:: inspire :: create :: FlashGoddess.com ::  
Flash Goddess
August, 2006
Lynda Weinman

Lynda Weinman
flashforward conference

flashforward conference




flex 2 training

Lynda Weinman

Lynda Weinman is the founder of Flashforward, the largest Flash user conference and film festival in the world. She founded lynda.com in 1995, a leading software training company that produces software training books, videos and an online learning subscription service, called the Online Training Library™. Lynda has written numerous bestselling books, has taught at some of the most prestigious digital design and art schools in the world, and has spoken at numerous industry conferences as either a presenter and/or keynote. Weinman has been working in the software training industry since 1982.

Looking at all you've accomplished, I find it amazing that you were self-taught. Did you find it difficult or frustrating when you were starting out?

It's important to understand the context – I was 26 when the personal computer was invented! I didn't touch one until I was 28. There was no such thing as user-friendly training materials – just manuals. I was able to force my way through manuals, which was a process that I hated but to which there was no real alternative. So yes, it was frustrating, but there was no other choice at the time.

I'm actually kind of happy that I had to start this way. It was the impetus for becoming a teacher and inventing training that was easier and more effective than a manual. It also made me fearless about trying software that I didn't know. I have to say, that even though I'm older than most people I know in this industry, it's been amazing to observe the birth of this industry for the past 20+ years. We're living in a time where so much changes so fast, it's hard to believe that it's all happened over such a relatively short amount of time.

How do you feel about being referred to as the "godmother of the internet"?

I've never heard myself referred to as that! It's an uncomfortable and inaccurate label. I championed the Internet as a publishing vehicle, and championed to help people learn to publish to it, but I had nothing to do with its invention or creation. I saw a need to educate people because I thought (and still think) that the Internet was the most revolutionary invention of my lifetime. It's truly amazing to have had a role in teaching people how to publish to the web, and to have had a small hand in propelling its inevitable evolution forward. I can only take credit for being passionate about the power of the Internet, and sharing that passion with people who wanted to listen.

lynda.com acquired the Flashforward Conference and Film Festival in 2005. How did this come about?

Flashforward was created by myself, my husband Bruce Heavin, and our ex-partner Stewart McBride. We had a great collaboration that lasted over five years. Over those years, we developed different goals for the conference, and in the end it was decided that one or the other should fully own and direct it so we could pursue those different goals. For a while I was going to sell my share to Stewart. When I heard Adobe was acquiring Macromedia, I couldn't bear to part with the conference. I've always been a huge fan of Adobe and Macromedia software. To me, the combination of the two sounded like something that I had to be a part of!

Stewart agreed to sell the conference to lynda.com, as he's been living in Europe for the past few years and wanted to do events there. I wanted to reinvigorate the conference with new locations, more professional venues, and try my hand at improving all aspects of the event. The Seattle show earlier this year was a triumph. Many people said it felt like the first year of the conference, and the reviews in the blogosphere were just what I dreamed they'd be. It's been a labour of love, and a lot of hard work with a great team of people and speakers. Our upcoming show in Austin is shaping up to be even better. Registration is higher than we even expected, and the line up of speakers and topics is off the charts. The hotel and location are exceptional. The day after the event ends, Austin City Limits starts, so a lot of us are going to stay on after for the music festival.

Why do you think there are so few women speaking at conferences of this kind and how can we encourage more women to participate?

I am disheartened at the lower number of female speakers and teachers in our industry. This is a fantastic career choice on so many levels – it's fun, it's lucrative, it's gratifying, and it's interesting. I have seen just as many female students as men in my classes over the years, yet for some reason, those numbers don't carry through to the professional world of speaking and teaching. We are always on the lookout for women speakers, and if a qualified man and women apply for the same slot, we always favor the woman. We hold them to the same standards as everyone else however, and sadly, there have been a number of female speakers at Flashforward who have not had passing reviews by the audience feedback forms. Lots of men don't pass the reviews either, but it's especially frustrating when women don't pass. We do have a highly discerning crowd to please, and it's our job to please them. I encourage and invite women to enter this field – it hurts to see so few succeed.

How do you see Flash progressing in the future?

In a zillion exciting directions –that's what I love about Flash! Let's see, there's animation, sound, motion graphics, video, application development, interactivity, games, mobile… What other software program can tout all that? The growth areas that are getting the most buzz right now are probably video, application development and mobile, not necessarily in that order. Flash video is fast becoming the video standard on the web. YouTube, Google Video, television and movie web sites are all adopting Flash video and making it the new gold standard. I'm hoping we'll see better Flash video compression and authoring tools. It doesn't take a psychic to know that Adobe is well-poised to address this in upcoming versions of all their software. Application development is being addressed with Flex, AS3, and delivery outside the browser, with Apollo. Flex is a new tool that is more programmer-centric than Flash. It allows programmers to work in a more standard programming environment than timelines and movie clips. ActionScript 3 is in Flex 2, and I predict it will be in the next generation of Flash once that's released (and announced is already in the Flash 9 alpha that's available to the public. It runs about 10 x's faster than AS2, and is being praised by all who use it. I can't wait to learn more about Apollo and the Adobe Engagement Platform in Austin . These are technologies that will help Flash break out of the web browser and become more widely adopted as an application programming platform. Flash mobile has been big in Europe and Asia, but it's finally coming to the US , and I think the Flash Lite 2 sessions are going to be much better attended and many more designers and developers are going to find themselves making Flash for mobile.

Among your many accomplishments, you were the first one to identify the “web-safe” colour palette back in 1996. Is it currently necessary to use this palette or is it becoming obsolete?

It's been obsolete for a very long time. The web-safe palette was important for delivery on 8-bit monitors, which were the standard bit depth in 1996 when I wrote my first book. I don't think a computer has shipped with an 8-bit monitor in more than half a decade! The color palette is still in a lot of Adobe and Macromedia web applications, but you don't have to use it. We stopped using it and advocating it a long time ago.

lynda.com has been online for 11 years now. What has contributed to your great success?

I think people love to learn, and find it difficult to learn software and new technologies. I like to make learning easier, and to my great surprise and delight, there's a big audience for that. lynda.com grew in a completely authentic and organic manner. We didn't even have a marketing budget until last year! It has grown because it's filled a true need in the industry. We've made it our mission to help others, and it's an honour and privilege to be validated by our audience with the success we've experienced.

Could you give us a description of what Flex is? I noticed one of the latest online training releases at lynda.com is Flex 2 Essential Training.

Flex is a new Adobe application that uses ActionScript 3 and components to build rich Internet applications. It doesn't have a timeline like Flash, and instead supports a compiler and a framework that includes class libraries and an SDK. Flex Builder 2 was developed for conventional programmers, used to working in Visual Basic, ColdFusion, or Java. It easily integrates with web services and xml to support building applications, and is geared to work with dynamic data. I highly recommend watching the Flex 2 videos on lynda.com by David Gassner. He is a very gifted instructor. As well, Joey Lott has an AS3 video that should help prepare everyone for future versions of Flash, or working with Flex 2.

You own a highly successful company, have written several books, and are a teacher, speaker, designer, animator and a mother. How do find the time to juggle everything? Do you have any advice for women trying to manage a family and career?

I know that I've worked incredibly hard, and that I've tapped into an internal self-motivation that went beyond what anyone pushed me to do. But truthfully, I ask myself all the time, why me? I feel very very lucky, I can tell you that! Juggling everything is impossible, really. I have done the best job that I could, and I still wish that I could do better. Being a mom is the hardest job on the planet, and the most wonderful at the same time. I know that there were plenty of times that I worked harder than my family wanted me to at my job, and for that I have regrets even though it's gotten me far in my career. I am a driven person – it's a blessing and a curse. I sometimes envy those who don't have the drive I have, as they seem more balanced and sane. I've grown to accept and trust myself, and I do have guilt about working as hard as I have, but I also have a lot of pride in my accomplishments. I don't really have advice for anyone on this front – it's an impossible balancing act and you do it as well as you can.

Do you have any final thoughts and what would you like people to take away from this interview?

I would love for people to visit lynda.com and attend Flashforward, and share in the world I live in. I love this industry and watching it grow, and helping people express themselves in all these new mediums. I hope people don't put me on a pedestal – it's not about me at all, it's just something bears my name that I started, but it's the culmination of something so much bigger than myself. We are living in amazing times, and the computer, the Internet and modern software are changing the world, mostly for the better. I believe in this industry with all my heart, and I can think of no more exciting or gratifying place to be.

Thank you Lynda! It has been an honour to interview you and we wish you continued success.

Interviewed by Ann-Marie Cheung
Freelance Creative