very interested in seeing how the new single track format of the conference works out. It could be brilliant, or it could fizzle. I’ll be running a 20 minute session on “Why I (Still) Love Flash”. I think it will be a good talk – after over 10 years working with the technology, and 5 years running my company, it’s something that’s been on my mind.

Flash On The Beach Brighton, UK Sep 28-Oct 1

FotB was my favourite conference last year. It had a great vibe, was a lot of fun, and I came away very inspired. I probably attended more sessions at FotB than I did at all the other conferences I went to last year combined. I’m really looking forwards to a repeat this year. I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to talk about, but whatever it is I’ll be sure to bring my game face.

MAX San Francisco Nov 16-19

MAX is always a great developer conference, but this year Adobe is increasing the design presence, which should add a nice balance to the event. I always enjoy MAX – it’s pretty corporate and impersonal, and definitely not as fun as most of the conferences I speak at, but it’s a good opportunity to learn from some of the top minds of Adobe, and get a feeling for the current corporate gestalt. I’ll be doing a talk on “Making Money with Adobe AIR”, trying to identify some of the obvious and not so obvious market opportunities for the technology.

I’m Huge in Japan!

I’ve always wanted to say that, even if it is a bald-faced lie.

While in Tokyo I had the distinct pleasure and honour of being interviewed by Director’s Magazine. The interview, and a rather silly looking photo of me appeared in the Aug-Sep edition of the magazine. I just got a copy (bit of a delay, but hey, it came all the freaking way from Japan, man!), and while I have no idea what it says, it’s still pretty cool, so I wanted to post it for posterity.

Here’s a scan of the picture page:

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