Week before last I had the pleasure of attending the PHP Community Conference in Nashville (my old stomping grounds,) I saw several friends I hadn't seen in a while and had a blast but I also learned a lot. First to any of you who are going home a little ill, if it's my fault I'm very sorry, it seems that on the first day of the conference I started falling ill and I still think that now I have a sinus infection due to the building that the conference was held in but that's another matter. Now on to the good, I wanted to share some things I walked away with:
Telling Stories is teaching, but maybe more effective
The entire conference was based around the premise that instead of leading tutorials the speakers tell of their experience in a story like format. This worked really well, the content wasn't dry and repetitive and because of that it was easier to digest. It was also really interesting to hear about some of the things that at traditional conferences would only have been discussed in the hallway track (Such as what the hell happened to PHP 6 and unicode support).
Everyone has a story to tell
The more I listened to the speakers the more I wanted to hear other people talk about their own stories (sorry speakers but I've heard many of you before or read your blogs.) I managed to get some time with other people that weren't necessarily well known community members and certainly not speakers at this conference, the stories I heard from these people probably taught me as much, if not more, than the conference taught me. An interesting example was talking to several students from TN that were learning base Web Programming as a way of migrating their careers.
The changes in v2's of the various frameworks are major jumps
Matthew presented on ZF2 design patterns, Joël presented on Lithium, and Ryan Weaver ( a good friend of mine ) of course pimped Symfony 2 (unofficially) but each of these frameworks ( Lithium is based on Cake but is a major departure ) has taken leaps and bounds from their original release. What's even more interesting, besides syntax, licensing, and some external bundled library components, each of these libraries is starting to go almost the exact same way (maybe not Lithium as much because they are trying to get ahead of the curve).
Developers do not know how to ride mechanical bulls
To all of those who tried, you had a valiant attempt, but as a rule yeah.
The direction of the web is towards open content
There was one product that was shown off (a little bit anyway) at the conference which really happened to highlight an idea of what I've been thinking about a lot lately, content that is based around a user rather than a content provider. The application in question is Gimme Bar and I had a chance to sit down with Sean Coates to talk about it a bit, in talking with Sean I was introduced to standards like oEmbed (which is something I'm now working on @ work.) If you are interested in this topic, please check out http://www.alistapart.com/articles/orbital-content/ which is Cameron's Article on the idea behind Gimme Bar, also if you're interested in oEmbed I'm planning on writing a blog entry once I've built our implementation.
PHP has blown up everywhere
The job market for PHP is dry on developers everywhere, I found out about companies looking for developers throughout the company @ the conference. This is probably the best time in the lifetime of PHP to be a PHP Developer. Due to the migration to PHP from Java, for cost benefits and other reasons, as a PHP based developer we now seem to have our choice of where we want to work and provided it's not some crazy place (Flickr, Yahoo!, etc) there's not a crazy fight to get your foot in the door.
That Chayisms are awesome
I didn't really learn this here but until I actually got to hear Terry Chay read out Chayisms it didn't really hit home how awesome they really are. As an example here are some Chayisms:
- Terry Chay doesn't get stage fright. Stages get frightened of Terry Chay.
- Terry Chay doesn't bother hashing his password; his password is so perfect that the mere sight of it would kill you
- One ounce of Terry Chay contains seven pounds of awesome
And one I came up with :
- EC2 didn't come down, Terry Chay just needed it to process his photos.
Ehh that kind of sucked but if you come up with one please submit it and I'll see if I can get them added to http://www.phpdoc.info/chayism/
So the big thing I hope to share with you is the idea that Conferences are a great value, even with the high prices we see on some conferences (ZendCon, PHP|Tek, etc) but these costs are easily justifiable. As an example of what I've used to justify my costs upon returning from the conference, one change that I talked with Matthew Weier O'Phinney showed us an 18% performance increase across one of our work projects. 18% doesn't sound like much, specifically in our case it's only about 25ms, but we're already highly optimized (if you do the math our entire request is about 117ms and we saw runs as low as 91ms after this change, but that's 18% across many servers and the entire change only took me an hour.
Would I recommend PHP Community Conference
You better believe it, what you can learn from the people attending is almost as great as those that are presenting. Also the ticket was dirt cheap and Nashville is a fun city to visit, it's my impression that this will become a yearly conference and I honestly believe that you should make plans now to attend next year. I split my hotel and travel to Nashville with a fellow Atlanta PHP User Group member so I managed to get out of the entire experience at roughly around 600 bucks. If you want to go next year or you went this year please ping Ben Ramsey (@ramsey), Lisa Denlinger (@lisamusing) and Nick Sloan (@nickasloan) and let them know, I'm 100% sure that they enjoy feedback!