Wednesday, February 03, 2010

PHPBenelux conference 2010 wrapup

This past weekend, Belgium was buzzing PHP all the way. PHPBenelux organized the first annual international PHP conference in Belgium and it can be called a true success. Attendees and speakers coming from all parts of the world made this event a true international conference and I was truly happy to be a part of it, this time as member of the organization.

Preparation
The months, weeks and certainly the days prior to the conference were hectic, stressful and sometimes energy draining. With lots of things that still needed to be done last minute, we have learned that we still have lots of room to improve ourselves for future events. But, as it is common to PHP development, we met our deadlines and saw everything was running smoothly.

Airport and train station runs
The conference had a few international speakers on the list, for who we had to ensure a smooth ride to the conference hotel. Stefan Koopmanschap picked up Cal Evans at Schiphol. Thijs Feryn went down to Antwerp Central Station to pick up Fabien Potencier, and had to do this 3 times returning each time without Fabien (read his blog article about what happend). I myself went to Brussels International Airport to pick up David Zülke and Rowan Merewood traveling together with Ben Waine.


Speaker's dinner and pre-conference social
As is custom to events like this, we organized as speaker's dinner where we invited our speakers and sponsors to participate in this socializing event where everyone has the opportunity to get to know each other, discuss topics and exchange ideas. We headed out to Da Giovanni, an Italian restaurant in the center of Antwerp that is known for it's overwhelming tacky design. Red-white blocked cloths everywhere: the shirts of the waiters, the tables and lamps. We had a decent meal and a very good laugh.
Following the dinner we also organized a pre-conference social in De Vagant, one of Antwerp's most known Jenever locations. This was open for everyone that was in the area and could make it to the place. But tiredness and pre-conference jitters had this social ended well before midnight.

The conference
Saturday was the big day, and what a day it was ! Sponsors arrived well in time to set up their booths and at about 8:30am the first attendees were coming in. Since it had snowed during the night, most attendees were a bit late so we started the sessions with a delay of 30 minutes (by lunch time we were already back on schedule).
After a short introduction by Stefan Koopmanschap, Derick Rethans officially opened the conference with his keynote talk "The PHP Universe", which was well accepted by the audience (See reviews on http://joind.in/1240). The following talks followed right after and filled the most of the conference.

Remote presentation
Due to bad weather, Zend's speaker Eric Ritchie couldn't make it to the conference, but by using WebEx we were able to have him present his talk "Generating dynamic PDFs using Zend Framework and JavaBridge" (http://joind.in/1268) from his office as though he was standing in the room. Although it was a bit tough to set up, I have to say it was successful fix for Zend, WebEx and us.

One downside of this approach is that Eric didn't had the chance to interact with the attendees himself during or after his keynote and as shown in the comments on joind.in there were still a few questions that the attendees wanted to clarify with Eric. So, in a technical perspective it can be called a success, but for the conference spirit it has a downside.

Closing Keynote
My personal mentor and dear friend Cal Evans was given the floor to present his closing keynote "Open Teams" (http://joind.in/1251) which was unlike the other talks not a technical subject, but non-the-less a very valuable view on how managers and developers can improve the way they operate. Unfortunately I missed this talk, but I'm looking forward seeing it on an other occasion. You can contact Cal and invite him to give this talk for the managers in your company, so your company can become "Company Awesome" everyone wants to work for.

Ibuildings Conference Social
The people of Ibuildings were really kind to sponsor the after-social event, held in the exhibition hall. Besides drinks and very delicious food, our other sponsors had some goodies to give away and so people walked away with an iPhone and Zend Studio licenses, a ticket for PHPBenelux Conference 2011, a ticket for PHPUK 2010, Windows 7 licenses, a netbook (provided by Nocus) and of course elePHPants. So a big applause to the winners and of course our sponsors for providing these awesome prizes.

Sponsors
This great conference wasn't possible without the help of our sponsors, and we all thank them for making this first conference the best start of 2010. Thank you !!!


PHP is hot !
Apparently PHP is hot, hotter then ever. At the conference, a lot of people not only attended the great sessions, but they were also looking for new PHP developers to join their teams. And they were not just giving you a great job, they even offered some real nice goodies when you signed up:
If you're a company and you're looking for PHP Rock stars, see how you can persuade them to at least talk to you. Make sure you have seen the slides of Cal Evans's talk about "Open Teams", cause if you can offer this, you do have the advantage !

PHPBenelux Team
This conference succeeded because of the never-failing, passionate help and support by the whole PHPBenelux team. I have worked in many teams already, but I have to say that working with these guys on a remote basis (all using Skype, Google docs and e-mail as main communication and collaboration tools) worked very well (as to emphasize what Cal Evans stated in his "Open Teams" talk) and everyone was there to see the result.

Teamies, thanks a lot for this wonderful experience and I'm looking forward doing the things we do best: community relations, meetings and events ! You guys rock !!!

PHPBenelux team by @phpcodemonkey

Conclusion
This was the first conference that I not only attended, but was actually involved behind the scenes. It was a great experience and I have now more respect to organizers of bigger conferences now that we know what kind of challenges they have to overcome.

Read what others had to say about our conference:
I had a blast and I hope you all enjoyed it. See you all next year at the PHPBenelux Conference 2011, and let us know how to improve ourselves for next years' conference at joind.in !!!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.