An Interesting TEKX Promotion…

Thinking about attending a PHP conference anytime soon and looking for an offer that you can’t refuse? Check out this interesting move from the MTA folks (the group that puts on the “tek” conferences each year) for attending the TEK-X conference in the spring. The regular ticket price after the Early Bird pricing time has passed checks in at $1,000 USD per ticket. For this low, low price you get full access to the conference – tutorials and sessions for the full time of the conference. What? You don’t think that’s a good deal? Well, good – because that’s not the deal I’m talking about.

If you’re one of those folks that don’t really care about what the schedule might eventually hold and just want to reserve your spot for the conference, check out this (quite frankly, amazing) deal from the MTAers for next year’s TEK-X conference – sign up before January 6th, before the schedule is announced, and you’ll be rewarded with a 35% discount. That’s a full attendance pass for the whole week for a fraction of the cost – $650 USD. If you were planning on attending the conference anyway, it’s a win win.

There’s only one catch – there’s only 50 of these passes up for grabs so you’ll have to get in quick if you want to snag one, you’ll need to sign up quick. It’s an interesting idea from a group that’s always been keenly aware the pulse in the PHP community. Personally, I think it’s an excellent idea and only reinforces the fact that they know their target audience…PHP community members that are out there to support the community, regardless of the event. It’s nice to see a company putting so much stock in the community itself and not just in the appeal of the discount (not that it’s a bad thing!)

Microsoft Web Dev Summit 2009

See my pics from the event here!

I had the opportunity this past week to go back up to Microsoft for the second year to attend the Microsoft Web Developers Summit. The event brings together a wide range of people related to web development in the PHP community. This year the group was made a bit more diverse because of the inclusion of a few members of some of three communities of PHP-driven applications: WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. It made for a nice mix and, really, for what I think was one of the more interesting parts of the event (but more on that later).

Over the three days we were there, presentations were given from groups all around the company including the Web Platform Installer folks, the IIS team, the SQL Server team and a pretty cool showing from the Bing group on their mapping offerings. Showing off the products seemed to, usually, be a secondary mission for most of the groups though. Out of the number of sessions crammed into each day, most of them were either the PHP community talking to Microsoft (in the form of free-form discussions) or the Microsofters sitting down and really talking with us and asking questions about what we were doing and how they can help us do it better.

In my opinion, these discussions were worth the cost of the whole conference alone. Last year’s conference seemed a bit more chaotic and less structured. There was a lot of miscommunication (it seemed) and several things that we, as a community, weren’t terribly interested in. This year was leaps and bounds over that in terms of both quality and planning. The sessions that weren’t the discussion times were mostly relevant and almost everyone that represented MS seemed to know at least a little bit about what was going on in the world of PHP (with the exception of the ASP.NET folks but really, they sort of have an excuse – they were very happy to get the answers to their questions, though).

Leaders make all the difference in events like this and we had some of the best – our own Cal Evans helped to keep things on task and get the conversation jump started when it needed it, Karri Dunn (the ringleader and organizer) did an excellent job of making sure things were moving along smoothly and that we were able to talk to other groups in the company too (even those not involved in the summit), Josh Holmes (evangelist extraordinate) who has really jumped into the PHP community feet-first and has become one of our key voices back to Microsoft in general and, last but not least, to the leadership within the PHP community – the represenatives from WordPress/Joomla/Drupal, the core developers, the user group leaders and general community members.

A major thank you to all of you (including those I haven’t mentioned that made the event a success) for taking the MS Web Dev Summit up to the next stage in its evolution. I love the direction the event is heading – don’t lose that momentum and don’t lose touch with the PHP community. Last year everyone took their planes home and there was some random communication between MS and us via emails/twitter/etc but most of the connection was dropped. This year there’s already an effort underway to keep those lines open and to make a real dialogue between the web-related groups of each side flow. This, in my opinion, is a real deal-maker. It’s one thing to have a company that brings you up to talk with them for a few days and that’s it. It’s a whole other thing to have one that’s really excited about what’s going on with you and your community and wants to engage you and get input on their next moves.
Web Platform Installer (WebPI). I seriously hope they consider some of the suggestions we gave them as to its future and what we thought could really make it more than it is without sacrificing the simplicity it already has.

Is it a Developer’s Responsibility?

Last night, several of us were treated to a dinner as a part of this year’s Microsoft Web Developer Summit (great dinner, by the way – Anthony’s in Kirkland, WA). Seems like there was just about a one-to-one ratio at one point of MS employees to PHP developers attending. It was interesting to see how this played out in conversations and in the general flow of the evening.

At the table I was sitting at there was a MS rep from the Windows team, Ani, who was pleasant, engaging and genuinely seemed interested in what “this PHP thing” was all about. Some of her questions could have been answered by a few trips to Google, but overall it was good to see the interest level from someone not in the usual web bubble PHP normally operates in. There were a few great debates that came out of her questions with the most memorable being about SEO. She had asked about our take on it and if it even played a part in the work that we did. Most at the table were of the opinion that, if it’s going to happen, it was someone else’s job – the responsibility of the front end folks as a part of making the site “pretty”.

This and another comment about application structure got me thinking…with a lot of the sites out there going with an MVC pattern for their structure, does this mean a sort of SEO-friendliness is already built in? I’m not talking that black magic, voodoo stuff that lots of firms pass off as SEO consulting. I mean the good placement of data, good content and a well though out site structure. By default, MVC makes this last one super simple. For most frameworks, it’s just a built in part of their routing to make search-engine friendly URLs. Of course, it’s still up to you to fill those URLs with good meaningful content, but it’s a start.

So, do we as developers still have a responsibility to create an application that will, in the end, make more sense to the outside world and to the major search engines? Should we step outside of our bubble and branch out into the wider ecosystem of the application, making sure that what we’re doing fits with the whole?