Midwest PHP 2016 In the Rearview

This weekend was the 2016 Midwest PHP conference in Minneapolis. This was my second year attending the conference.

One of the first things that I noticed was that there were a LOT more men in attendance than there were women. I wasn’t surprised, but I thought I would see more women there than I did.

I loved the fact that a regional conference was able to bring in people to speak who are “big names” in the php community. When I say “big names”, I mean people who are making a difference in the language … people who are making contributions and decisions to make the language even better. There was even an official PHP-FIG meeting in one of the time slots that anyone could attend … and I took advantage of it.

One of my favorite sessions was the opening keynote. The speaker was Kayla Daniels, and her topic was was about The Code Manifesto. A lot of the talk was about diversity in the community. I was able to relate to a lot of what she said. It made me feel less alone. I’m not the only person who deals with anxiety issues and imposter syndrome. The only thing I haven’t had to deal with is the threats and taunts online, thankfully. I think that living in a smaller community in the midwest and not being someone who is really visible online keeps me sheltered from that sort of thing. I guess I am grateful for that. My biggest takeaway from her talk was that everyone needs to stand up for other people when they see crappy things happening. If everyone did that, then maybe the crappy stuff would stop happening.

The second session that I went to was another one I was really looking forward to. It was a Laravel session by Joe Ferguson. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve seen that I’ve recently started learning Laravel. This session let me know that I’m doing things the right way so far. I also got some ideas on how to improve upon what I’ve been doing.

The last session of the day was another one that I had really been looking forward to … and I wasn’t disappointed. The topic was on estimation and the speaker was Jared Faris. I’ve been working as a developer since 2004, and I still hate coming up with estimates for projects. I took a lot of notes, and I’m planning on sharing things with my co-workers so that we can maybe improve our estimates. A lot of the time I tell my project manage that an estimate is a “guestimate”. I am now going to call them something else, thanks to this session. They’ll be SWAGs … scientific wild ass guesses. 😀

Day 2 started off learning about php 7 with Larry Garfield. With everything that I’ve been reading about php 7, I’m really excited about it. The session outlined a lot of the new stuff in this version. It has me tempted to update my VPS server so I can play around with. Apparently both WordPress and Laravel are supposed to work with it, and that’s what both of my sites are built on. I may pull the trigger on that some time this week, depending on how adventurous I feel and how things go at work. 😉

The second session of the day for me was the PHP-FIG meeting that I mentioned earlier. It was cool to be a part of that. 

The second to last session of the day was another one that I had been looking forward to. It was about the best practices for caching and the speaker was Eli White. I’ve been fighting with OPcache on our VPS servers at work … mostly invalidating the cache when changes are made to files or plugins are updated on WordPress sites. I was a little disappointed that he only touched on OPcache. The majority of his talk was about memcached, which is something that my boss has said that he’d like to look into implementing on our servers. I’m hoping some of the information I got from the session can help out with that.

The closing keynote was another good one. The topic was about being a professional developer and the speaker was Cal Evans. He is definitely an entertaining and passionate speaker. My biggest takeaway from his talk is that being a professional developer isn’t about getting paid. It’s a mindset. And imagine my surprise when I saw a NASCAR pit stop on one of the slides in his talk. He used it to explain being a team player. I think my favorite part of his talk was when he equated a NASCAR pit stop to a 12 second sprint (in agile development). Two of my worlds colliding. 😀

I learned a lot. I got a bunch of swag. And I can’t wait until next year’s conference.

My only regret is that I didn’t talk to more people. I have social anxiety issues, so I tend to either hide on the sidelines or in my hotel room. That makes it kind of hard to meet people. LOL

I did force myself to go to the social hour on Friday …

I told myself that I’d stay for at least one beer. I wasn’t about to pay $7 for a bottle of beer, but I did grab some appetizers, found an empty table, and sat down. One of the conference organizers (Jonathan Sundquist) saw me and came over to talk. I was surprised that he remembered me from last year. He tried to get me to talk to people. I did end up talking to one of the speakers who sat at the table, and 2 guys joined the table after hearing I was from Fargo … they were from Moorhead.

Jonathan talked to me again before the sessions started on Saturday. He said that 2 of the speakers, Kayla Daniels and Samantha Quiñones, wanted to talk to me. Apparently they had seen my tweet about hiding in the corner and wanted to get me out of it (or something like that). He did introduce us, but both Kayla and Samantha were busy at the time and weren’t able to chat. Unfortunately I didn’t get another chance to talk to them, but I have connected with them on Twitter.

I need to figure out how to be more comfortable going up to people that I don’t know and introducing myself. Good thing I have a year to practice before the 2017 Midwest PHP conference. 😀