Disclosure: Although I am a shameless promoter of the DCPHP Community, my only formal role is one of the three moderators on the mailing list. Other than being a member of the group, I have no title, investment, or financial/legal ties to any of the groups involved. I just believe firmly that success for the conference and the community means bigger success for the community… myself included on both sides of that equation.
This was the first conference I attended where I was fully engaged in Twitter to track what else was going on. I witnessed some of it while at ZendCon last fall and could watch it remotely during SXSW in March and php|tek a few weeks ago, but being in the center of the storm is quite a bit different. This group IM tool becomes a back channel for what is going on. Yes, IRC can do all of the same things while simultaneously not letting everyone listen in on it, but I think that is the biggest strength. There were many times throughout the conference that I wondered how the other sessions were going or what people were doing and seeing elsewhere. Twitter served as a simple way to track those things, even just passively via my phone. The barrier to entry for Twitter vs IRC is tiny. Add onto this that Ben Ramsey was able to put out a major SOS via Twitter the night before the conference and okay… I'm still convinced of its value. For a full list of Twitterers at DCPHP, see below.
Unlike the last DCPHP Conference, all of the rooms were on one floor with a common hallway. The power of this one is often overlooked and – as I've noted before – the real power and value of a (un)conference isn't necessarily in the sessions. It's in those in between times. It's when you're sitting with that guy working to solve the same problem as you. It's when you're standing next to the woman that's the great designer you've been seeking. It's when you can reach out to the guy you had drinks with because he wrote that Open Source project. It's when you see other smart people doing new and creative things with tools… or they see you doing the same. It's when you're traveling in a foreign land – like Quebec, San Francisco, or Iowa – and realize that you know a few guys to call up for dinner. And yes, all of those have happened to me. If you want to meet and learn from smart people, you have to go where they are.
That said, I think the biggest problem with DCPHP this time around had nothing to do with the execution of the conference itself. It was in the build up. To be painfully honest, the organization(s) that manage and execute the conference need to figure out the marketing and promotion. There are literally hundreds of PHP'ers up and down the East Coast that simply didn't know it was happening. There needs to be a coordinated effort to get the word out, to keep people up to date, and convince them to come. The price of the conference could serve as a limiting factor, but for people from North Carolina to New York, there's not going to be a cheaper option… especially not on this coast. As much as I love going to ZendCon each year, travel + hotel + meals + conference pass + whatever = a large number at the end of the day. DCPHP ends up being a fraction of that and since it's in the city, it's a short trip to everything that makes DC fun.
PHP Twits in Attendance: Eli White of Digg, Tony Bibbs & Michael Tutty of the State of Iowa, Barry Austin of Interactive Strategies, Wez Furlong of Message Systems, Joe LeBlanc of Joomla fame, Mike Lively of Selling Source, Ben Ramsey of Schematic, John Croston of L-3 Communications, Tim May of ScienceLogic, Brandon Savage of DCPHP, Bob & Juliana Neelbaur of Staffmagnet, Chris Shiflett of OmniTI, and me (caseysoftware) of course! Whew.