PHPNW Conference 2008 Review

Last weekend, I opted not to spend time with my friends, nor did I choose to perform DIY on my (never finished) home; instead I decided to geek-out at the first ever PHPNW conference at Manchester Central.

Upon hearing about a Manchester-based PHP conference, I got quite excited; often conferences of this ilk are very expensive and once you factor in the travel/accommodation expense applicable to visiting London/Brighton/Dublin etc they quickly become unaffordable so a relative inexpensive conference on my doorstep was not to be missed.

What was good

  • The price: Early bird tickets were only £52.25 – tremendous value
  • The freebies: Lunch was provided, lots of people won free books and there was also food and free drinks after the conference (although I had to miss that)
  • The organisation: This was a very well run event. I’m no conference whore but I have been to a few before and PHPNW was certainly the best organised I’d been to.
  • Two tracks of talks meant that there good choice of what to listen to.
  • I won a book (or James sat next to me did, but he already owned it and gave it to me)
  • Lots of developers from all over the place. I had expected this event to be Manchester-centric but I met people from Ireland, Europe and I was really impressed by that.

What wasn’t as good

I don’t wish to appear offensive or ungrateful here, as I thought the conference was great but my biggest grumble was a lack of verve from some of the speakers. The topics of the talks were great – I was really looking forward to hearing them, but I found myself struggling to stay awake in some. The speakers were all very professional but I didn’t get the feeling they had done lots of speaking events before – the presentations were mostly bullet-pointed powerpoint slide and a lot of the speakers appeared slightly nervous.

I’m no fool, I understand that the price of the tickets means Zeldman or Kevin Rose aren’t going to show up and wow us but I did feel the presentations that I saw lacked a little personality. Often, the presenters only came alive when the time came for questions at which point they became much more lively and actually seemed to be enjoying themselves.

It takes a lot of balls, to stand up in front of room of nerds and present your expertise – it isn’t easy and I respect all the people who did it on the day.

Disclaimer: The conference had two tracks and for all I know, the talks I didn’t go to could have been fascinating and full of beans.

PHPNW 2009

I hope there is a PHPNW 09 conference, I think the inaugural event has set some great groundwork and I fully believe any teething problems will be fully ironed out for next year.

There is also undoubtedly scope to increase the capacity of the event: I named-dropped PHPNW 08 quite aggressively to as many PHP developers that I came in to contact with prior to the conference but in the end I only saw one developer I knew there. I’m not sure what happened there - maybe people didn’t get to hear about this conference in time, but by next year I’m sure a bit of buzz will have been created by PHPNW 08 and the interest will be much higher.

Your opinion

Did you go to PHPNW 08? What did you think of it? Will you be attending PHPNW 09?

4 responses to “PHPNW Conference 2008 Review”

  1. I thought phpnw08 was pretty good – everyone was friendly, and it was nice to see a few familiar faces.

    My bad points were :

    a) There weren’t t-shirts for everyone (I sponsored the t-shirts and had expected to get our company logo everywhere!!)

    b) I think it would have been useful for there to have been lightening talks (i.e. you turn up and on the spur of the moment, following someone else’s talk or a general chat between friends, you see there’s interest for $additional_talk – so you write down on a board, and sometime later you continue the discussion/tell everyone why $x is so good). Admittedly, this requires participation from the delegates, and if they’re not feeling very interactive then this will fail.

    c) Timetable should have had a sentence/paragraph about what a talk is on; some talks I couldn’t figure out what they would be on, so ended up hassling someone like Lorna… I’m sure others had this problem. Perhaps if talks could have some form of rating – i.e. subject difficulty and area…?

    Good points :

    a) Different type of topics covered in comparison to PHPLondon

    b) More than one track of talks

    c) Everything appeared to go to plan

    d) I came away with a free book, free 12 month PHPArchitect subscription, free mug, free t-shirt, free memory-stick

    e) Venue was much easier to get to than e.g. central london

    I think I should have, in retrospect offered to do a talk on Propel and/or Smarty. and/or security .. but ho hum.

  2. @David Goodwin: Great comment. I actually got a t-shirt but couldn’t see myself ever wearing it – so left it on my seat.

  3. PHPNW sounds interesting, but would you say that it was worth it from a freelance/business perspective? What would you say that you learnt? What did you take away from the conference that will help you work faster and/or smarter? These aren’t loaded questions, I’m genuinely interested.

  4. @Chris Gibson: Good question. Two of the talks directly related to my current work. A talk about starting to use Zend framework and a talk about how PHP websites can be exploited via PHP – so how would a hacker would attempt to hack your site?

    Both talks were great topics and both talks were delivered in less than exciting manner.

    With conferences/networking events, it’s often the people you meet in between talks and the things you learn from them which can be more valuable than the presentations.