Pragmatism in the real world

ZendCon 08

I’m now back from ZendCon which was the most intense conference I’ve ever been too. I arrived late Saturday evening and after dropping off the stuff at my hotel, I walked the mile or so to the conference hotel to meet up with some #phpc people. I didn’t stay in the Hyatt as it was too expensive for me. The walk took a little longer than I expected as I kept walking the wrong way, but I eventually worked out where I was going and it ended up being quite easy in the end. $8 for a beer at the Hyatt was a bit steep though!

On Sunday I met up with Lorna from IBuildings for breakfast and then we headed to the conference hotel to meet up with lots of people. We split into two groups with Derick, Cal, Marcus and myself heading to Napa for wine tasting and purchasing. The others headed to the mall and a theme park. Napa is the other side of San Francisco and it took a couple of hours to get there. I really enjoyed the day – especially seeing the wine cellars. We went to a Mexican restaurant on Sunday evening for food and beer.

Mike and Matthew

Monday was tutorial day and after registration I header for Matthew Weier O’Phinney and Mike Naberezny’s Best Practices tutorial. This talk covered a lot of ground about stuff I mostly knew, but I picked up some hints and tips that I’ll see if we can add into our workflow back in the office. After lunch, I went to Sebastian Bergmann’s Quality Assurance tutorial. Sebastian is the author of PHPUnit and he showed off some of the new stuff in version 3.3 which he released just prior to the talk. Obviously, I immediately upgraded that day!

Zend held a party for ZCEers in the evening which was great fun. They had pizza and alcohol – what more could you want?! After the party, a group of us headed out to hit some bars. I couldn’t tell you where we went as someone else drove! We went to a couple of different bars. In the first one, a band was playing and I borrowed Zack’s SB-600 flashgun which is awesome. I have so got to get myself one of those. We then moved on to another bar where much pool was played.

Tuesday was the first day of the conference proper and was the start of an intense couple of days. Breakfast was provided from 7:30 with the first keynote starting at 8:30. The keynote, given by Harold and Andi of Zend, covered what Zend was doing in PHP including announcing a partnership with Adobe and a new version of Zend Studio. It was quite a marketing talk and so didn’t seem aimed at me and I wasn’t really paying that much attention. We then started the talks where I started learning stuff :) Jay Pipes of MySQL talked about SQL tuning which was very informative and I have notes to go through some of our queries and fix them! I then went to Juliette’s Uncon discussion about women in IT which was interesting. I firmly believe that we’ll see more women in IT when mothers start influencing their daughters in the same way that we now have many women in medicine, but didn’t 30 years ago. It’s quite depressing hearing about the way some women are treated in their workplace though. I’d hit the roof if such behaviour was happening in my office…

I stayed in the Uncon with Jason’s Zend Framework modules talk. It was interesting to see how he went about creating a distributable module for ZF as this is an area that is not well covered. I think that there’s much work to do there before we see many ZF modules though. His thoughts on Doctrine were also interesting and I should check it out at some point. Back into the main sessions, I went to Eli White’s “Knight Rider” talk. This was a funny talk as he was playing Knight Rider clips from the 80s whilst talking about tools to help with software development. I didn’t get much from this talk as it was too high level for me.

I then headed over for some C-fu from Sara Golemon who talked about extension writing. Although beset with technical difficulties, I learnt quite a bit in this session. It surprised me that extension writing didn’t seem that hard. The final session for the day for me was Matthew’s talk on Zend_Form and Dojo. I’ve been heads down in editing and work recently so haven’t had a chance to look at the new Dojo stuff, so this was a good opportunity to catch up. Matthew’s work is really impressive as he’s abstracted it all away into a set of components that just work. This is especially noticeable in the form components.

After the last talk, there was drinks and snacks in the exhibition hall. I had a walk around and collected two cuddly monkeys for the kids from Remy :) I then went to dinner (at another Mexican) with the guys and gals on the ZF Certification team. This was a really nice meal and we also celebrated Ralph’s birthday.

Ed talking about AIR during the Unconf

On Wednesday, the morning keynote was about Magento, so I skipped it and caught up with work email and checked in with work to ensure that all was going okay. Elizabeth Smith gave an excellent talk about all the bits in PHP 5 that we should all be using nowadays and emphasised that we should use built-in functions and extensions in preference to rolling our own code in PHP. This was one of the few talks where I took notes and need to investigate php_check_syntax(), scandir() and file_put_contents(). I then checked out Alex Russell’s talk about Dojo where he explained why Dojo is the way it is as well as showing some examples of how to use it. In the questions afterwards he pointed out the Dojo’s module that does what JQuery does is approximately the same size and although there’s a lot in Dojo, you can pick and choose what you need and don’t have to pay a big download or performance penalty for stuff you aren’t using.

In the afternoon, I found myself exclusively at the Uncon talks – Keith Casey really did a good job! Ed Finkler started the afternoon talking about AIR applications. This was very interesting as I knew nothing about them and learnt quite a bit. Note to self: never use eval() in JS either! Staying in the same room, Terry Chay was next up with a talk about when to use frameworks and when not to. This was an interesting talk with the main message being to think about the consequences of your decisions as nothing is free. I then had to swap rooms to the other Uncon room to learn about PHP-GTK and using PHP on the desktop. Like AIR, This is an area that I’m not familiar, so I got a lot out of it. I also liked the less formal atmosphere in the uUncon sessions. The final session of the day was Matthew and Lorna’s Uncon talk on subversion tips and tricks. Both Lorna and Matthew are good speakers and I picked up some knowledge that I’m going to need for our migration from CVS to subversion. It’s interesting that most of the tips applied to any version control system and they could probably emphasise this more in future talks.

In the evening Yahoo! had a party in the Hyatt. It was slightly odd as you had to get a ticket for one drink and then had to pay for any more. The weirdest thing was that the hotel bar was cheaper! As a result, we headed downstairs to the hotel bar and Derick drank lots of Margeritas!

Thursday, the final day of the conference was a half-day. I went to a case-study about Zero 9’s use of Zend Framework and Zend Platform and then went to the “What’s new in PHP 5.3” talk. This was a panel discussion where the funniest bit was when Marcus Boerger stated “There is no goto” whilst passing his hand over us. In other words, the goto statement that’s been added to PHP 5.3 is for specialised usage, not for general use. The final keynote was in two parts. Mark de Visser of Zend provided an overview of the conference and thanked all the participants. David Neff of the American Cancer Society then talked about how they were using PHP to build their video sharing talk. It was high level, but nevertheless very well presented and engaging.

After the conference ended, a good number of us popped over to a local In ‘n’ Out burger place for some food before heading back to the bar at the Hyatt to while away the afternoon. Good conversation was had during this time as everyone was relaxed and didn’t need to rush off to (or give) a session. Derick, Zack and Liz even spent some time in the pool! We gave ZendCon a final send off with a meal at Morton’s steak house. This was an excellent meal, if a little pricy… next time no doubt, we’ll go to a Mexican!

I had a excellent time and talked to many great people. My thanks to everyone who put up with my company; I hope I didn’t bore you too much.

Talking after the meal

2 thoughts on “ZendCon 08

Comments are closed.