PHP-Unconference 2008, part II

Sarah already wrote something about the PHP Unconference, but Mayflower sent a bigger team, so here are some more impressions.

The unconference had a fair share of the „ever-present“ people in PHP development and the corresponding open-source community and also people interested in recent features and willing to learn although they came from different backgrounds. This avoided most of the low-level noise and kept the weekend on a very high level.

Both days there were 4 session tracks with 4 talks each for an admirably rich choice of 32 possible sessions, which made it very hard to get hold of everything you’re interested in, but this was deliberately planned and I didn’t attend a single talk I didn’t like. The long coffee-breaks had a very intense tendency to keep the people busy discussing technical questions or just general chatter with old acquaintances that the orga team was busy driving the people to the talks again sometimes.

The sessions had many topics closely related to everyday development in PHP, for example ‚Zend Framework‘, ‚Security‘, but also some general information technology problems like ‚Quality Assurance‘, ‚Continuous Integration‘ and ‚Traits‘ and some recent or not-so-recent technologies used in development, for example ‚Regular Expressions‘, ‚XPath‘, ‚JSON‘ or ‚Tagging‘ and ‚Social Networks‘. Although not organized in a single database track like in normal conferences, there also were some interesting non-standard database talks, especially ‚Document Based Databases‘ and ‚PostgreSQL‘ complementing the obligatory talks on MySQL (not saying that makes them bad, in fact they were very good), which has the most widespread use in web development with PHP.

‚PHP is not Java‘ was especially interesting for me having done my share of Java coding and also ‚enjoying‘ it fully in university. The speakers and the audience had some really interesting things to say, mostly clearing up that you can indeed use PHP for larger projects, you just have to keep some more discipline, as some might say. On the other hand it’s just not the PHP way to use sevenfold inheritance. PHP is not missing an application server and you shouldn’t blindly adopt all patterns that seem sensible in Java (or even C++). Many people agreed that lately PHP development stalled a bit in the direction of trying to adopt stuff from Java and not reinventing the things in a better way. Sometimes ‚it works for us‘ is good enough or even better – because it’s fast and easy and maintainable.

As a whole the unconference went very well, and I heard only positive feedback besides people were a bit confused to get to the social event on Saturday evening because we had to take public transport through a good part of Hamburg and some seemed a bit lost. The campus of the University of Hamburg offers a nice place for such an event because lecture halls are equipped with the infrastructure to hold many presentations in parallel very good, but it’s located a bit remotely – in Hamburg and also in Germany, with a good deal of the participants travelling more than 500km – although Dave from Australia beat us all in the „longest journey“ competition.

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