Notes from a Northern conference

This blog post is more than 5 years old, so the content may be out of date.

Last week I went to (and gave a tutorial at) the PHP North West conference, in Manchester.

Conference feedback

As always, the organisers did a fantastic job. PHPNW know how to put on a great conference, so huge thanks for all the time and effort they put in.

Ideas, thoughts, and interesting things

This is really a bit of a disjointed brain-dump of a list, because I haven't had time to really read up on these things yet.

Nikolay - an Automattic employee who attended my tutorial - raised a doubt in my long-standing opinion that varnish cache is the fastest of them all. The ideology behind this idea is that PHK wrote the software with the understanding that the underlying O/S and kernel would dictate things like swapping to disk, etc (OK, this is an over-simplification, but then, these are my notes after all!). Nikolai suggested that PHK's work was done in an era before SSDs become commonplace or financially viable, and with the underlying assumptions changed, nginx can provide a better, quicker cache than varnish. This sounds plausible to me, and given time I'll be carrying out some tests :-)

Scott MacVicar from Facebook gave a great talk which covered some of the tools and practices they use at Facebook, and mentioned two things in particular: phabricator - the main part I saw of phabricator was the code-review tool, which looked pretty awesome, and reminiscent of gerrit (which I dislike for it's NIH nature) - and preparables, a design pattern that facebook use to optimise and group external calls.

Derick Rethans spoke convincingly about OSM over other mapping providers (yes, I will get to a mapping party sooner or later!)

Lorna proved the power of community when within a few hours of her talking about her work on open-source conference-feedback software joind.in, she'd received a few pull-requests with patches (and only one of those was mine!)
Lorna also suggested an idea which I am fully adopting:

"We only accept bug reports which come with a repeatable test case using curl."

As web-services will be more than 50% of the project I'm currently working on, this will stop spurious bug reports no end!

There were many other great speakers, great talks, and great beer at the end (thanks sponsors!).
If you're not going to conferences regularly - at least one a year, if not more - you're doing yourself a disservice. For the things you learn, the friends and connections you make, and the ideas that a conference sparks in your mind, tech conferences are an essential part of growing in any of the technical fields. It has to be said, PHPNW is also an especially accessible conference: cheap, well-timed, and friendly.

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