PHPUK 2009 Part 1: Cutting edge and Community

I was really excited to find I was able to go to the PHP conference in London on the 27th February this year, following a fortuitous set of circumstances and I’m glad to say all my excitement was well founded!

It’s great to be part of such a large friendly community and I was really happy to catch up with folks I’d met at PHPNW and talk about the changes to our industry in the last few months. Despite a global downturn it appears that the world of php development is still above water and in some cases actively thriving. So to the talks…


Aral Balkan at PHP UK 2009 © Tess Barnes
Aral Balkan at PHP UK 2009 © Tess Barnes

So, after a slightly drunken pre-conference social at the Brook Green Hotel, it was refreshing to have an energetic and spirited keynote speech by Aral Balkan to wake us up and fire up enthusiasm for the day to come. I really agree with his idea that you should do what brings you joy – work on what you enjoy and if you’re not, find something else to get involved in.

New and shiny in 5.3

Next up for me was Scott MacVicar’s talk on what’s new in php5.3. As I have only been working with object orientated php for a few months I found this a good primer to some of the extra functionality in the latest version including garbage collection, late static bindings and phar. It was also nice to finally leave the namespace syntax debate behind and get a real idea of practical implementations. Scott is an example of the many talented developers who put ego aside and open their minds to new applications of their ideas: the very thing that underpins our open source communities.

Waiting for the rain

The forecast for databases in the clouds
The forecast for databases in the clouds

After some kindly provided decaf coffee (excellent staff at this Olympia place :) ) it was off to the Drizzle talk by David Axmark. This was easily the most cutting edge talk in the sense of a sneak preview into a research project. The Drizzle team hopes their database solution to be production safe in ‘about a year from now’ but it already shows signs of being leaner and much more efficient than MySQL from which it is forked.

There is no suggestion that Drizzle would take over from MySQL, in fact David made clear in the Q&A session that Drizzle and MySQL are different horses for different courses. We were still left with the impression that development, changes and the roadmap will be traversed quite rapidly and that Drizzle is specifically optimized for the Cloud and internet application market. One to keep an eye on.

Marcus Baker
Marcus Baker

At this point I’d just like to say that hot food for lunch is a genius idea, was delicious and kept us well motivated for the mix of talks later in the day. The organisational run up to the conference may have seemed chaotic and ill informed but on the day things went smoothly and time slip and overcapacity on rooms was dealt with honestly, firmly and efficiently. I would not have liked to admit misjudging the popularity of one talk over another but Marcus did with aplomb. I also would not be up for turning away hordes from a room too small but all the organisers stood bravely in the face of chaos and fire risk to do just that. Full kudos to all the organisers and volunteers for running a great show.

Other highlights of lunch for me were meeting more new phpwomen and some of the phpwomen founders. We had a great turn out and a fair few first conferences to celebrate. Also, seeing the ‘touch table’ (Microsoft Surface) turn into a shallow, pebble filled, pool complete with movable water was very cool.

[note: as this review is getting incredibly long I thought I would break it up a little – that way I get to publish at least some today!]
[edit feb2015 – these links may be broken for the next few days…]
Links to other parts:
Part 2: Contention and Clarity
Part 3: Comedy, Chris and Closing