I just arrived at Techcrunch40 as AOL prepares to launch a brand new Flex application our team has been working on for the past few months (though it seems like years). Our group is releasing an application called Bluestring that allow users upload, share, and make “creations”. Bluestring also offers’s users the ability to pull assets from other online services into their creations without actually moving the files into their Bluestring account. We reference the files from aggregated sources and save that to the RSS that is feeding our embedded Flash player.
Yep, that is me 🙂
Bluestring represents the second enterprise level Flex application launched by our team in the last year. The reason I mention Enterprise is because there are a lot of really cool Flex applications out there, but Bluestring is built, and tested to withstand time and traffic of millions of users. You don’t need an AOL account to sign up for Bluestring, probably for the first time you can use whatever email account you already have to register. Though Bluestring is a beta, its still offers robust file management and sharing capabilities. This is because we built Bluestring is built entirely upon the Xdrive Open API which offers a lot of different ways to share. This also means that any media file you upload to your Xdrive account will show up in Bluestring, and vice versa.
The AOL Techcrunch40 Booth.
Your Bluestring files and creations can be shared privately, publicly, or even as a collaborate show with rostered list of users. Users can contribute to a “String It” creation from their own accounts and then pass that creation to a friend to add his/her own media. People editing the show can rearrange and even delete other peoples content, but it never wipes it from that persons account. Items within shows are referenced back to either the aggregated sources or to other Bluestring accounts.
Our team presenting Bluestring to the Techcrunch audience.
I am very proud of this product, it was certainly a lot of Flex coding by both myself and Larry (the other Flex dude working for AOL in Beverly Hills with me). Something nice about Bluestring is that the graphics used were almost entirely vector graphics in a single Flash 9 library. This gives Bluestring the appearance of not appearing like every other Flex application on the market (with the exception of Picnik, which I adore). The graphics were mostly imported as PNG files saved from Photoshop while others were imported from Illustrator (simple copy/paste). All the images were then converted to Flash vector graphics and given instance names within the library. The CSS file and a shared assets class file referenced the instance names within the SWF.
We also used about 15 different Flex modules using the new Flex <mx:Module> tag introduced in Flex 2.01. Each module gets loaded as the user navigates through the major views. Modules really slimmed down the size of the application and decreased the initial load time. However, it was a bit challenging at first devising a method of using modules with Cairngorm, but I think we have a really proven method that I might talk about in future posts. Most of the text within Bluestring resides in a single external xml file that can eventually be localized into different languages. The XML file is loaded at runtime before any of the graphics libraries or modules are loaded, making sure the text is ready before we load any views that bind to the text in the model.
I will be working to post some more code samples and components that we use for Bluestring in upcoming posts as time permits. We also have some new items coming down the pipe for AIR. For those of you interested, please check our the presentation Larry and I will be giving at the upcoming FITC Hollywood called Concepts on AIR.
For those of you at the last 360Flex conference, you now know what the Bluestring lanyards around your necks means. Due to some legal reasons and duct tape, we were unable to talk about Bluestring when we were at 360Flex. Maybe next year when 360Flex comes to Los Angeles???? we can talk about other products we are working on :).