php|tek 2009 Recap – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Let's get this disclosure thing out of the way right off the bat.  I am attached to MTA and the php|architect crew in a number of ways.  First, I've recently become a tech editor for the magazine. I also give a couple classes. I was the lead on the php|tek unconference and MC'd a number of the nighttime events.  Finally, I'm working with Marco Tabini on Blue Parabola.  All in all, I'm not exactly an unbiased observer.

php|tek 2009 badgeInstead of my normal order of writing on the Good, Bad, then the Ugly, I'm going to flip them around and cover the negatives first.

First, the Ugly is the big (not blue) elephant in the room: Internet Access. It was miserable at best for most of the conference.  It's the hardest thing to get figured out – as organizer and php|architect publisher, Arbi Arzoumani describes – and the most likely thing to cause people to complain.  The most ironic part was people complaining about internet access via Twitter… but if you were on Twitter you had… uh… what?  I'm thinking that next year investing in some 3G->WAP hardware makes quite a bit of sense.

Next, the Bad is two fold:

  • First, we have the unconference schedule and this was two-fold too. First, the schedule was solidified on Tuesday morning and published (via Twitter) but I didn't think to print and post or hand out copies.  That led to confusion, bending of the space-time continuum and a few people not realizing what was going on.  Second, the uncon was scheduled after hours.  Although it made it easier to market against the main conference, we were competing against this thing called “dinner”.  Hard sell.  Both are my fault and I need to figure out how to resolve them for next time.  In the meantime, if you have unconference feedback, let us know on
  • Second, on the “Bad” front we have the pricing at the hotel. Sheesh.  The breakfast buffet was $18/plate and a cut of coffee (with free refills) was almost $4.  While there are lots of theories on why, I suspect it's quite simple: per diems.  When you're staying at a airport hotel, odds are that your employer is picking up the tab.  Since you're not paying, what do you care about the cost?  Well, when you are paying, you will care.

Finally, the Good. There are almost too many good things to talk about here, but I've chosen my top three:

  • The community is fantastic. People talk about how we have a great community and others don't believe it.  Well, this time I decided to document it.  I ambushed people in the hallways, in the rooms, and even after a drink or two to get their thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects.  You can watch all of the php|tek 2009 videos on the Blue Parabola blog.  You'll recognize many of the names, but not all… and everyone was a great sport and happy to talk.  I always say that the people sitting next to you at lunch might have built the language…
  • People like Elizabeth Naramore, Arbi Arzoumani, Marco Tabini and all the people they pull into things. As part of the Open Source community, we tend to solve problems ourselves.  But this doesn't stop at technology, it tends to permeate all parts of our lives.  At the Hackathon, Eli White pointed out that we had no food and suggested some ideas.  After a quick discussion up the chain (Arbi -> hotel staff), we had 15+ hot tasty pizzas delivered.  When we were trying to figure out dinner plans, people quickly stepped up to drive.  At any given time, when a problem came up, people stepped up to solve it… while this tends to be our nature, these three give us enough rope to hang ourselves be creative.
  • A sense of maturity.  I – and many others – have noticed a quiet change in the community. While there are sessions on Coding Standards and Best Practices, the presenters assume you know PHP.  While there are tips and tricks sessions on Subversion and even Git, no one is trying to convince you of the merits of Version Control.  We talk heavily about Object Oriented aspects, but there are only a few 101-level courses, we have topics on Better OO, Design Patterns, and good Model design.

Of course, while the topics and language matures, we don't:

'Pika Chu Talks' taken by Clint Thayer

Craft hour taken by Spooons

'Core Developer' taken by Marco Tabini

If you're looking for some other perspectives, check out the recaps from Wez Furlong, Chris Cornutt (enygma), and Eli White (EliWhite): Part 1 and Part 2.

Special thanks to Clint Thayer, Christian Flickinger and Marco Tabini for allowing me to use their photos.