Matthew J. Kellett

Website Architect and Developer

PHPNW 2011 Conference Review

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This weekend (8th / 9th October 2011) I had the pleasure of attending PHPNWs 4th annual conference as both a delegate and a speaker, this article is a review of this awesome event (not biased at all wink).

Friday evening started off with the usual pre-conference speakers meal and social event. Despite not being able to attend the meal and the main social I did meet up with a few fellow delegates in the hotel upon my arrival. I hear the meal was phenominal and the social even better, wish I could have made it sad

This being said, Saturday soon arrived and come 8am people were starting to arrive to register for the conference and I have to say how impressed I was that so many people (not sure of the exact numbers) managed to register their presence before the keynote session started at 9:30 (credit to all those helping out).

The Venue

This years conference had moved from Manchester Conference Centre to the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly hotel (previously known as the Ramada Manchester Picadilly) due to the ever growing interest for the conference.

Overall, this was a good move because as it provded the space necessary for all three tracks (a couple of the rooms could have been bigger though), the main arena where the sponsors set up shop and even the ability to set up an Unconference track (click here if you don't know what an unconference is).

There were a couple of downsides however:

  • As expected, the wifi was a little flaky due to the sheer number of people trying to use it
  • The conference was split up over three floors of the hotel which meant getting to the various sessions on time was a little tricky.

But anyway, on to the sessions that I attended.

Day One - The Sessions

The morning sessions

Day one started off with a keynote entitled "How to Stand on the Shoulders of Giants" by Ian Barber. This was an inspirational keynote from the perspective that all of the great people started off with much smaller intentions to solve an issue they were either having at the time which then turned out to be massively popular. Is this the way to approach our own projects? Quite possibly cool

After the keynote I decided to attend the unconference sessions rather than attend the main tracks (seen a few of the talks before and have no interest in Zend). These turned out to be very good sessions and covered a wide range of topics including "Why you should be using and contributing to OpenStreetMap and not GoogleMaps" by Derick Rethans, "Conference Speaking 101" with Stefan Koopmanschap and "join in with Joind.in" by Lorna Mitchell.

Needless to say I came out of them contemplating the possiblities of community based map data, deciding whether to alter my slides for my presentation and whether to take on another project by helping out with Joind.in.

Next up was Dericks talk on "PHP Extensions, why and what?" and after getting to the session a couple of minutes late (sorry Derick sad) the session provided me with some very useful information on how extensions work and how they can be useful for replacing repetitive code for things like image manipulation. Actually, I couldn't help thinking that if I had been given the opportunity to learn some of this stuff whilst I was at Uni, some of the decisions made throughout my career might have been completely different.

The afternoon sessions

Lunch then ensued by way of a buffet and many conversations about the morning sessions. After filling up on extremly tasty morsels I took a look at the Unconference again, it was a tough decision between this and Acceptance & Integration Testing with Behat. The Unconference sessions covered off dealing with difficult people and dealing with Project Managers (make of that what you will) as well as a great discussion on how to improve membership and offerings for PHP Women. It was good to see that some of the courses I have attended at work covered off some of the topics covered during these sessions (nothing quite like the sensation of re-enforcement).

The next session I attended was "Estimation - or How to Dig your own Grave" by Rowan Merewood which suffered from some technical difficulties. This being said Rowan somehow managed to adapt his delivery of the presentation in a very professional and engaging manner (great job). Again I was glad to see some of the methodologies I know of and use being raised and discussed cool

The final session of the day saw me attending Laura Beth Denkers presentation about testing entitled "Are Your Tests Really Helping?". Laura came out with one of the best quotes I have heard about testing in a long time basically stating that integration testing means you are paranoid. Whilst I might not completly agree with this view point, I can see how and why this can be the case.

One thing mentioned did baffle me a little though ... "unit tests should not use any kind of logic at all". If anyone can explain how this can actually be achieved without using hundreds of test methods for different outcomes or tests which consist of hundreds of lines of code I would be forever grateful.

End of day one

After the session ended it was time for a bite to eat and a few drinks to discuss the days activities. It was at this point I decided to update and tweak my slide deck to remove the live demonstration that I had planned (more of this later though). After the tweaking had been completed I headed back downstairs to the social and ended up having some amazing discussions which finished off a great day and this is what conferences are all about big grin

PHPNW 2011 Conference Review Day 2

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