Trying to explain why I’m not an ACP anymore

by kai on 14/01/2013

Recently a few people started to realise that I’m not an ACP (Adobe Community Professional) anymore and asked me why. This is going to be an explanation of how it came to this situation from my point of view. I want to make it very clear that I’m not looking back in anger and that this is not a revenge blog post or anything alike. I am still involved with Adobe in certain aspects both from a business as well as community point of view. I for instance run the Wellington Adobe Web Tech Meetup and am very happy with running a local community (I’ve been a user group manager since the Allaire/Macromedia days in 2000/2001).

I’ve been a member of the ACP program from early 2010 until mid-2012. ACP is basically a program similar to Microsofts MVP recognising involvement in community, user forums or any other activity along those lines. Back then, I mainly got into the program due to my involvement with Adobe’s ColdFusion and Flex communities.

After Adobe dumping Flex to Apache and the whole communication and PR-mishandling on Adobe’s side, the 2011 group of  ACPs got their status extended until end of June 2012. At that time, all ACPs were due to reapply for the program.

I was very much sitting on the fence for quite a long time if I should reapply or not; a bunch of my friends from both the ColdFusion and Flex communities couldn’t be bothered to reapply due to all the changes having happened at Adobe. Me being on the fence had multiple reasons:

  • I felt a strong lack of direction from Adobe when it comes to technologies for developers,
  • Certain key people dealing with communities (from my point of view) at Adobe either changed jobs or got laid off,
  • A feeling of not being listened to by Adobe employees but just being used as a social media replicator,
  • Adobe essentially not caring about international community anymore outside of North America.

A month of so before the new application was due, I spent a bit of time chatting on Skype to a friend of mine who’s part of Adobe’s technical evangelism team. I’m not going to go into the details of this chat, but we basically talked about my concerns in regards to the changes at Adobe, where community at Adobe is heading towards and where my place could be.

After this chat I was at least convinced that I was going to reapply. I decided though that I’d need to make my concerns about Adobe’s direction, its stance towards community and the ACP program very, very clear. If the people in charge would  then still accept me into the program, it’d be a fully disclosed entry situation. I was well aware at the time that I would most likely not be accepted into ACP from mid-2012 on, but I decided to make the effort and go through with the application nevertheless.

To be as transparent as possible, I’ll disclose some parts of the answers that I’ve provided in the form (besides the obvious questions such as “What are the technologies you use?” etc). Please note that I grabbed those answers from a local text file which I used to copy and paste my answers for the application file from and to while writing them. I’m pointing this out because I want to make it clear that I might have made final minor tweaks and adjustments to the answers before I submitted the form.

Why do you want to be an ACP?

First of all, I have to say that I was very much sitting on the fence about reapplying for the ACP program in the first place. I’ll get to the reasons why I decided to re-apply in the end a bit further down.

I want to explain you the reasons why I was very inclined not to apply at all, because those considerations and the responses I came up with for myself do play an important part in this process as they outline what I see in the ACP program and what I’d want to get out of it. I’d also ask you to consider this section seriously as I’m trying to work out a match between what I can and would offer but also what I’d expect from Adobe in case I’m going to be an ACP. If you read this and see a clear mismatch feel free to tell me right away and I’ll happily withdraw my application.

1. Where’s the place for developers?

I’m wondering if and where there are people in Adobe who care about developers and where there’s a place in the Adobe community programs for developers nowadays. From my personal experience, one of my main technologies (Flex) is essentially dead and the involvement from Adobe’s end is going to be marginal in the future. That might be my perception, but it’s basically what I get told by (ex-)Flex clients and through our local community where there’s no interest in Flex topics any more at all.

That’s all fine, I’m over it, have stopped being angry with Adobe and have moved on to other things like Javascript, NodeJS & other interesting technologies in the web. Looking what Adobe is offering, where I as an ACP would fit in, I see a surely appreciated committment to Webkit and adding value through contributions to the rendering engine, CSS shader showcases and an agreeably nicely done Adobe HTML5 website. Nothing of those would be areas where I could make a difference as an ACP. There are a few tooling efforts. Ignoring Dreamweaver, which for a variety of reasons is not a tool I use much, there’s Edge, PhoneGap and Shadow. All three are good things – but again, will they be or become large enough that there’s going to be a massive Edge or Shadow community? Is that where HTML5/JS _developers_ have a place in?

When it comes to CF, the CF team is happy to keep non-ACPs on their Customer Advisory board – so what would be the point in being an ACP at this stage?

Re other developer technologies, Adobe acts in a very disappointing way – I can’t even get my hands on an NFR-version of CQ5 because of internal corporate politics. Why would I even bother make an investment into technologies Adobe is bringing to the market?

2. Lack of direction and strategy within the ACP program after the November 2011 changes

I acknowledge that the events back then were significant changes. I seriously wonder what the purpose and goal of Adobe ACP 2012/2013 is going to be. From my perception (and I might be totally wrong), the ACP program has become more and more repurposed as a social media replicator channel.

I would consider myself very interested in Adobe technology and in a way also aligned with some aspects of it from a business point of view. Does that mean that I like and support everything Adobe is doing? Clearly No! Is that expected though? I don’t know, hard to understand what the ACP approach actually is these days. While I have never (and won’t) broken an NDA, I won’t “fall into corporate line” or shut up when it comes to critisising Adobe both internally and publicly either if Adobe gives me reason to do so. Examples: pricing policy, support failures, stupid technology decisions and more. If this was expected from an ACP, I’m clearly not the right person and you could pretty much stop reading as this point.

3. Do I still want to align “my own brand” with Adobe?

This is also a very interesting one. Adobe’s public perception in AU and NZ is not comparable with the event ****** (name redacted) was recently talking about on the ACP list where developers and designers tell her how they love Adobe. Adobe’s very often perceived as slow, bloated and greedy/overpriced. Through the strategy change of November, Adobe has had a very negative impact on the lifes of a lot of developers in the RIA space. Is that a place where I still want to be holding the Adobe flag? Ironically, a lot of the doubt I feel here stems from being involved with other non-Adobe communities over the last 6-7 months and looking at our community from the outside.

Why should you be accepted into the program?

Please refer to my answer on the previous question to put this in context.

As I said, I was very much sitting on the fence if I should re-apply or not. One of the tipping points was a Skype discussion I was having with a friend of mine (who shall not be named as I haven’t checked with them if that would be ok or not) who works in Ben’s evangelism team during which I exactly asked them this question. As part of this discussion I learned a lot of the person’s thoughts about how and where ACP is (and should) be positioned, which was interesting.

To wrap it up with referring to the numbering from the previous question:

1. My final question was: “So what would be the point in being an ACP at this stage?” I think Adobe needs help. It needs help to create a space for developers in ACP and I’m willing to give it a try in working with Adobe on this. I particularly use this wording as I clearly see it as a brand-new “dating timeframe” to see if there are people within Adobe, Adobe’s evangelism team and the community program who are even interested in working with the type of developer I am. I should be accepted if you honestly think that there’s a space for this. I’m not interested in being an ACP and my voice and opinion being ignored for 12 months – we all could do better things with our time in this case.

2. I’ve pretty much answered this in the previous section already. If the goal of ACP is blind, uncritical fanboy-ism and being a social media replicator – I’m not the right person for this program any more and we can stop it right here. I however pledge that I will never give people an opinion motivated by politics, both internally or in public and that I’m happily going to deal with the same type and style of feedback and criticism thrown at me at any time. If you think that’s the right approach for being an ACP, you should consider accepting me.

3. This is kind-of the toughest one and it comes back to the “dating timeframe” I mentioned above. I have definitely started getting involved more with other communities (as well as Adobe’s). That might be a good thing, but it has been quite eye-opening as well. Adobe needs to up its game and I’m happy to help if said help is wanted.

There you go – as transparent as I could be. As I’ve expected I got the “Dear John” letter a few days after the deadline.

The only thing that annoyed me at the time was: After all the effort I put into my application, no one on the other end could even be bothered to come back to me with an individual response. I guess that’s either a sign of the times or the state of Adobe (or both).

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Marco Betschart January 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Sad too see such a reaction from Adobe – but it’s exactly what I’ve seen in the past and reason why we have switched over to Railo.

Adobe has to learn to take care of a community is invaluable these days.

To get to this point (unfortunately) this seems we all have to step away from a company which has done a great effort in the past.


roger tubby January 15, 2013 at 9:18 am

Having just received a notice that Flex is now a top-level Apache project after being donated by Adobe, and subsequently reading that Adobe only did this since Flex was losing market; I wonder if now isn’t the time for Adobe to dump ColdFusion into the open world also.

Let it float or sink based on the merits of the platform, rather than being pushed underwater by the price and the lack of current enthusiasm in the developer community.

I think there’s room for some OSS competition with Railo and OpenBD.


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