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XULAND: World’s First FLEX 4 Based Social Networking Application?

November 4th, 2010 30 comments

Truth is, I’m not sure if this is the technically the world’s “first” Flex-based social networking application, but I can say that I haven’t see anything else like it in Flex – so there’s a good chance it is. Nevertheless, hopefully the title was enough to grab some attention ;)

I came up with the idea for Xuland a year ago. At the time I simply wanted to come up with a project that would allow me to dive into the Flex 4 Beta and try out some new frameworks (other than Cairngorm). I chose Swiz for its “brutal simplicity” and I was immediately impressed.

I present this first to the greater Flex community as I’m really interested in feedback at this stage of its development. Does it make sense? Does it load fast?

My biggest concern: determining whether Flash was the right platform for a site like this. Honestly, I don’t see why not. Flex is a great framework. Flash is a great multimedia platform. Add a little social networking features and you could have the makings of something great.

I wasn’t able to attend MAX this year although I did enter Xuland into the 2010 MAX Awards. There were several other amazing sites that Adobe chose over Xuland and I don’t blame them. There truly is some fantastic talent out there and I feel blessed to even be remotely part of this group.

To put it simply, Xuland is a social network centered on location, rather than a friend’s list.

It started off as a way to get to know your neighbors…the people that are most likely *not* on your friend’s list. I’ve always thought Facebook was a great way to re-connect with old friends and family (not “old family”, sorry Mom) but you wouldn’t necessarily meet new people on Facebook. I remember back in the days of MySpace when random strangers would friend each other…some folks had thousands of “friends”. It was always so bizarre to me. I’m not sure if that same trend has crossed over into Facebook since its advent of fan-pages but still sites like these didn’t feel like the appropriate place to establish new friends.

A better opportunity arose through Yelp. Yelp centers itself on geography. You can see reviews of the restaurant down the street which is fantastic but it was difficult to carry on a conversation with past reviewers. Sure there’s message boards, but it would be nice to carry on a real-time conversation with someone in your same town that you did not already have a past relationship with (i.e. “on your friend’s list”).

Xuland eventually morphed into a FLASH-ier alternative to Craigslist, complete with a commenting & rating engine, Google map that pools postings into the comment stream based on location and selected radius, a built-in ad & local event submittal system and there’s even a simple image editor. No, this isn’t your father’s Craigslist.

I’m going to add a lot more, including extending the project to include mobile. What I’ve done so far took a lot of work (spare time with a family, mind you) but I’m happy to keep chugging forward as long as the site finds some real use out there.

What I really hope is to prove that Adobe Flash & Flex can be used for much more than dashboard and charting widgets or for unseen back-office intranet apps.

I had a lot of fun exploring Flex 4′s new skinning architecture, the Swiz inversion-of-control framework, the cloud technology that I’m using to host Xuland and many other bits and pieces of knowledge I had to find to assemble this all together.

I don’t think the site is ready for global public consumption quite yet. There’s a lot of little details I need to iron out but it works for the most part. I invite anyone reading to try it out and let me know what you think!

http://www.xuland.com

The map should geolocate to your general area, but it won’t be exact. If it’s off, drag the map around and set your new default location (you’ll have to login).

You can also (change) the map to anywhere else in the world which is nice. Talk to folks in Munich, or Paris. Change the map zoom, too. As the radius changes, so does the number of viewable comments. The red dot in the middle essentially shows the center of the map around which it pools comments.

Login with your Facebook or other social networking accounts, or create your own Xuland account via the registration form. Try posting a comment, attach an image, or real estate posting. There are many categories similar to what you’d find on any classified ads website. You can also post a local event (I got a little tired of getting invited on Facebook to events that were in other cities!).

I’ll post more on this blog and on Xuland’s own Tumblr blog. It’s getting a little difficult juggling all of this so bear with me if I seem a little slow, otherwise thanks so much for reading and trying out Xuland.

Building Swiz Framework from Github

March 13th, 2010 20 comments

Although you can easily just download the Swiz 1.0 Beta SWC (above), you can also check-out the project from github (the Swiz repository) into Flex Builder and build it yourself.

To do so (from scratch), try out these steps:

Install EGit

Create Flex Library Project and import from github

  • In Flex Builder, right-click in the Navigator pane, and choose “New –> Flex Library Project”. Give it a name, something like “SwizFramework”
  • Click Finish
  • Right click on the newly created project, and select Import –> Git –> Git Repository
  • On the Swiz github page (http://github.com/swiz/swiz-framework, you’ll see a read-only URI to the repository: git://github.com/swiz/swiz-framework.git
  • Copy that link into “Source Git Repository” import window (URI field) that opened up in Flex Builder
  • The rest of the fields should auto-magically populate
  • Click Next to see the existing branches for this repo…just check the “master” and hit Next
  • In the Directory field, click Browse, and navigate to the “src” folder of the library project you just created
  • Uncheck the “Import projects after clone” checkbox and click Finish
  • The Swiz framework will be checked-out from github into your src folder
  • Right-click on the library project and choose properties
  • Access Flex Library Build Path from the left menu, then under “Main source folder”, click Browse and find the src folder within the code you just checked out from github. The path will probably be “src\swiz-framework\src”.
  • Now access “Flex Library Compiler” option from the left menu and add this to the “additional compiler arguments” field:

-keep-as3-metadata+=Inject,Autowire,Outject,Mediate,Dispatcher,PostConstruct

  • Right above that in the Namespace URL field, type “http://swiz.swizframework.org”
  • Underneath that, in the Manifest file field, Browse to the manifest.xml file that’s in your src folder and click OK

That’s it…now you can include this Library Project in any Flex project you may already have by adding it to the Library Path tab under the Flex Build Path property screen in your project’s Properties, or you can grab the newly compiled SWC from the framework project’s /bin folder if you need more portability.

Hopefully this process is relatively clear for those of you that need the latest up-to-the-minute version of Swiz ;)

Categories: Adobe Flex, Swiz Framework Tags:

Swiz Framework 1.0 BETA Released

March 3rd, 2010 9 comments

The latest and greatest release for the little-framework-that-could Swiz has finally been promoted to “BETA” status. Grab the SWC here: http://www.swizframework.org/files/swiz-v1.0.0-beta.swc. Read the full list of changes/additions here: http://swizframework.org/2010/03/swiz-1-0-0-beta-now-available/

I’ve been using the Swiz Framework for my Xuland project (still in development) for the last four months and have been quite happy with the tried-and-true 0.6.4 “pre-alpha” release. Even though the versioning of Swiz has been a hotly debated topic in the Swiz forums, I have felt through my own experiences with Swiz that 0.6.4 was as Production-ready as you could get.

Still I’m excited about the new things the Swiz team has introduced and decided today to catch up on all of the forum postings (http://groups.google.com/group/swiz-framework) and blog rolls.

If you’d like to learn how to check-out the project for yourself from github, see my article regarding Swiz here.

The Flex Chronicles Part 2 : Swiz Framework 1.0.0 alpha update

December 24th, 2009 1 comment

Just to re-cap my previous post on the subject: I started a new Flex 4 project (an experimental social networking app now entitled “Xuland“) using the Swiz framework and I must say I’m quite impressed with it thus far.

What suprised me however was the release of the latest version of the swc, 1.0.0 alpha last week! I had begun this project using the latest 0.6.4 swc (for Flex 4) and voila, just in time for Christmas, Ben Clinkinbeard issued a notice on the Swiz Framework google group (http://groups.google.com/group/swiz-framework) stating that the alpha had been released.

The new alpha contains a host of new features I’m excited to get my hands on (do other folks really get this excited about frameworks?):

  1. Autowire:
    New and improved. Works much like the mx:Binding tag in MXML and supports a new “destination” attribute
  2. Dot-notation:
    Autowire now supports dot-notation (someClass.someProperty) rather than the former “property” attribute
  3. Setter injection:
    Swiz now supports single argument setter injection
  4. Custom metadata processors:
    Umm, wow. Create your own Swiz [Metadata] annotations using Swiz’s reflection API…fantastic!
  5. VirtualBean:
    A new tag included with Swiz that allows you to “beanitize” (is that a word?) a property on another bean.

In upgrading Xuland to 1.0.0, I encountered an issue with the AbstractController class in Swiz, which is now missing. Granted this abstract class just allowed my service controller to call “executeServiceCall” directly, but since these are just wrappers around static methods in the main Swiz class, I figured I could just reference those methods directly from my controller but alas I cannot.

These methods are completely gone from this version of Swiz, as is SwizConfig!

I’m either stuck with staying with 0.6.4 or modifying the 1.0.0 version to add the functionality back in (so I can still continue development of Xuland) or wait until the Swiz team comes up with another release. $%@$!

I suppose I *could* update my Application to remove the reference to SwizConfig, then move the RemoteObject definitions from Beans.mxml to my controller classes, then remove the executeServiceCall’s.

I’ll re-post what I end up doing hopefully with some code samples for anyone out there that’s curious.

Kudos to the Swiz team and I hope they continue finding time for this semi-brutally simple micro-architecture. :)

Categories: Adobe Flex, Swiz Framework Tags:

The Flex Chronicles

November 7th, 2009 1 comment

Today I officially start coding a new Flex project. This isn’t associated with 24 Hour Fitness at all. It’s more or less a personal side project that, if I’m lucky, could actually turn into something at best. At worst, it would still be a great learning experience.

Our applications at 24 Hour Fitness are built on Flex 3 and Cairngorm (with a few tweaks). Although this has worked out just fine in the end, the roadmap to a finished product with Cairngorm was wrought with struggles.

We came up with a couple of different ways for a Cairngorm Command class to notify the View after execution. We originally had tried to decouple our components as much as possible by dispatching custom events to the parents, which in turn would dispatch a Cairngorm event to trigger some service call. This amounted to a lot of extra code and wiring that just made our applications more difficult to maintain.

We’ve moved off most of the logic contained in our Views to Commands, but there’s still more to go. Now we have hundreds of Commands, and many views that string together to support several different flows to our Application.

Needless to say, I’ve been looking for an easier alternative to Cairngorm and I’m willing to give a new framework a try.

“Swiz represents best practices learned from the top RIA developers at some of the best consulting firms in the industry, enabling Swiz to be simple, lightweight, and extremely productive.”

Sounds good to me! Thus, my new project – a Flex-based social networking site hopefully much different that anything else out there in Facebook-land, will be comprised of the following technologies and frameworks:

Flex 4 (currently in Beta 2)
Swiz Framework
ColdFusion 9
BlazeDS
MySQL 5 (or SQL Server 2008)

I went with ColdFusion primarily because I’ve worked with it quite a bit before and as a bonus, ColdFusion 9 comes bundled with BlazeDS! This combination, for me, provides the fastest route possible in achieving a finished product.

I’ll keep a running log here of my hurdles in creating this project and I’m excited to begin the adventure!

Categories: Adobe Flex, General, Swiz Framework Tags: