It’s been a while since I’ve done a conference roundup and even when I did them, I don’t think I posted them here. So, let’s correct both oversights at once and do a php|tek 09 roundup.
Unlike other roundups, I’m not going to describe in detail all the cool sessions I attended. In all honestly, I only attended 2 sessions start to finish, and they were both mine. I did manage to slip into Sara Golemon’s PHP 5.3:Hot or Not session and really enjoyed it. So of the sessions I wanted to go to but didn’t get to, which ones would I have attended? All of them! The schedule was packed with topics I wanted to learn more about. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked on some other things and didn’t get as much session time as I would have liked.
The Community Conference
php|tek has a well deserved reputation of being “the community conference”. Unlike other conferences I attend, php|tek has a homey feeling to it. It may be the proximity of all my friends, it may be the “low-pressure” atmosphere but I come away from tek physically exhausted while mentally invigorated and inspired. If you are not actively involved in PHP in one way or another, that’s ok, you are welcome at php|tek anyhow but expect to be propositioned by one of the several groups there looking for volunteers.
This year php|tek was a little different for me, I actually attended two of the behind the scenes meetings. The first one I attended was on Tuesday, the second half of the PHP Developers Meeting. This was the proverbial “watching the sausage being made”. While it did not have the drama of a good old-fashioned internals flame war, it was very interesting to see the personalities interact. I did learn a little about what is coming post-PHP 5.3. More than that though, I learned more about the people involved in creating the language I make my living on. That was worth the entire week for me.
On Wednesday, I was invited to attend a new PHP standards working group. Representatives from most of the major PHP frameworks all came together to start finding common ground when it comes to coding standards. Again, while the topic is of interest to me, the real value was in watching the process and learning more about the people involved in these projects. At the end of the meeting, since I did not represent a framework, I was voted in as the “at-large community representative”. I consider it an honor to be working on this group and hope that I can contribute in a meaningful way.
The nightly events at tek are decidedly low key. This year we had an open bar both nights with the first night’s entertainment being peka kucha talks and the second night being “retro gaming night”. Peka kucha (Pikachu) was as fun as ever with Jeff Jones again walking off with the grand prize (a handshake this time) for his “LOLCode” talk. Retro gaming night was full of Twister, Clue and Connect Four. (The lovely and talented Kathy beat me 5 out of 6 games before I realized that I was drinking and she wasn’t.) These events prove that you don’t have to have shiny to amuse and engage the PHP community, you just have to have liquor. (One hour open bar seems to be the minimum but honestly, I’d shoot for 2 next year.)
That was, of course, said in jest. The PHP community is a fun loving bunch and welcome all comers to these events just to have fun. the fact that php|tek doesn’t go out of it’s way to have extravagant parties but spends it’s budget where it knows it will get the biggest bang is a tribute to the genius of the crew behind the conference.
As with every PHP conference I’ve ever attended, the most interesting discussions take place between sessions or with people just hanging out. If you are attending a PHP conference in the near future, I strongly urge you to find at least one slot where the sessions aren’t that interesting and just sit in the common area. You never know who you might run into or the discussions you might be a part of.
Old Friends and New
php|tek offered me an opportunity to spend time with old friends and make new ones. I won’t try and list names here because I would invariable leave someone out. The point is though that the PHP community is widely distributed. it is only at these events that we get to put faces with the names. We get to sit down and really spend some quality time with each other. To me, that’s invaluable.
And so, I close the book on another awesome PHP conference. Looking back, tek09 wasn’t great because of the sessions, it wasn’t great because of what I learned and it wasn’t great because I got to see all my friends. It was great because it had all three. (it was extra-special though because it was the first time that the lovely and Talented Kathy was able to attend a PHP conference with me.)
Until next time,