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Approximately 10 days ago, I finished the 2010 CodeWorks Tour. This time around with 4 speakers hitting 5 cities, it was smaller, more compact, and generally a litte more intimate of an experience. Due to the odd nature of this one, I'm going to skip my usual "Good, Bad, Ugly" conference review format and go straight to some highs & lows.
Since most of our attendees were local to each venue, we opted out of standard hotels. They're only cost-effective if you have 100+ people staying there. Instead, we looked at universities and theaters. In Seattle and Orlando, we were at the Northwest Film Forum and the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre respectively. Both we set up for a close, intimate setup where we could actually see everyone. It's fun to speak when most of the audience is within 50 feet and you don't need a microphone. In Austin and Baltimore, we were at St Edwards Ragsdale Center and Johns Hopkins' Charles Commons respectively. Both were standard university setups which meant they were great on tech but a little impersonal and seemed distant at times.
But the best venue by far was Portland's Mission Pub & Theatre. It had lots of space but a very 'pub-feel' that made it relaxed and friendly. They catered lunch and even opened the bar at that point. Regardless, all the venues had great helpful staffs and made the experience easy and mostly painless.
Not surprisingly, doing the same presentation five times over ten days gives you the ability to tweak, add, cut, and generally get creative. While my presentations didn't change significantly, I think the little tweaks added up to something better at each step.
For my first presentation - Unit Testing Strategies - Austin ended up being the oddest in that I finished my slides in about 2/3 of the regular time but I had the ability to go and explore some real tests. On the flipside, I thought the disucusssion that went along with it - assisted by people like Travis Swicegood - added quite a bit. On a positive note, many people weren't familiar with the concept of "Broken Window Theory" (or "Code Rot") and a number of people thanked me for applying some psychology to software development teams.
For my second presentation - A Hundred Thousand Users, now what? - still felt a little rough when we started in Seattle. After some tweaking and tuning, it was in good shape by Portland, and I could do it in my sleep by Baltimore. I don't feel like there was a particular standout presentation here, but the feedback has been positive.
All of our slides are available on the php|architect CodeWorks 2010 page.
Across the board, the attendees were great. The vast majority hadn't been to a PHP conference and most weren't connected with the larger community but - other than a few snarky comments - it appeared that most people enjoyed themselves, learned something, and were inspired. We've gotten a number of tweets & emails along the lines of "my wife is tired of me talking about this stuff.." Sorry for causing the marital strife guys. ;)
When we set out on planning CodeWorks, I reached out to the User Groups in each city. Not surprisingly, as my current/previous groups, Josh Butts of Austin PHP and Chris Stone of Baltimore PHP (backed up by Shaun Farrell of DCPHP) were the most responsive. Each - along with David Rogers of Orlando PHP - arranged a happy hour where all of us could socialize after the day. But the standout User Group was PDX PHP led by Sam Keen. Not only did he organize a happy hour but he found a local company willing to sponsor the evening and everyone was able to hang out for free.
I couldn't properly cover CodeWorks if I didn't discuss this one. Just before our trip, the new standards for the backscatter and/or "enhanced pat downs" came out. During the first week, the video of the screaming 3 year old was released and it went downhill from there. During Marco's OOP talk in Baltimore, I tweeted this:
And accidentally hijacked the #cwx tag for a few hours. Regardless, of all the places we traveled, only Baltimore Washington International (BWI) had them in use. We all OPTed OUT and were shouted at, unceremoniously molested, and our gear was left laying in the open. And apparently, we may have been added to a "Domestic Extremists List."
By my standards, CodeWorks 2010 was a success. By having a smaller team than last year, it was simpler and easier, but more importantly, the single-track nature kept everything focused, moving, and made sure everyone could participate together. On the community side, it was great putting some faces with names and getting to know some of the local user groups. I've made it part of my goal to connect with the groups, connect the groups to each other, and support them however we can.
After all, I can honestly say the community is one of the best and most powerful things about PHP.
And yes.. we are talking about CodeWorks 2011.. if you know a city we should visit, drop me a note and make your case.