ZendCon 2010 Recap

This was my sixth ZendCon and I've lost count of how many conferences overall. Regardless, this is one of the unique conferences in the PHP community as it's a blend of business and Open Source. Sometimes that works beautifully, sometimes not so much..

The Good

First, the content was excellent. In past years, I've always heard of a few oddbad “what was he thinking” sessions. This time, they either weren't there or didn't cause a ripple. Overall, the content was solid, interesting, and well-supported. A couple people – Stefan Priebsch and Elizabeth Naramore – stood out as also having an engaged audience that actively participated. If you're looking for slides or information, check out ZendCon 2010 on Joind.in for all the details.

I had a regular conference session and was part of the closing keynote panel. My session – Flex + Flickr = Fleckr – went pretty smoothly but it was an odd fit since it was previously structured to be a 2-3 hour tutorial. Regardless, I have gotten positive feedback. The closing panel was “The ROI of Community Involvement.” The session seemed to generate some buzz and discussion, I hope it sparks things for people going forward.

The venue – the Santa Clara Convention Center – itself is good. Most of the presentation rooms are in a single hallway off a single central area. It makes shopping around for interesting sessions quite simple. Also, the Convention Center staff – especially the tech guys – were helpful and solving issues before they became problems.

Dries Buyart of Drupal gave the opening keynote on the second day. While it was a pretty hostile crowd – few appreciate Drupal in our community – he seemed to get a warm welcome. His whole discussion revolved around how they've grown the Drupal community, how the two communities can interact, and how both sides can benefit. I've been a huge backer of this for quite a while, so I'm all for it.

The Bad

I was looking forward to the Drupal tutorial session but that was canceled at the last moment without a replacement.

Jonathan Wage of OpenSky was supposed to present on both the Doctrine Project as a whole and also Doctrine & MongoDB. Unfortunately, due to some screwy flights and an unpredictable delay, he missed his first session. He managed to squeeze it into one of the Unconference sessions. Further, due to another screwy flight schedule he had to fly out before his second session. I have no clue how this happened, but it was disappointing to me and I wasn't even the presenter! I hope to catch some of his sessions soon.. if only there was another conference coming (shameless plug).

The Ugly

I had a number of negative experiences at ZendCon this time around. Fortunately, none of them were general conference gripes and none were initiated by Zend. In fact, a few people at Zend – like Matthew Weier O'Phinney, Andrea Ginsberg, and Eldad Maniv – went out of their way to resolve them.

The Community Booth was embarassing. It was an idea I pitched Zend and S&S on back in June/July. Unfortunately, despite the support of Zenders such as Andrea and Matthew, there were some “logistical” issues that only made the booth a reality on Tuesday morning.. hours before the Expo hall opened. The community people in attendance did what they could, but most – like myself – were already committed to other things. Unfortunately, the “booth” ended up being an empty space at the end of a row. Like I said.. embarassing.

In summary..

Overall, ZendCon had a different vibe this year. There are a variety of reasons why this could be. It was my first year in a while where I wasn't on staff and in charge of something. Also, since a number of partners and collaborators were in attendance, I got pulled into meetings regularly. Finally, there were a number of conference regulars and familiar faces that weren't around this time.

Regardless, it was an opportunity to meet quite a few new people and catch up with old friends and colleagues. Some of the most unexpected people are the best to chat with over coffee or a beer. Outside of the big ideas that get thrown around, the random conversations are the best part. The PHP community is like that family reunion with your weird uncle.. but everyone is your weird uncle.

Disclosure: I have personally been involved in ZendCon to a variety of degrees over the years ranging from attendee to speaker to staff. This time around, I helped score proposals and worked in support of Cal Evans of Blue Parabola who was in charge of much of the content scheduling.