And now, part 1 of a 4 part blog series on my first 2 years out west…
Yahoo Maps and being stuck at Flex 1.x
Yahoo gets almost all the credit for my relocation. They won me over and got me to move 3,000 miles form home. Not many developers get a chance to work on and enhance an application that has (at the time) users upwards of 20 million a month. To know your code is reaching that kind of audience is incredible. To be able to add satellite imagery to that caliber of an app will always remain a highlight of my technical career.
I won’t mix words… working with the existing maps Flex 1.x codebase was rough. It was poorly planned, mostly void of architecture and didn’t seem to know if its primary use was as an application or API. I felt like a ‘code archaeologist’ at times, uncovering layers where it was clear… and I mean clear by old traces of comments… that one method was converted from a developer abstraction to serve as a key function of the app’s core.
Many of you know the story, but when Flex 2 and the powerful Actionscript 3.0 became an available option, we were really discouraged to pursue that as an improved solution to the faulty and growingly archaic codebase the app was built on. Granted, we were still technically in beta with the AS2 codebase, with a huge agenda of new features. Our small group of developers seemed to get smaller compared to the heap of improvements and maintenance we needed to perform, so doing some AS3 R&D wasn’t easy. But looking back, there was no excuse not to have switched to the newly available AS3, especially given a lot of outside support we were offered. Those who wanted to help; you know who you are and thank you!
I had a chance to work with some of the best coders and people I have met so far out here on maps, most of which I have worked with again and some very recently. An ex-Macromedia employee once told me that Flex 1.x was never meant to support an application of such magnitude. I suppose it’s true and knowing that added some bittersweet aspect to having actually accomplished what we all did, putting an app out that was really enjoyed and benefited so many users.
My time at maps lasted just shy of a year, but not before I finished a book for Wrox entitled Yahoo! Maps Mashups, which really let me enjoy the fun side of the maps application, its developer APIs. Through subsequent efforts, working in the Yahoo Flash Platform team, the seed was planted on what has become an impressive array of ‘modern’ Flex 2, Flex 3 and AS3 powered applications that I can only hope will one day include an AS3 maps API. If and when that ever releases, I will be one of the first to code with it.
When the Flex 1.x codebase of YMaps is finally retired, it will be, for me, like when they take those old & grand Navy aircraft carriers out to sea and sink them. There will go the greatest Flex 1.x app ever built, and I got to work on it with some great people at a pretty fine company — who thankfully, saw enough in me to recruit me 3,000 miles away from home and bring me out to Silicon Valley.