Kiwi catches Adobe’s Air updraft

Local developer selected to feature in the international launch of Air

Being quick off the mark could be a key to international development success. Auckland’s John Ballinger certainly was — both when it came to developing software that plugs into the latest American Web 2.0 sensation and in the choice of software to develop it.

Ballinger developed Tweetr, a plug-in to the US website Twitter, which allows people to share short messages with their friends. This has made his software the toast of the growing Twitterati. Then, because of the tools he used, he was selected to feature in the international launch of Air, Adobe’s new development environment for rich internet applications.

“Tweetr came about from a lot of noise on blogs about this Twitter website,” Ballinger explains. “I decided that I needed to try it with a friend, so I sent a few instant messages and finally found a friend. We tried it for a week and thought this is cool.

“The only issue was you have to log-in to the website all the time and have a browser window open all the time.”

Virtually on the same weekend, Adobe released its Apollo beta, and tools to build applications using Flex, which Ballinger was already using extensively.

Tweetr allows users to send messages of no more than 140 characters to Twitter. Twitter will then send the messages to all of the user’s Twitter friends and will even send the messages to their cell phone for free, if it is activated, as well. Ballinger says development was really easy and Adobe’s Air, the former Apollo, added the wow factor.

Adobe Air is a cross-operating system runtime that allows developers to use HTML/CSS, Ajax, Adobe Flash and Adobe Flex to extend rich internet applications to the desktop.

“The Adobe Flex builder makes building the interface and all the data work really easy,” says Ballinger. “Twitter has a really cool API so just about any developer can build an application in it.

“I have also worked quite a lot with Alex Payne from Twitter to make sure Apollo and Flash will work correctly with their API and have been working with them on getting new features added and/or changed.”

As all this happened, several of Adobe’s Flex/Apollo employees were also on Twitter. Ballinger knew a few of them and added them to his friends list, too.

“Soon enough, I was twittering with a few and they have installed my application. A lot of people have blogged about Twitter and Twitter clients. Tweetr has appeared in several blogs — for example, on ZDnet, by Ryan Stewart, [and in] one by Mike Chambers, who is a key engineer at Adobe, and on Top 10 Apollo applications.”

The result of all this was that many of Adobe’s employees started using Tweetr and recommended it for the Apollo launch showcase, where it appears second on a list of applications developed using Adobe’s toolset.

Air has allowed Ballinger to add a bit of “eye-candy” to the application as well, and that has made a few people go “wow”, he says.

“I have got a huge amount of feedback from users and from what people are writing on their blogs about Tweetr,” Ballinger says.

“The real trick has been to add features and keep the interface really clean, without adding extra buttons or other distractions. My friends all use it and are all in the internet business so they are testing all the time and making a lot of great recommendations.”

The next major enhancement to “Tweetr 1.0” will be web-camera support. This will take a photo, upload it and then insert a short URL into the text message, linking the photo to the user’s message.

“It’s all very experimental, but it works so seamlessly that a user only has to click the ‘take photo button’ and Tweetr does the rest,” says Ballinger.

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Tags twitteradobe AIRApolloDevelopment IDJohn Ballinger

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