Geek Speak: Duane Nickull, senior technical evangelist for Adobe Systems

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      Duane Nickull flies all over the world representing Adobe Systems as one of the software company’s senior technical evangelists. However, to fans of the 46-year-old, Kitsilano resident’s rock band, 22nd Century, he’s better known as bassist and vocalist Duane Chaos.

      Born in Nanaimo, Nickull has worked for Adobe since its 2003 acquisition of Yellow Dragon Software Corporation, which he cofounded. Nickull blogs at Technoracle and hosts the Adobe TV show Duane’s World. He co-authored the book Web 2.0 Architectures: What Entrepreneurs and Information Architects Need to Know.

      On Monday (July 26), Nickull will help present a workshop, called the ESRI Flex and AIR GeoSpatial Boot Camp, at GeoWeb 2010. The five-day conference focusing on the convergence of Web technologies and geographic information systems will take place at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

      Nickull stopped by the Georgia Straight offices for an interview.

      What does a senior technical evangelist for Adobe Systems do?

      My job’s really to hang out with developers and architects and understand what’s on their radar, what issues they’re facing, bring that back to Adobe, but also make them aware of technologies Adobe has that might be relevant to what they’re trying to do. A lot of education as well. I teach a lot of hands-on courses, such as Monday. I’ll be teaching people how to actually program with some of the latest technologies.

      What are you going to be speaking about at the GeoWeb conference?

      We’re working with ESRI Flex maps. So, Flex is a framework. It’s a free, open-source SDK—software development kit—from Adobe, and it allows you to build Flash-based map applications, along with ESRI’s mapping components, and then lay over data on top of it. So, there’s three of us. James Ward from Adobe, myself, and Mansour Raad from ESRI are going to co-lead this course, and the developers will be able to walk away in only three hours knowing how to make maps and add them to various applications.

      What’s some of the work that Adobe is doing on location-aware and geographic-Web applications?

      Well, the handset manufacturers like Google, with their Android operating system, since the advent of the GPS into smartphones, there’s been an API—application programmatic interface—that allows us to access the location of a specific device. The combination of being able to find out where the device is plus understand a little bit about who’s using it really enables some really cool patterns of application development, where you can bring some really relevant information to individuals.

      So, right now, we’re sitting in this room and all around us there are residual bits of information that we’re not aware of, because there’s no physical trace of them here. But that data is stored somewhere, and being able to access that data to bring it out to serve the needs of the user is really what it’s all about.

      There’s kind of a new direction that Adobe’s going in, which is—we’ve loosely coined the term—XOA or Experience Oriented Architecture. In the past, people have built systems based on what the system does, and we’re starting to build systems now based on what the user experience will be. And that’s kind of the cutting edge.

      What’s Adobe doing in mobile that would be exciting to everyday users?

      Most of the rich applications on the Web are built with Adobe technologies, such as Flash, the tools, the Creative Suite—Photoshop, Dreamweaver, et cetera—and increasingly LiveCycle. LiveCycle ES—Enterprise Suite—is being used on the backend to kind of bridge between the rich applications the user sees and the enterprise’s backend.

      In mobile, the biggest development for us is that we’ve been able to get the full version of the Flash Player to run on mobile. In the past, it’s just been Flash Lite, which is largely being used for games. But we’re now running a full-blown Flash Player on mobile, which has enabled enterprises to kind of extend their processes through LiveCycle to mobile devices....

      So, Adobe’s extended the reach of enterprises to mobile, which is a fundamentally huge shift for where the workplace has been going and where people are starting to migrate to in terms of expectation—you know, just baseline expectation of working for a company.

      How is Adobe coping with Apple’s blackout of Flash on the iPhone and iPad?

      Quite well, actually. You know, I don’t use Apple products anymore. I use their laptops. But a lot of users, you know, rely on Flash, and if the device doesn’t support Flash that’s something they have to work out between them and Apple. It’s not really something we can do anything else on. So, we’re coping quite well.

      We started a project called the Open Screen Project, which removed the final licensing restrictions around Flash. The Open Screen Project basically creates an industry consortium that is devoted to Flash single runtime for the rich applications that are going to be Internet-based. We’ve got Google, RIM, Nokia, Sony, Ericsson, NTT DoCoMo, Intel—just all the partners that really matter in this space—and they’re all in alignment with us.

      We’re working with Microsoft on their mobile stuff. All the partnerships we’ve had in the past all seem to be doing well. I don’t speak for Apple. But the problem really doesn’t originate with us, and I think we’re going to do quite fine with it.

      What’s Adobe’s commitment to open Web standards?

      One-hundred percent. I mean, HTML5 is going to be obviously a huge thing for us. We’re excited about HTML5, because it’s going to be a huge driver for sales of CS—Creative Suite. HTML5’s also embedded inside the AIR runtime, will be embedded as the WebKit open-source HTML engine evolves the standard as the standard evolves. We’re there taking part in developing the standard. We’re pushing it forward.

      If you go to, our track record’s absolutely astounding, in terms of what we’ve done in the last half-decade, moving PDF into ISO, which is the standards. We gave PDF away. The Flex SDK is now open source, and it’s free as well. The AIR runtime is, you know, open. We work with a lot of different open technologies. We also give back to the community as well. We’ve just moved a bunch of projects onto SourceForge. That was on my blog last week.

      So, there’s kind of two parts to how the technology industry goes, and it’s a pattern called walking the stack, which was talked about by James Governor from RedMonk, whereas things eventually get commoditized and they kind of fall out the back end of the stack. Things you could once charge money for end up becoming free, and nobody pays for them anymore. That’s always pushing innovation at the top end of the stack.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at




      Jul 24, 2010 at 3:37pm

      HTML5 is a CLOSED 'standard' encumbered with proprietary junk - HTML5 does NOT meet any form of the definition of open.

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