Looking back on PHPNW2012

Nearly a week has passed since PHPNW12, and I’m pleased to find that the the good feeling is still with me. PHPNW12 was the first developer conference I’ve ever attended, and it was an awesome experience. I’m very grateful to everyone who made it so cool, from the organisers and volunteers to the interesting speakers and the friendly crowd.


On Friday I attended a Zend Framework tutorial day with @akrabat and @EvanDotPro. Those guys managed to cram a massive amount  into a few hours, and although I lost a lot of it in the deluge of information over the next two days, I came away with a real desire to get to grips with ZF2. As well as thanking Evan and Rob for the time they gave us, I need to thank my employer who covered the cost of the day.

Tutorial day
With @monkeyphp at PHPNW12 tutorial day (image by akrabat)

Friday night was the hackathon event, where a load of developers gathered with plentiful pizza and beers to hack, drink and be merry. The evening was slightly marred by the abysmal performance of the hotel WiFi, but it was still a fun social event that made the following morning slightly more challenging.


Saturday was the first real day of the conference. It opened in style with an entertaining and thought provoking keynote by @ade_oshineye about crafting APIs to your users, even when those users are other developers (who are people too) or even your future self.

The other highlights of the first day for me were @ianbarber‘s firehose talk, a lot of which went way over my head, and @proofek‘s code reviews talk.

Learning about the challenges that developers face when creating high demand firehoses like Twitter was really interesting, and has definitely made me look more kindly on the occasional drop in service. Although I don’t think that I will face these challenges myself anytime soon, a couple of pieces of software were mentioned that I think will be useful in the near future.

Conducting effective code reviews was one of the talks I really wanted to see when it was announced, and Sebastian didn’t disappoint. My understanding of the code review process is now much deeper, and I have a stronger grasp of the benefits; not just as a developer, but in a way that can be put to non technical management. I think the most important thing was the emphasis on soft skills. Developers are often passionate people, and so helping your reviewees stay detached from your critique of their code is an extremely important part of maintaining a friendly working environment.

The Saturday night was another social event, this time with free beer courtesy of the PHPNW team, and then more beer courtesy of Engine Yard. A special mention has to be given to the burrito bar across the road, which does a mean burrito, and to @mackstar for mentioning it so many times that we just had to go and try it.


For me, the highlights of Sunday were @harrieverveer‘s talk on code smells and @DragonBe‘s closing keynote on open source and community.

Harrie’s talk covered a lot of ground that developers should already be familiar with, such as considering the complexity of classes and methods and SOLID. Despite it’s familiarity this was the talk that stayed with me the longest, and definitely made me think more as I wrote code this week. It’s well worth checking out his slides, and I’m looking forward to watching it again when the recordings are released.

The closing keynote felt like it was targeted more at management than developers, although it did a good job of extolling open source and interactions within the PHP community for business. This is obviously a theme that Michelangelo feels very strongly about, and he clearly has no problem putting his money where his mouth is, as his company picked up the entire pizza tab from the Friday night social. It certainly had an impression on me, prompting me to resurrect this blog and really consider how I can interact more with the community that I depend on for my continued employment.

After all

Overall PHPNW12 was a brilliant experience, and one that I fully intend to repeat next year. The organisers clearly know what makes a good conference, the caliber of the speakers was excellent, and the whole thing left me feeling good about my profession. I have already recommended next year to all of the team at work, and will continue to promote it to anyone who cares to listen until I’m heading along the M62, ticket in hand.

For anyone interested, the slides from the talks are available on joind.in: https://joind.in/event/view/986, and the conference website can be found at http://conference.phpnw.org.uk/phpnw12

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