2013 Midwest PHP Conference

I’ve been meaning to jot down some thoughts about the inaugural Midwest PHP Conference that was held on March 2nd and 3rd at the University of Minnesota’s Continuing Education and Conference Center in St. Paul, but the words fail to come out every time I sit down to do it. Perhaps I assign too much value to the importance of words. Here’s a picture:


That’s Aaron Saray, a PHP Developer from Milwaukee who gave a riveting presentation about using PHP design patterns and modularization for enterprise applications to a packed room on Saturday afternoon. As a relative newcomer to the world of PHP and computer programming in general, I’d contemplated whether Aaron’s talk might be over my head. After all, he was presenting what seemed like an advanced talk about object oriented programming at the same time as another presentation that offered an introductory look. Afterward, I felt great about my decision. Aaron’s delivery was fast-paced and hilarious and his presentation introduced just enough basic information upfront to help others like me understand the overall concept of the topic before digging deeper into the details.

Following Aaron’s talk, I made a decision to attend a presentation entitled “Backbone.js in a PHP Environment,” and I think these two sessions together encapsulated my impressions of the conference as a whole. During the course of the weekend, each session ran concurrently with three others, and what you learned in one, you gave up elsewhere. The “Backbone” session was offered during two other presentations of interest and relevance to me (“The WordPress Hacker’s Guide to the \Galaxy()” and “JavaScript’s Difficult Concepts Explained”), and based on real-time reactions on Twitter, I was missing out.

In many ways, the enormous impact of these tradeoffs speaks to the quality of the offerings at this first-year conference. At one point (the last session of day 2), there were four different presentations all running concurrently that I wanted to see. Essentially, I threw a dart and landed on Josh Broton‘s presentation called “Embrace Your Inner Designer” where I saw his hilarious introduction to the “value” of the HTML marquee tag, along with many far more insightful tips and recommendations. Unfortunately, this was at the expense of seeing Chris Hartjes speak about PHP unit testing, Mike Stowe‘s “Introduction to Zend Framework 2”, or Jesse Donat‘s presentation about PHP command line scripting.

Essentially, it was a terrific conference and an amazing first-year effort by the aforementioned Mike Stowe and co-collaborator Jonathan Sundquist. I feel fortunate to have finally found my career calling and to live in the backyard of such wonderful programming talent. I’m already looking forward to next year, and I’m optimistic that some tweaks will be made to the scheduling to attendees to catch more of what they want to see.