Friday, August 23, 2013

Northeast PHP Recap

Last weekend was the 2nd annual Northeast PHP conference in Boston.  I gave two talks, "Practical Responsive Web Design" (slides) and "Scaling PHP to 40 Million Uniques" (slides).  I had a lot of fun at the conference, and met some great people.  I didn't get to attend as many talks as I would have liked, since I spent some of the sessions preparing for my own, but there were a couple that I really enjoyed:

My Favorite Talks

Berserk for Responsive Design Frameworks! (Jen Kramer)

This talk was an overview of Bootstrap and Foundation, comparing the two and explaining when to use each one.  Jen is a great public speaker, and she kept what could have been a pretty dry topic engaging and informative.  For me the takeaway was that I'm making the right choice by using Bootstrap for side projects.  Bootstrap has a little more styling out of the box, and with the robust set of custom themes you can build a pretty impressive site without needing any design skills whatsoever.  You can catch up with the slides here.

Ten Evil Things - Features Engineering at Wikipedia (Terry Chay)

This was the closing keynote, and it was awesome.  Terry gave an extremely energetic talk, and exposed a lot of the behind the scenes work that goes on at Wikipedia.  The presentation centered around the steady decline in editors that Wikipedia has seen over the last few years, and the steps that are being taken to reverse that trend.  Few companies have the impact of Wikipedia, and they do it all with ~140 employees and a few hundred servers.  Terry got me excited about the new things that are coming to Wikipedia, like the new editor and better notifications about actions happening on articles that you have edited in the past.

You can check out other popular talks by looking at the ones with high ratings on

Overall Event Feedback

Organizationally everything was great.  The food was delicious and on time, the talks were the right length, and the breaks were well placed.  It was one of the most smoothly run conferences I have been to, and I know that the organizers put in a ton of work to make it go off without a hitch.

Content wise I think that the conference could tweak some things and be more successful.  Right now it's a mix between UX/UI talks and PHP talks, which tend to attract different audiences.  I think the "Northeast PHP" title scares away some people who could get a lot out of the UX side, and I think seeing all of the less technical talks on the schedule scares away some hardcore software engineers.  As I told the organizers, in future years I would like to see the conference skew to one side or the other, so it can serve a specific audience more fully.  I think this would boost attendance and make it easier to align expectations with reality.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this conference goes over the next few years, and I hope to continue contributing to it!