MAX North America finished over a week ago, and I have to say, it was an invaluable experience. If you ever have the chance to convince your boss to let you go, I would definitely recommend it. If not for the stuff you might learn or pick up in the sessions or labs, but for the social aspect.
I was particularly happy to get to meet some of the developers I worked with at Schematic, including one or two I had never met in person (the joys of telecommuting).
The other aspect that I also find valuable is the fact that I often get inspired to create new stuff, or push the boundaries of what I'm doing. Seeing the excellent work that your peers get up to is a great way to get yourself motivated.. either in your real job (the stuff you get paid for), or all those pet projects you might work on at home.
My favourite sessions from this conference included Mario Klingemann's session on pixels, where he showed some pretty cool stuff on how to read QR codes from a webcam. It may have been a bit technical if you're not a nerd like me, but seeing his step by step development approach was really interesting. The shape detection part of the talk also drew an applause from the crowd as a perspective mapped Quasimondo logo appeared on a square of paper held in front of the camera. That's pretty much one-step-away from projecting a 3d model on there.
I caught Mario's Flash Forward talk on generative art last year, which was also a don't-miss session.
Another fun session was of course Andre Michelle's audio processing talk, where we got a quick demo of his hobnox mixing skills.
The Flex Architecture face-off session was also really interesting. A high level discussion/argument regarding the various Flex mini-architectures such as Cairngorm. The general consensus was that they often over complicate things, but are good for standardizing code and patterns when you are working in a large team. I particularly enjoyed listening to peoples experiences, both on the panel, and from the audience.
Ryan Taylor's talk on Pixel Bender brought some insights into the kind of processing you can do with the pixel bender toolkit. Even allowing you to run certain blocks of math in a separate thread from flash player. Certainly something to look into.
On the last day, I attended the session on Alchemy, the prototype toolchain for compiling non-system-specific C code into a low level AS3 bytecode. It looks really interesting for speeding up certain types of processing operations. The converted "C code" runs in its own asynchronous class. Someone has already compiled Doom to run inside flash player 10. Personally, I would be really interested to see if something like the C-based Box2D library can be ported and provided with an AS3 front-end, and then the speed compared with Box2DAS3.
Finally, the highlight of the conference for me was the Adobe customer appreciation event at the California Science Academy. What can I say, I'm easily bought by free beer, musicians, contortionists, and a planetarium show... ok, mostly the free beer.
Thanks to all the cool people that decided to hang out with me (or weren't smart enough to ditch me).