This is part of my coverage of ZendCon07. If you'd like to read the entire coverage, it is available here: Day 0 – Tutorials, Day 1 – Part 1, Day 1 – Part 2, Day 2, and Day 3. In addition, my presentation from Day 1 is available here. This post will probably be updated once pictures are available from Flickr.
The opening keynote this morning was "Stay Free! How Open Source Affects Culture" from Corey Doctorow… without goggles and cape. His thesis revolved around the idea that geeks are remaking the world and that copying/sharing information is never going to be more difficult than it is now. He used numerous examples of how some information – such as the DVD key – seems like a good idea to protect but then you have to protect a random number… which supposedly is copyrighted/trade secret… but it's still a random number. The entire point of his presentation was that it's kind of odd/silly that something that you purchased – that you own – is limiting your abilities and keeping secrets from you. Even worse is the concept that your equipment and software is sharing information on you at the same time… It was a solid presentation but probably raised more questions than it answered.
The next session was on "The Fragmented PHP Development Tools Market" from Yossi Leon. The first oddity is that he asked us to leave all questions for the end… sort of odd for the conference. Then he dove into the reasons on why an organization needs standardization and the usefulness of tools in this regard. He identified one of my pet peeves*. And then he dove into showing off some of the shiny toys hiding within Zend Studio for Eclipse (formerly called Neon). I've been in the beta since May, but due to NDA-type considerations, the documentation and tutorials have been pretty light. This was the first public demo… and I've still been under utilizing it.
Pet Peeve #28: When you're paying developers 60, 70, 80k/year… why do you complain about buying a $500 tool? If the tools makes them 1% more effective, you've just gained 600, 700, or $800 in value. If the tool works and helps, buy it. Don't get cheap… and if you require all your tools to be Open Source, I think you're missing out.
The next and final regular session was "API Design in PHP" from David Sklar of Ning. This was one of the more interesting as he's been in the thick of it for quite a while and there are people actively using the Ning API. He identified a few things that they've screwed up and a few things that they've learned as a result. Some of it are little things like clearly segmenting/grouping what is system-generated (and probably static) and what can be edited by the user. Using mini-namespacing (via prefixes) was one way he identified and – from what I have seen – almost no one is doing it so far in many Open Source projects and any proprietary project that I've seen.
The final keynote of the entire conference was from the CEO of Kiva, Premel Shah. Kiva is a service focused at providing micro-loans – usually a few hundred dollars – to business people and entrepreneurs in the developing world. This allows the entrepreneurs to bypass their often corrupt, always expensive banking/credit system and actually put their earnings to productive use. It's an amazing concept and offers huge potential to help people *without* giving handouts, instead it focuses on empowering people and getting difficulties out of their way. To date, they have about $8-10M in holdings but they've found an interesting pattern… their lenders often don't withdraw the funds after repayment. So $25 to fund a loan can be used over and over again as the person repays the loan. Throw in a bit of growth and they're looking at potentially $100M within the next five years. Staggering.
Some closing thoughts and opinions will be posted tomorrow…