ZendCon 2014: 10 Years Old and Still a Rocking Good Time

For those of you who missed it, last week was the 10th annual gathering of the PHP community in Santa Clara, California, known as ZendCon. If you were one of the unlucky that did not get to attend, I'm here to give you the highlights. If you were one of the lucky few that were able to get there, read on and let's relive a few memories.

Note: I had the great privilege of hosting ZendCon for three years. So if I sound like a fanboi of this conference, it's because I am.

Any time the PHP community gets together it's going to be a great time. There will always be fun, fellowship, war stories, horror stories, bad manager stories...but I repeat myself. I have always said that the PHP community is one of three things that make PHP so awesome—the language itself, the documentation, the community—and every time I get together with more than a few PHP developers, I am reminded how true that statement is. 

Monday—Tutorial Day

Luke "Did someone say Bitcoin?" StokesZendCon actually kicked off on Monday with tutorials. Since Monday was a travel day for me, I wasn't able to participate in them this year. That said, I was told that they were great. I didn't talk to a single person that was disapointed in the tutorials that they attended. In any conference, sessions are great. They are a chance to inspire and encourage developers. The tutorials, however, are the real education opportunities. Tutorials are really the only chance you have to dive deep into a topic and learn.

Tuesday—Keynote Kickoff

Michaelangelo can Dam's Eye

Tuesday kicked off bright, and maybe a little too early, with the opening keynote from Zend's CEO, Andi Gutmans. Andi announced and discussed the release of a new feature in Zend Server, Z-Ray.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been openly critical of Zend's products over the years, even when I worked there. Z-Ray, however, looks to be something worth investigating further. The ability to see exactly what is going on in your application looks to be very powerful. Not just what variables are set or what errors have occurred. I think the thing that impressed me the most—in the 30 seconds I played with it—was the ability to see what SQL statements were being executed. I can't wait to install it on my development server and run my WordPress-powered blog on it. (Hint: While WordPress has gotten a LOT better in the past few years, the 37 plugins I use haven't) :)

There was way too much in Andi's opening keynote for me to describe in this short blog post. Zend was kind enough to post it on Youtube for everyone to enjoy. I highly recommend that you invest a lunch hour in watching it. 



Samantha Quinones

Traditionally, I enjoy the hallway track of a conference more than most sessions, so that was where most people found me. Talking with other developers, sharing stories, pollinating ideas, and of course recording episodes of my podcast, Voices of the ElePHPant. I did, however, make it to two complete sessions and fragments of several others.

Wednesday & Thursday—So. Many. Great. Sessions.

Chris Hartjes at ZendCon 2014The first session I attended was "Why You Can't Test" by the Grumpy Programmer himself, Chris Hartjes. Chris hit the big stage like a wrecking ball. His talk was as informative as it was opinionated. If you've never had the chance to hear Chris speak live, it is an experience. Chris is an engaging speaker regardless of the topic, but when it comes to Unit Testing, he knows how to rock the stage.

The other talk I got to see in its entirety was Paul Jones's "It Was Like That When I Got Here: Steps Toward Modernizing a Legacy Codebase". Paul M. Jones is one of those speakers—like Lorna Jane Mitchell—that I would listen to if all he was doing was reading the phone book. Thankfully, this session had a lot more meat to it than that. I've heard Paul speak at conferences and user groups for the past nine years and each time, regardless of whether I've seen the presentation before or not, I always learn something. This one was a great talk that every developer with more than six months of experience can relate to and learn from.

These are just two of the great sessions that were presented last week. I know they were all recorded, and I wish I knew that they would all be released so I could point you to them.


Beth "Mother of Liam" Tucker Long at ZendCon 2014There were a couple of things I took away from ZendCon 2014. First, HHVM and Hack are going to be important in the coming year—and I don't say that just because Facebook invited me to their party. If you are not keeping up with their development, you will want to start soon. I know of at least two high-profile PHP developers who are beginning to create content designed to help you get up and running. 

Eryn O'Neil at ZendCon 2014Second, tooling is getting better and better each year.Z-Ray is good but it is only one of the amazing tools available to help us be better PHP developers. Z-Ray, PHPUnit, and Composer are all tools that every PHP developer needs to know. Even if you choose not to use Z-Ray, you need to know about it for that one time when it will save your bacon. 

Finally, if you haven't noticed, it's a great time to be a PHP developer. PHP runs roughly 50% of all websites out there. IBM runs PHP on their i-Series servers. Major applications all the way down to personal blogs run on PHP. The only downside is that things are picking up steam. If you aren't learning something new on a regular basis, you will soon be left behind. Get out there, get involved in your local user group, find a conference to attend, keep up and stay involved.

Pictures from top to bottom

Most of the pictures were lifted directly from the ZendCon page. I do hope they don't mind. :)

Topics Education