The Lone Star PHP Conference


This morning I and fellow DallasPHP-er Jake Smith officially launched the website for the local PHP conference we’ve been working on for the past few months – the Lone Star PHP Conference (happening in Dallas, Tx on June 11th).

It’s a one-day, two-track event that brings together some great speakers from around the Dallas area to talk on loads of different topics. Here’s a few of them from the list:

  • Using PHP and MySQL to Build Applications with Windows Azure
  • Disregard Inputs, Acquire Zend_Form
  • Using Dependency Injection for Proper Unit Testing
  • Drupal
  • Unsung Heroes of PHP

Why another conference, you ask? Well, the PHP community here in Dallas is definitely strong and, if the attendance of our user group meetings is any indication, it’s growing stronger all the time. We’ve been bouncing around the idea of having an event here for a while, it was just finally the right time to step up and organize it. There’s a gap in the area covered by some of the major conferences with ZendCon out in California, and php|tek in Chicago. The CodeWorks conference has been here in town before, but they made the move down to Austin last year. It may not be the biggest conference out there (or the most well known) but we hope that it’ll bring the quality content to the DFW masses they expect out of a great conference.

The response so far has been great so far and tickets have already started selling, so if you’re planning on attending, be sure to grab your ticket – space is limited! The event costs $60 for the full day, including a lunch and an after-party event too. If you’re out of town and wanting to come in, we have some special rates there at the hotel you can get for that Friday and Saturday night – just email us and ask to get the details.

Lone Star PHP Conference: http://lonestarphp.com
On Facebook: http://facebook.com/lonestarconference
On Twitter: @lonestarphp

It’s not a conference… (redux)

It’s interesting – sitting here writing a few emails, sending a few tweets – I was reminded of a me from not so long ago. He was the one that tried to convince you that conferences aren’t about the talks. He pointed out that the real key to conferences was the people you met there. I’d sort of forgotten him until just this morning, and I wanted to invite him back to the stage.

See, the key to it all is the people. Sure, you can talk about or another specifically, but then you’d lose sight of the one thing that binds them all together. Without the community attending these events, well, there’d be no event at all. It takes all kinds too. There’s the first-timer that’s not quite sure about everything and everyone, but recognizes names from blogs and the speaker list (hint: this was me). There’s the seasoned conference-goer that has been around the block a few times and knows how things really work and then there’s the tireless staff of the events that work sometimes all year long to pull these events off as flawlessly as they can. Each and every one of them has a place in this community but the key is – they’re all people just the same. Without that human connection between them, the community fails and falters and could just sputter and die like we’ve seen from other languages in the past.

Conferences with their talks and tutorials are great – don’t get me wrong. That’s what gets me to the event half the time. There’s several sessions that I’m looking forward to at this year’s tek and PHP Community Confernece (oh, how I wish i’d been accepted to DPC) but what I’m looking forward to the most is seeing my friends. IRC and email just doesn’t cut it. Sitting down with a group of people that get me and know me, either through the work I’ve done or just from talking online, is priceless. We bounce ideas off of each other, crack jokes about the downfalls of other languages (with names based on precious stones) and just generally have a good time.

There is no other place like it and my wish for you is that you pick one of the upcoming conferences and get out there. Sure, the talks are great, but being able to sit down with other developers that understand where you’re coming from and might know where you’re headed is something to treasure.

Oh! And don’t forget – if you can’t make it to a conference, there’s an excellent alternative….your local user group! There’s a whole group of people right in your backyard that have all of this and more.

Why Community Matters… (Updated)

It’s easy for us to look around at the technology we work with every day and think that we can solve all of the worlds problems with a few lines of elegant code. We think that just because we have a mastery of our language of choice, that we can conquer any challenge we might face. The only problem is that we’re forgetting one thing. No matter how much code you write or how much time you spend pouring over that shiny new architecture you’ve dreamed up, there’s one thing that can never be replaced – the human element.

Most of the developers I know have started off with a language the same way – they heard about it from a friend. They casually heard the name “PHP” dropped in a conversation and either (depending on how outgoing they are) jumped in to the conversation or made a dash home to look up what everyone else seemed to be talking about. Without this word of mouth, I dare say quite a bit of the technology that we have today wouldn’t be around. Think about it – how many times have you looked at a new language or bit of tech just because someone else you trust said it was cool. Sure, it might sound a little like siding with the popular kid, but what happens if that kid’s the one who’s right? That language may be the next big thing – if not for the online community as a whole, then just for you and your development.

Think back to when you first started programming PHP (that may be yesterday, that may be ten years ago) and think back to all of the influences you had along the way. Chances are you didn’t make it to where you are today without a little help. You found blog posts of others that solved the same problems, you hopped on IRC and talked with like-minded folks trying to overcome the same hurdles and you shared you own experiences for the future generations of web developers to learn from. You’ve come full circle, sharing what you know back with those who need it the most. You’re a contributing member of the community.

So, why am I writing this if it’s all so obvious to even the most casual observer? I wanted to reinforce the fact that, even if you’re new to the community or you’ve been writing PHP so long you dream about namespaces and PHP6, you can always be more involved. Technology is great, but really – people are better. I can’t recommend enough the effort that the PHP Community Conference is doing to bring this human aspect back into the conference scene. They’ve taken the traditional conference mentality, turned it on its side and put an extra helping of emphasis on the thoughts behind the technology and less on the syntax of the day-to-day. This approach provides an interesting perspective, different from the usual track-based methods (similar to the Brooklyn Beta event).

If you haven’t looked at the conference, time’s getting short – it’s happening about a month from now, April 21st and 22nd, in Nashville. I’ll be there as a speaker talking about my first PHP love – PHPDeveloper.org and doing what I can to give back as much to the community as possible. Because really, without each other to help us through, none of us would be where we are today.

UPDATE: I want to take a second to apologize for any poor choice of wording I’ve used in this post. My intent wasn’t to make conferences like php|tek or ZendCon seem less in comparison to the PHP Community Conference. It was more of a commentary on the different conference styles – the “why” PHPComCon offers rather than the “how” sessions that several of the others provide. The ironic thing is that I’m also in the process of planning my own conference and it follows the track-based ideas. It’s a difficult process and I have a growing respect for people like Keith Casey, Marco Tabini, Cal Evans and the scores of other folks behind the scenes of these excellent events. They work their hardest to keep people from “feeling like a number” during their events, and – especially tek – keeping the community as a large focus. My hats are off to them for planning not only quality content during the day but fun, engaging activities during the evenings that bring community members together from all over the world to laugh, enjoy a few beers and shoot the breeze about all things PHP.

Ideas of March

In an effort to spotlight what is slowly becoming a lost art (blogging), some of us in the PHP community have banded together today to talk about the active sharing of ideas and opinions that come with blog entries. Twitter (or Identi.ca!) ain’t got nothing on it. One-hundred and forty characters is nice, but there’s something to be said for a well-written or well-researched blog post. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve searched for a problem, usually the obtuse one that only seems to come up once in a blue moon, and find the answer on someone’s blog.

If you’re among those in the high business world, you’ve heard the cheesy term “knowledge transfer”. Yes, I cringe too even just to say it, but it gets the idea across. Blogging is so much more than vanity posts talking about funny things someone’s dog did. Writing up a blog post is an opportunity to take a small part of what’s in your head and share it with the rest of the world. It gives you an outlet, either creative or technical, to bring your message to the masses. This is the real key. When you blog, it’s not just about you anymore. You’ve taken a part of you, a sliver of your experience finding and fixing that bug or researching that old technology to write an API for it, and shared it with the world in a single click of a button.

It’s been done all through history – the passing down of knowledge from one generation (of programmers?) to another – and there’s no reason to stop now. I hope you’ll join me in making March a true month of ideas. Slow down and take the time to write a blog post or two. It doesn’t have to be a work of art. It doesn’t even have to be very long – just a few sentences will do. Write about something you care about, some project you’re working on that you’re proud of or just about the general state of the PHP community. It’s your blog, you write what means the most to you.

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candle in it.” – Margaret Fuller