CodeigniterCon 2010

I spent the weekend in Bristol so I could attend cicon2010 - a volunteer-organised first-edition conference around the CodeIgniter PHP Framework. It started on Saturday morning with registration at 8:30am and the first talk at 9am. When I arrived (at about ten to nine) there were no organisers there. I took this photo around 9:45 (the camera is on GMT) as they attempted to set up the projector.

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I saw two talks, both of which were actually really good, which is pretty impressive when you're going on stage to a rather fed up audience! Kudos to Kevin Prince and Joel Gascoigne for their talks. By this time we did get an announcement about what times the other talks would happen and I snuck out for lunch and cups of tea.

When I popped back (I assume there was a long lunch as I didn't get there until almost 4 and still caught the last two talks) I saw Adam Griffiths and Phil Sturgeon round off the day with their talks, and I must admit that I think the talk content was spot on, although the speakers were mostly pretty inexperienced, they all had some great thoughts to share and I did get some technical content from it (and a list of new friends, thanks Phil!)

I had been looking forward to the conference social but after hanging about in a strange city on my own waiting for a promised tweet of time and location, I bailed. The people I met at cicon were a nice crowd and I'm sure it would have been fun but I got some other stuff done instead which was also useful.

In summary: nice people, useful content. worst event I think I've ever been to (sorry guys).

I tweeted about my disappointment and got a couple of people asking me what my advice is for events organisers. I've now done a few technical events and will wrap up my advice into a post (now I've outlined it, probably more than one post!) so look out for that over the next few weeks.

(as a total aside but kind of for the record, for an event with 40 ish people, I was disappointed to be the only woman there)

Keynoting at PHPNW10

I'm slightly surprised but mostly wildly excited to announce that I'll be the keynote speaker at the PHP North West Conference in October. It is held in Manchester in the UK, which is about an hour from where I live in Leeds, so it is definitely my "home" conference, and this makes me even more excited since I know I'll be in such great company!

The talk is Teach A Man To Fish: Coaching Development Teams and really it's about how a little investment of time or effort can build your existing team into something better - and how that team can then sustain its improvements and continue to raise its performance and the game of the individual team members. All in all I am pretty excited about this talk - as with most of my conference talks, it started life as a rant in a bar, and I'm now excited to be preparing it for a more formal setting!

The event itself is a must-see for anyone doing PHP or allied technologies that can get there (Manchester is pretty central and pretty cheap - if you're in the UK, you have no excuses!). It's a Saturday event, 9th October 2010 and tickets are on sale - the Early Bird prices are still available and we've held the prices as low as possible again, we don't need frills, we just want lots of people to be able to join in! I hope to see quite a few of you there, let me know if you're coming :)

Speaking at FrOSCon

In August I'll be attending FrOSCon in Germany for the first time, and speaking there. It's a mixed technology conference, with rooms set aside for separate scheduling for various projects and technologies. I'll be speaking in the PHP room, delivering "Working With Web Services", a talk which covers how to consume all sorts of types of web service from PHP. I'm excited about that and even more excited to hear that I'll also be speaking in the main track, where I'll deliver "Open Source Your Career" - stories and advice about how involvement in open source can positively influence the career path for each of us.

I haven't visited this part of Europe before so I'm also including a couple of days to see the area, and really looking forward to the trip. Since there are technologies other than PHP, and since I'm rarely in Germany, I know I'm going to meet a lot of new people ... and I can't wait :)

PHPNW10: Call for Papers

It's official, PHP North West 2010 is definitely happening ... and for that we'll need some people to pop along and give a talk! As in previous years, we'll first of all deal with selecting the papers for our main conference day, 9th October. Talks can be 60 minutes or 30 minutes, can be on any subject if you can persuade us it's relevant to PHP developers, and speakers anywhere on the spectrum from expert to newbie are welcome.

So what are you waiting for? Go submit your talk at our call for papers page. If you need more assistance then you should check out these resources (and yes, some of them are mine but I feel strongly about this topic and want all you interesting and hesitant people to start speaking!)

Are you submitting? What tips would you offer to those thinking of doing so? Already we're at over 50 submissions, more than last year, so competition is tough but oh my goodness, I'm so excited :)

Your Open Source Stories

In this post, I am asking for your help and input, although it might seem like a post about nothing in particular to begin with. Please keep reading!

Last month, I gave a talk at TEK-X entitled "Open Source Your Career". Personally I think that a lot of the high fliers in this profession use their community activities as a boost to their professional development, and I know that this has been true for me too. So in my talk I told stories about situations I'd met in my professional life and how I'd either achieved or made new opportunities by building on skills and experience (and network) that I've come across in my community activities.

For example I said to my CTO, Ivo Jansch that I was giving this talk and he asked what it was about. I said that, in a nutshell, I didn't think Ibuildings would have trusted any of their developers to host the Dutch PHP Conference unless they'd seen that person hosting events elsewhere - as a volunteer co-host of PHPNW, I gained some experience doing this sort of thing. His response really brought home how true it is that getting out there can reap rewards in ways we don't expect - or in my case don't even recognise. He simply said "one reason you have the job you have now is the fact that you did an oracle podcast for zend once which I heard when I received your CV". It hadn't occurred to me that activities like that would have helped when I was changing jobs.

What I Need From You

I'm giving this talk again, at FrOSCon in Germany in August. It was a huge amount of fun to deliver last time but I'd really like to pull in more stories from other people to include in my talk. So ... have you ever got involved with something outside of your day job, only to realise later that it was a good career move? And would you let me tell your story?

Answers on a postcard, by email, or in the comments field below. Any and all input is very gratefully received :)

DPC Retrospective

I spent most of last week and the weekend in (rather rainy) Amsterdam for the Dutch PHP Conference. This is an event that is in its 4th year, although I was attending for only the 3rd time. Two years ago, I spoke at DPC - my first conference talk. This year, I hosted the event, which was quite a different experience. The event is organised by my employers, Ibuildings, and I was astonished to be asked late last year if I would like to be its host. Hosting an event is quite a different set of anxieties from speaking at one, and although there were a few minor emergencies along the way (lost speakers, really "interesting" CfP submissions, a moment where only half the venue would have wifi and some sessions failing to run to time), nothing worth getting stressed over!

The event was great (can I say that myself?) and with a world-class schedule, excellent speakers who all delivered on the day, sponsors who supported the venture and of course the attendees who showed up, took part, joined in with the uncon and generally made the whole thing into the fun it was - I could not have asked for more. As for the community friends who kept on sneaking up on me with a hug or a word of encouragement ... I can't ever thank any of you enough. On a very personal level it was fanstastic - I've enjoyed DPC for a few years and although the weather in Amsterdam was not so kind this year, the friends at the event (both the people I had already met and the friends I made while I was there) made it more than worth it.

Poor Man's Caching

Describing something as a "poor man's" version of the thing is to say its a bit of a cheap or short-cutting version. I thought I'd share some VERY poor man's caching that I came up with the other day.

To set the scene - I'm hosting the Dutch PHP Conference this week and there's a LOT of information to keep track of. Between tweets using the hashtag, people tweeting either my username or any of the conference twitter accounts, the schedule itself which will change as we're having a no-prior-scheduling uncon, and the event and talk-related comments coming in via joind.in itself, its quite a bit of stuff to track. Add into the mix the fact that my iphone's data package will be too expensive to use in NL and although I will have a phone with a data package it wont' be mine and there's no guarantee exactly what it will be. Oh and conference wireless, which last year wasn't bad at DPC but you have to assume there's a bottleneck.

So I figured that since I have a fast production server with lots of spare resource, it can do the hard work on processing the feeds, and just serve me a basic page with everything on and some internal hyperlinks to get around. So I wrote this monster, which runs a bunch of twitter searches and pulls in schedule and comments from joind.in, and that was good.

Except, it does take quite a long time to run (well, a few seconds, but that's too long in my book) so I thought about caching each result set in memcache, and writing a cron job to repopulate those regularly, so every time I hit the script, the cache would be warm. Then I realised I was overcomplicating the matter, and simply wrote a cron job to run my php script and pipe the output to a static HTML file every minute! Whenever I hit the page, I'll get the latest version. It doesn't scale but it doesn't need to, its only for me to use for a few days! Here's the cron job:

* * * * * php -f /path/to/generate.php > /path/to/index.html

Job done! (the actual page I made is/ here if anyone is inquisitive)

The Unavoidable PHPWomen

I'm subscribed to a number of women-in-tech mailing lists because, well, I'm a woman in tech. Every few months or so a thread will come round about a technical conference with no female speakers. The issues around this are many, lengthy, and not something I want to write about here (or not today anyway!).

I was pleasantly surprised to note, then, that at the recent TEK-X conference, there was one slot where you could not AVOID seeing a female speaker. While Elizabeth Marie Smith delivered her slightly ranty "Cross Platform PHP", Ligaya Turmelle was sharing her wisdom in her session "Replication with MySQL", and in the remaining track there was a community roundtable, with my noble self on the panel! (OK so a panel is not a talk but hey, bear with me!)

I want to say thanks to TEK-X for being an amazing conference, to the community for being generally fabulous, and to the women in particular for being awesome beyond belief - this was a good day :)

DPC10 Has an Uncon

As the Host of the Dutch PHP Conference this year, you can imagine I'm squeaky-excited about the whole event. This story goes right back to last year though, when someone (Ivo? Cal? I don't know who) conceived the idea of including an unconference in this year's event. DPC is easily one of my favourite conferences and although I work for Ibuildings, I wasn't directly involved with its organisation last year. In the autumn I wrote a proposal for running the unconference, and it was agreed that we should do it. Fast forward a bit and I became the host of the main conference, which is great news but left a slightly abandoned unconference behind - until the PHPBenelux user group stepped up and will be hosting the unconference alongside our main event (thanks guys!)

I'm so excited about the unconference, although I don't know how our wider attendees will take to it as it hasn't been done before locally. In order to include as many people as possible (and to keep the admin overhead to a minimum) we'll schedule during the conference, on a first-come, first-served basis. This avoids the in-crowd getting voted into all the slots in advance; the uncon is for everyone to take part, not just for the people who are already well known! The uncon will also give us space to include extra on-demand sessions where people are wanting to see more about a particular topic, or see a demo of something a speaker mentions in a talk. Managing a changing schedule in real time will be interesting, we're planning a two-pronged approach with twitter and Joind.in and I'm hoping this will allow attendees to hear about things they want to see in time to actually see them!

Its a new venture and I'm really interested to see how it turns out ... if you're coming to the conference then I hope you will give the uncon a look (in between the other awesome sessions on the schedule of course) and also take the time to share your thoughts on this and on the event as a whole. If you're going to be there - leave a comment and let me know :)

TEK-X: Conference Report

Its been quiet around here recently, partly because I have been really busy and partly because I was in Chicago last week for the wonderful TEK-X conference. It would be very cool to get to go skipping around the world to conferences, however people paying for my airfares do seem to like me to perform some useful function while I am there and this was no exception with one tutorial and two talks to deliver, plus an appearance on a panel. I've attended this conference in previous years however so I knew it would be well worth it :) My sessions and an overview are outlined below:

PHP Best Practices

I was privileged to get a tutorial slot alongside my good friend Matthew Weier O'Phinney for a second consecutive year. This year we presented "PHP Best Practices" which was a lot of fun. We squabbled over topics and took turns presenting them from our own point of view. A description of the session and a link to the slides are on the joind.in page if you are interested.

Subversion in a Distributed World

Now that this talk is finally over, I don't mind admitting that this was the one that I regretted submitting pretty much from the day it was accepted until the day I delivered it, including some rather sleepless nights. It was an adaptation of my "git folks are fanbois" bar rant but I got so concerned that I wasn't supporting my accusations with facts that it evolved into a very coherent evaluation of what I consider to be the four main version control tools around at the moment: Subversion, Mercurial, Bazaar and Git. The talk went over better than I could ever have dreamed, and again you can find description, feedback and slides on the relevant joind.in page. If someone could please stop me next time I submit a talk that needs as much work as this, that would be awesome!

Open Source Your Career

I almost didn't submit this talk, since its so very difficult to get a community talk accepted at the big conferences. They usually have one, at most, and I wasn't sure I was in the top one of submitters on this topic. But, I had a transatlantic airfare to justify and I figured it might make a good second talk - I also know Cal well enough to know he likes a slightly contraversial take on these things. When he accepted it I was fairly surprised and actually quite nervous about spending an hour talking about myself in a conference session! I spoke without slides, so there aren't any, but you can read the outline and feedback on joind.in. In a nutshell: get out and do things, you will reap the benefits one day.

In Conclusion

I had a great time in Chicago, and also managed some touristy outings into Chicago:

Garden in the City The Bean

The conference itself was quite a rollercoaster, not least because every session I delivered was written from scratch for this conference and I spoke at two other big events this year already - 4 sessions over 4 days is a tall order however you look at it and I had pushed my own boundaries a bit with the talks I submitted (for the record, I submitted plenty of perfectly nice, ordinary, technical talks that somehow didn't make the cut!) On the final morning I delivered the career talk and then immediately sat on the community panel. I was aware of people saying to me "have you seen twitter?" but I had to turn around between sessions so I just nodded, smiled, and got settled for the next session. The upshot of that was that I sat in Marco's closing remarks and read 2 hours worth of tweets about me, plus all the joind.in feedback on both sessions, all in one go.

At the risk of understatement, the feedback was totally out of this world, I couldn't believe how well the sessions had gone over and it took me about 3 days to get over the shock ... which is another reason it took me so long to write this post.

I'd like to say thanks to everyone who was there, left feedback, helped me prepare or just showed up to the conference and joined in the event as a whole. Stay in touch and I'll see you all next year :)