PHP South Coast 2015

I’ve just arrived back from the inaugural PHP South Coast Conference.  It was a really great event that seemed to go without a hitch, had a fantastic range of speakers and a nice bunch of people that attended.  So first of all, a really big thank you! to PHP Hampshire, BrightonPHP and PHP Dorset for putting on a top-notch event – you really wouldn’t have known it was their first one as everything seemed so professional!

For me it was probably the first conference I really tried to make the effort to talk to complete strangers.  I never do that at conferences!  Not because I don’t like y’all but just because it’s not in my nature to put myself out there like that.  But an over-riding theme of the conference really seemed to be around community, getting out there and talking to people that are part of that community, sharing your knowledge, absorbing theirs.  So that’s what I tried to do.  I have to say that everyone I spoke to was really nice – everyone interacted, everyone was genuine, the speakers were always happy to answer questions and offered email addresses to help out more.  We truly do have an amazing community and I’m happy… no, not just happy.  I’m proud to be a part of it.

So what of the conference itself?  Cal Evans gave the keynote speech and kicked off the the day talking about the community, how he got involved in it, how we can pay back the community in ways that we can get involved (PHP Mentoring, for example).  A number of things reminded me of what coderabbi talked about in his Wisdom as a Service world tour.  Really, if guys like Cal and Yitchok are telling you that community is an import thing then you can be damned sure that it really is!

I then opted to see Rafael Dohms talk about doing Composer the right way.  I also wanted to see Joe Watkins talk about Parallel, but at they were on different tracks and I can’t clone myself just yet…  Thankfully the sessions were all recorded!  Anyway, this talk, shockingly, was about using Composer and he covered proper semantic versioning and how that’s important to use correctly, how you might use that in pull in the correct versions of your dependencies and pitfalls to look out for.  He also gave advice on better ways to use composer – not hacking on the composer.json file, for example (something I’m fairly guilty of but will change my ways!), but instead use the cli because it’s much easier and far less prone to problems, commit your composer.lock file, typically do install rather than update…  Some really good pointers here and well worth watching the video if you use Composer and missed his talk.  Oh, and his slides looked immaculate – a really nice, clean style.

The next talk was one I didn’t think I’d care about.  There was a choice between finding out about CakePHP or WordPress and Backbone.  Now, I used CakePHP quite a number of years ago and at the time really wasn’t that taken with it.  That’s probably a personal choice and I’m sure it’s developed a lot since then, but still, the idea of the talk didn’t grab me.  But the alternative was something about WordPress and Backbone?  Urgh… I use WordPress for this blog and know lots of people invest a huge amount of time and money into it, to great rewards.  But for me it’s always just been something to use as a blog just to be lazy.  So it really was a toss up and I figured the lesser of two evils was the WordPress talk by Jeroen van Diik.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about his talk!

Instead of the “lesser of two evils” I thought it would be, Jeroen gave an example of using the WP-API (the WordPress REST API) within a personal project of his which was a mobile app.  He showed how easy it was to integrate, the steps he had to go through (and through again when they changed how the API worked) and how he combined it with Backbone.js within Titanium to make what he called a ‘pet project’ but what I would called a really polished, professional mobile application which looked great.  It was an eye opener for me personally because I’ve not thought of WP as anything but a blogging platform that’s tried to shoe-horn content management in there over time.  But Jeroen’s app used it as a data store with all the WP added benefits (the inherent sorting, tags, types, etc.) – you wouldn’t have even known he was using WP.  Fascinating!

After lunch (which was very nice) I had another dilemma on which track to see.  On the one hand there was Phil Sturgeon talking about API pain points and on the other was Jenny Wong talking about sharing knowledge and Grant Kemp about using Google Analytics to track various things (in this case, the X-Factor results).  Hmm… Another tough choice!  I went with the two lightening talks because we are doing increasing amounts of GA stuff at work so it seemed slightly more relevant to me right now.  Both talks we good – I think Jenny could probably convince anyone that they should be submitting abstracts to conferences, and Grant really had fun with throwing data around in GA.

Next up for me was Dan Ackroyd talking about doing dependency inject right.  I have to be honest, the room was quite warm, I was quite knackered, so probably didn’t pay enough attention to this one as I should/could have.  He did answer some tricky questions at the end and gave valuable advice, but I’m wondering whether Erika Heidi‘s talk on Vagrant and Ansible would have been better for me (if nothing else it would have been in a cooler room!)

Finally there was Lorna Mitchell‘s talk on “advanced adventures with git”.  For me it really was saving the best ’til last.  Lorna’s set up wasn’t your typical run-of-the-mill, slides on screen kind of talk.  She let the audience decide on where to take it.  People voted on something they wanted to hear and she just went with it, talking about that subject with no pause, no hesitation… Oh, and did I mention she was doing pretty much everything live in a terminal window?  Honestly, there was so much info she was throwing out that I think I need to watch the video just to catch up with it all!  All presented with a really relaxed, easy-going nature.  This was the kind of talk that you didn’t feel you were being talked at, no, no… It was a friendly, adventurous chat about git you were having with Lorna down the pub.  Only, you know, with 300 of your other chums.

And that concluded the sessions but not the fun.  Then there was laser tag and tabletop gaming fun to be had.  I opted for the former and on my last game playing with 19 others I came first.  That’s right, bitches; my old arse pwned you at laser tag. 😉

See you all at PHP South Coast 2016!

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