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Mike Chambers interview Part 1 - about Mike, Macromedia and Adobe

Mike Chambers interview Part 1 - about Mike, Macromedia and Adobe

At the OnAIR event in Stockholm, we grabbed the tour host Mike Chambers for an informal chat about him, how he joined Macromedia, the Adobe merger and corporate culture in the two companies. After switching to Adobe, Mike has taken on new roles and titles and we caught up with him at the Munchen-Brewery in Stockholm.

I remember the first time I heard about Mike Chambers was on a Flash forum where I noticed a very skillful guy that knew virtually everything there was to know about the now discontinued Macromedia Generator. Generator was a brilliant piece of software that could produce images, video and Flash files with dynamic content. These days, you could easily do things like this with PHP or .NET but back then there really were no "real" competing products at that time. Mike made it his task to know everything about the product and for a while, pretty much every question on Flashcoders about Generator would be answered by him. Eventually, Mike did so well that Macromedia decided to hire him.

For several years, Mike pioneered several important community efforts and for several years he was the link between Macromedia and the Flash community. After a period working only with AIR, Mike is now back to working with the community and his formal title is currently (hold your breath!) "Principal Product Manager for Developer Relations on the Platform Team at Adobe". How's that for a title?

FM: How did you get started with Flash?

MC: About eight-nine years ago, I was working at a place that did web development, actually it was ASP programming. We started to do some Flash stuff for internal presentations. You know like, we had music playing and stuff moving and people were really blown away from that. So I had learned a little bit about Flash and then at about the same time, Macromedia had a product called Generator. So I started learning that and doing some dynamic Flash stuff via Generator with ASP and stuff and that's really how I got started.



Macromedia Generator

FM: But you got involved with Macromedia quite early?
MC: Yeah, so I was pretty active in the Flash community and I was in DC and Branden Hall was there so I knew them. I was trying to figure out a way to stand out. You know the amazing stuff that's come out of the Flash community, always learning from each other and pushing each other and it was really hard to stand out. So I really thought about "what am I good at?". I started doing some client/server stuff. I published some libraries and people started to know who I was, but then I started doing a lot of Generator work and writing custom extensions which you did in Java at the time, posting tutorials and that cought the eye of the Generator team at Macromedia.

One day out of the blue, I got a call and an email saying "Hey, do you want to work for Macromedia?" and I thought, yeah that's cool. They literally said "We want to hire you to build cool stuff".

FM: Wow? That's pretty cool!
MC: Yeah, how can you argue with that?

FM: and you still do "hacking", you even hack "you own" runtime?
MC: Well, the way I look at it and this is something that Macromedia really valued, and Adobe does as well. I post a lot of stuff on my blog when I've been working on an app. I'm learning a lot! You know, I don't know everything about AIR? It's a lot of stuff so when I learn, I try to share it.

FM: How do you find the time then? You have a busy schedule and a family to attend to?
MC: Yeah. I don't have as much time as I used to as I have two daughters now. Luckily, I'm in a position at Adobe where that's some of the stuff I spend my time doing. I'm learning about technology, exploring it and making sure we are doing the right things. I can do some of it at my job but, you know - if I'm working on something cool, I'll be up all night working on code and stuff. I don't have nearly as much time as I used to.

FM: Were you the first full time community-employee of Macromedia?
MC: Well, the Flash team in particular was always actually really active in the community, so people like Matt Wobensmith and Mike Williams was always very active and involved.

FM: But you were the first time Community Manager?
MC: Yeah, so I was the first one that was actually hired so "that was the job" which was really cool! You know, this is a long time ago and a lot of this stuff was new. Macromedia was still like very "by the book" with marketing, you know "we can't acknowledge that we're working on another version of Flash. Everybody knows we are, but we can't acknowledge that" and stuff like that. I was there at the right time, we were one the first company that started blogging, we did our aggregator which is back and running really well now, but you know - this was all stuff that we were able to do because people like Kevin Lynch really supported us to really open up and change the culture at Macromedia, so I was at the right place at the right time.

FM: I think the Macromedia culture has affected Adobe quite severely?
MC: Yeah, in fact when I found out that Adobe was acquiring Macromedia, that was the first thing I was worried about. They had a very different culture, but one of the reasons that Adobe acquired Macromedia was because we were much more open, much more willing to, you know, take some risks and very innovative company. I've actually been surprised by just how much that culture of openness has been accepted at Adobe? You know, they're a big company, but I think a lot of that is especially in the Flash Player group, like Kevin Lynch led that right away, so you have a lot of old Macromedia people coming into the key areas.

FM: Kevin Lynch isn't blogging all that much these days though? (hehe)
MC: Yeah, Kevin's a little busier now that he's CTO but the thing is - he is very accessible, even within Adobe. I did a video with him the other day and he said "we can do this any time, but you're gonna have to remind me". He wants to do that, it's just finding the time but he's very open and very accessible. you know - if I were working for Microsoft, I couldn't just ping Bill Gates...


In Part 2 of this interview, we talk to Mike about AIR and it's past, present and future.


PS: in case you did not know, Mike Chambers has a posse and he's always been a "good sport" but do not make him angry!



In 2003, the Macromedia marketing department used Mike's picture to promote the Developers Resource Kit (DRK) series. Mike responded with a contest to make spoofs with his picture on. This image was cleverly manipulated by Robert Hall.



About Jens C Brynildsen

Jens has been working with Flash since version 3 came out. Since then, he's been an active member of the Flash community. He's created more than a hundred Flash games (thus the name of his blog) but he also creates web/standalone applications, does workshops and other consulting. He loves playing with new technology and he is convinced that the moment you stop learning you die (creatively speaking). Jens is also the Editor of this website.

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