Midwest PHP 2015 Conference

Conference attendance in many business sectors is generally considered a perk – beneficial for networking, helpful for staying on top of trends, but not necessarily essential. However, for developers conferences are hugely valuable; the evolution in our field is so rapid and happens in such a dispersed fashion that connecting with others in the field and learning from experts is critical for maintaining professional excellence. This is why my colleague Chris and I were pleased to represent Earthling Interactive as event sponsors at Midwestphp 2015. It was an excellent event – from having my mind blown by Larry Garfield’s Drupal 8 Crash Course to podbombing the phproundtable live podcast. Here’s a quick rundown of my takeaway from some of the talks I attended. Keynote: Joe Devon spoke about accessibility and why it is important. While that is a simple sentence summing up this talk would not due it the justice it deserves. Instead, I will point you to some resources on the subject that should continue your education. Global Accessibility Awareness Day Accessibility hashtag on twitter: #a11y Hack – Why Should I Care? (Joel Clermont): No this was not about how to hack a site or deal with hacks when they happen. For those that don’t know Hack is a programming language developed by Facebook that is a fork of PHP. This talk gave a good introduction to the differences that Hack introduces and why they are there. After this talk, I might consider trying Hack on a small personal project just to give it a spin. Getting TLS Right (Zack Tollman): Zach Tollman’s talk on TLS (Transport Layer Security) gave me chills. There are a lot of insecure sites out there that are very popular. I am very happy I went to this talk… now I have to go check my servers to reassure myself. Thanks Zach. Drupal 8: The Crash Course (Larry Garfield): This had to be one of my favorite talks of the convention. I’ve been working with Drupal 7 for the last 3 years during which I have experienced many struggles and a lot of successes. While Drupal 8 isn’t magical they have made some giant leaps usability and module creation. You Can UX Too: Avoiding the Programmer’s Interface (Eryn O’Neil) The programmer’s interface, we have all seen it and probably created it at one time in our career. Eryn reminded us that even if we are writing bash scripts or APIs we still have users and that they deserve something better than the programmer’s interface. With a little thought and talking with others, we can probably work out a better way. By luck, I was invited to be at the php roundtable live podcast. I don’t put in my 2 cents very much. It was really neat being in that room with a bunch of the speakers while they just chatted about what is going on with PHP. Day 2: Inside Laravel 5.0 (Yitzchok Willroth) I did a project in Laravel 4 and fell in love with the framework. Yitz presented the major changes in Laravel 5 and I love it even more. I look forward to seeing the smaller improvements that didn’t make it into his talk. Mentoring: Change the World One Hour at a Time (Beth Tucker Long) Beth really brought home the fact that when you are in a mentor/apprentice situation it is a full mutually beneficial relationship. As with any relationship it needs to be given thought and care and sometime reevaluation. It shined a different light on the subject for me. Scaling WordPress (Zack Tollman) A good strong caching will help your WordPress install fly. Zach went over a bunch of caching options that you can throw in front of your WordPress install when things really start to slow down. But that’s a Band-Aid; we want and need solutions. Zach covered the methods we can use to track down what caused the slowness in the first place. Project Triage: What to Do When Everything Hits the Fan (Eryn O’Neil) What happens when the server is blowing up and you don’t have time to think? In the tech world, this will happen. It’s not a question of if, but when. Eryn covered why the disaster plan is so important. Everyone should know what that plan is. Have a work culture where fessing up to mistakes should be seen as a learning experience and not a mark of shame. That last one really struck home with me. We all make mistakes, accepting and learning will get us so much farther. A very good conference and I look forward to going back next year.