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.