ZendCon 2009 PHP Conference – Review

October 2009 saw my return to San Jose for one of the top conferences on the PHP calendar – ZendCon. Other than taking place a month later and the conference venue shifting locations slightly, much of the format of this year’s ZendCon was the same as last year’s.

Taking the organizational reigns this time around, Eli White takes over from Cal Evans who recently moved from Zend to iBuildings. Organization was mostly smooth, with a few minor hiccups – day 1 had a serious lack of power supply, leaving most attendees with dying laptops before lunch. Compounding the problem, no notepads or pens were provided on registration. Attendees who had registered early and received free netbooks reported that the netbooks came with European plugs instead of US ones. However, most of these issues were sorted out by day 2.

The speakers at this year’s ZendCon included some familiar stalwarts – Sebastian Bergmann was back and presented on topics including testing, quality assurance and continuous integration. Accompanying him, was Stefan Priebsch and Arne Blankerts, who together with Sebastian Bergmann makes up the newly formed PHP consulting company, thePHP.cc. Cal Evans was present in the capacity as a speaker and delivered a good presentation on design patterns. Of course, Elizabeth Marie Smith was back and presented on PHP for the desktop using php GTk as well as a talk on SPL

Of all the speakers, two that stood out was Ilia Alshanetsky and Stefan Priebsch. I attended two of Ilia sessions, the first about premature optimization and the second on popular caching tools, APC and Memcache. His rapid delivery style and excellent knowledge crammed an almost overwhelming amount of content into a single one hour slot. Stefan Priebsch joined in on a code review tutorial session with Sebastian Bergmann and Arne Blankerts, but it was only when he presented on OOP best practices when he came into his own. Stefan is an engaging speaker and his OOP knowledge demands a lot of respect.

As usual, Twitter and the ZendCon IRC channel was abuzz with attendees tweeting during the conference and was a great way to keep a finger on the conference’s pulse.

The conference, however, wasn’t without negatives – drinks (soft drinks and coffee) were only served after every 2 talks and physically removed after the break, even though these weren’t refrigerated to begin with. In some instances, I had to leave the conference venue to purchase my own drinks.

This year there was no party or any afterhours activities arranged by the conference or sponsors other than the usual reception – this year sponsored by Adobe.

Regarding the format of the conference, I do feel that there are too many talks and the talks are too short – it is simply not possible (unless your name is Ilia Alshanetsky) to fit any meaningful amount of information into a one hour slot , especially the more advanced topics (which are of course the more interesting ones).

ZendCon 09 ended with a framework shootout – a representative of each of the more popular PHP frameworks were invited to appear in a panel discussion and the audience grilled them with questions. Of course, to liven things up, each panel member was provided with a toy gun. Although not particularly useful, it was highly entertaining and a great way to end the conference with.

For a list of conference speakers, talks, ratings and slides of this year’s ZendCon, check out the ZendCon Joind.in page.

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