PHP, Conferences

It's been a long week, but, as is usual for ZendCon, it was worth it.

Short version:

If you're looking for the slides from my Best Practices for Sending Mail from PHP talk, they are available here.

Highlights: Microsoft announces their first PHP extension (for talking to SQL Server) and go-live for their FastCGI support, Terry Chay on Ogres, new Trading cards and a couple of really nice drinks courtesy of Christian Flickinger and Curt Zirzow. Oh, and Joel Spolsky on something that had nothing to do with PHP, but was good fun all the same.

Things I'd rather forget: the Yahoo disco with obnoxiously loud and crass comedian and crappy beverages--your choice of Bud or Bud Light (which ran out), mediocre (at best) lunch offerings.

Long version:

I got in on Sunday at around noon, and had 3 hours to kill before I could check into my room. That was mildly irritating, because it meant hanging around in a "well travelled" state--it would have been nice to have had a shower a little sooner. I met up with some familiar and some not so familiar faces in the sports bar, and later over dinner. I persuaded Sara to procure a 4-pack of Red Bull for me (BTW, if anyone from Red Bull is reading this and is considering people for sponsorship deals, I'm an extreme programmer :-), and we planned some finishing touches for our tutorial session.

The Extending PHP tutorial was the next day; one full day of internals hackery featuring Marcus, Sara and myself. Usually these sessions attract 20-30 people, of which maybe 2-5 people admit to having developed in C or written their own extension. This particular session had 40-50 people at the start and a good 30+ had done C or extension development. I forgot to ask how many of those people work for Yahoo, but I'm guessing that a significant portion did. The turnout and qualifications of the attendees made for a very good session; there were good questions at the right places.

The next day I went to Terry Chays talk on Ogres. He also mentioned that simplicity is the new complexity and how complex is the new simple. I wasn't quite sold on the analogy, which got confusing when he used the word simple on a later slide (did that really mean complex? ;-) It was an entertaining talk, and I think I got the gist of what he was trying to say, which, simplified (complexified!?), is something along the lines of: you can build elegantly complex systems from simple building blocks, and those systems will have a comparatively low complexity compared to over-engineered systems. You could also say KISS, and remember the Pareto principle.

Later that day I gave my Mail talk to approximately 50 people in the big room used for the keynotes, which had a camera at the back and some big bright spotlights shining on the podium to illuminate the speaker. If you've ever been on that side of the room before, you'll know that those lights make things difficult because you can't see anything but silhouettes beyond the second row, and that makes it quite hard to read the body language of your audience for cues such as sleeping, nodding off, laptop use and actually looking at you. Despite this, I think the session went quite well, with good questions being asked throughout.

I don't really remember exactly what I did on Wednesday, aside from work, but recall helping Elizabeth Marie Smith with a build issue, Joe Stagners session on PHP-and-Windows, Lauras best-practices talk and sitting in on a Silverlight un-conference session.

I was in a meeting all day Thursday, so I missed the conference sessions, and saying goodbye to the folks at the conference. I was up at 3:30am the next morning to make sure that I made it to the airport for my flight home, touching down later that evening, just in time for the sunset.

It was great to have some more "face time" with people that I don't see too often, or that I've been corresponding with over email. I've been working in a fixer/advisor capacity towards a couple of PHP related things over the last few months, and this was an excellent opportunity to follow up on those things.

A lot of hours were spent talking, and I greatly value the conversation and the company. It might sound like these conferences are a week-long party, but they're hard work because the intensity level is so high. A typical day has me up around 6-7am and down for breakfast in under an hour, and then the whole day is spent talking or listening to people talking up until around 2am. I am by nature a fairly quiet person, so I find these events especially taxing, but it's worth it.

So thanks to everyone that shared their time with me at the conference, and I hope to see you next time!

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