I attended Lone Star PHP last year with much hope and even more trepidation as to my abilities to hold my own with other members of the PHP community. I was the recipient of the Lone Star PHP scholarship, so my attendance and stay were taken care of by the conference sponsors (thank you! thank you! thank you!). I spent a day at an intro-to-PHP workshop, where I realized that I knew more about modern PHP and its practices than I cared to admit. I spent another day attending great talks. I met many wonderful folks, some of whom I have maintained contact and some PHP luminaries I follow on Twitter, blog posts, and podcasts. Since I had accepted a job offer while doing the TSA dance at DFW airport, I spent my evenings leaving the after-parties early to work on my resignation letter.
This year was my sophomore attendance, so I attended with a less timid attitude, a lifetime more of experience, an established and beloved career, and looking forward to the talks I would attend, the friends I would see again, and the new friends I would make. This time, my employer, Stowers Institute for Medical Research sent me (thank you!). This time around, I found that I was able to offer more to the conference than I had before. I connected at least one attendee to his local user group, talked up NomadPHP and CoderDojo, and was able to explain some of the awesomeness of Composer. I also attended great talks and workshops and met some amazing folks.
Lone Star is a regional conference, has world-class talks, and feels like a community. Many of the speakers know each other and hang out together for the several days of the conference (and sometimes even a day or so later). Yet, even though many of the speakers are friends with each other, they are open and welcoming to outsiders like me.
The business value for attending the conference is in the talks themselves. I was able to take concepts from at least two talks and apply them to code I was working on for work the following week. The long-term value will be seen by my employer later as I apply lessons learned from the various intellectual paths opened to me by all of the talks.
The reason I will attend Lone Star again is for what happens outside of the talks. The "hallway track" is a part of this. I attended two talks I didn't expect to attend due to having good conversations with attendees after a talk that
were interrupted were followed by a great talk in the same room.
The lunches provided by the conference sponsors were great. Day 0's lunch was off, schedule-wise, in that the line went pretty far back; yet, I had several great conversations with great people while waiting in line, talked with Adam Culp about his long-distance running and learned of his new podcast, and had Ben Ramsey sign my copy of the 3rd edition of the Zend Certification Guide (Davey Shafik signed it Saturday night). Friday's lunch was fajitas and Saturday's was Texas BBQ. Yum. Funny aside: on one of the lunches, forks were more popular than were available; so I grabbed two plastic knives and used them like chopsticks to eat my lunch -- I felt like I was epitomizing the double-clawed hammer of PHP. Thank you, PHPDevHired and Robofirm for sponsoring the lunches!
The hallway track at Lone Star was pretty awesome. I met an Austin-based dev team from Whole Foods, user group leaders from around the United States, many Texas-based developers, speakers and other luminaries of the PHP community, and people I had met last year. At one point, I saw various speakers in the hallway and asked if they were "the hallway track or the rogue's gallery;" one responded that they were in detention.
The after-parties were low key and were largely an extension of the hallway track. Omni Adams provided his awesome homebrew beers -- incredibly, they have improved from last year's perfection. I missed the Loosely Coupled podcast Friday night due to being caught up with great conversations with members of the community. Saturday night, I was able to take part in the fun "PHP Jeopardy" game, where I forgot everything I knew. I was honored to take part in the "It's the booze talking" edition of the Voices of the Elephant podcast. Thank you, SpareFoot and SoftLayer for sponsoring the after-parties!
Following the after-parties, groups of us got together to have dinner, hit a karaoke bar, and in the midst of Dallas thundersqualls, have drinks at the hotel the speakers were staying at and engage in great conversations. (Thank you, OKC Jake Smith & crew for providing transportation!)
These are the talks I attended. My (and others') reviews are included in the links. These first two talks (ok, workshops) are reviewed at Lone Star PHP 2015: Day 0 - Training Day
- Getting Started with PHP Unit - Matt Frost
- Wax On, Wax Off: Coder Dojo - Rabbi Yitzchok Willroth
- Architecting with Queues for Scale, Speed, and Separation - Sandy Smith
- Caching Strategies - Ben Ramsey
- Dependency Injection, Dependency Inversion, and You - Jeff Carouth
- Talmudic Maxims to Maximize Your Growth as a Developer - Rabbi Yitzchok Willroth
- It Feels Great to Iterate - Jeremy Lindblom
- Keynote: Teaching Kids to Fail - Maurya Couvares
- Refactoring Legacy Code - Adam Culp
- Debuggin Zen - Ben Ramsey
- Functional PHP - Larry Garfield
- Building Extraordinary Packages - Phil Sturgeon
- Building Rock Solid Software in the Real World - Omni Adams
- Don't Fear the Regex - Sandy Smith
- Keynote: Turning Your Code Into a Company: The Parts They Don't Tell You - Luke Stokes
I had submitted a couple of talks that weren't accepted; yet I did not attend any talks that made me think "they turned my talk down for this?" Even the duds were golden!
This was a great conference. The Dallas PHP community and the Lone Star organizers are to be commended on providing such a great conference. The cost of admission is perfect for those entering PHP development (or attending locally) and the caliber of talks are perfect for those who are presently engaged in PHP development (or attending from afar). The after-parties are great for adults away from their families, yet fun for locals to bring their families.
I met many wonderful people and learned much that will benefit both my employer and myself.
I will be back. Next time, I hope, with a talk in my pocket.