ZendCon 2008: more community, less corporate
September 28th, 2008 by Ivo
I'm usually not very late with a conference report, but last week's events kept me busy. With Leoni having to work a Sunday shift however, I have a day to clean up some odds and ends, so here's my report.
The day to day reports can be read on our company blog so I'll just give a more general opinion on the conference and pick two favorite talks.
In many ways, Zendcon08 was an improvement over Zendcon07 (which already was a great conference, but it's nice to see Zend was able to improve it even more). Most notable for me was that the community aspect was bigger than last year. The Uncon (sessions organized by the community outside the main conference) was more prominent and more popular, and featured several outstanding sessions.
Also, the evening events got a lot more visitors than last year. The Yahoo! party was generally considered to be less than last year however, mainly due to the fact that unlike last year, there was only one free drink and any drinks afterward had ridiculous prices. But the ZCE party on monday, the general reception on tuesday and the meet the team session on wednesday were very nice and I got a chance to talk to a lot of people.
The opening keynote was still a bit 'corporate', with Harold, the CEO from Zend talking mainly about PHP adoption in the enterprise and some case studies. I liked it, but 'enterprise php' is kind of my thing; I heard several developers say they rather have something more technical. Another way they made the conference less corporate was that they dropped the vendor keynotes they had in 2007. Since those tend to be overly commercial, it was a good idea to skip them.
My favorite presentation was "The State of Ajax" by Ben Galbraith. I hadn't expected that actually; from the title I thought it would be Yet Another Ajax talk, but it was very insightful and Ben did a great job explaining current and future trends. Most interesting thing I got out of it was getting to know Fluid, a 'site specific browser' that lets you treat webapps such as Gmail, Facebook, Google Calendar etc. as separate desktop applications with even nifty things such as Growl notifications or 'new mail' indicators in the OSX dock. I immediately installed it on my macbook and I love it.
My second favorite was Terry Chay's uncon session on 'Making Frameworks Suck Less'. I hope Terry will convert that into a real talk, as it was even better than his 'The internet is an Ogre' talk: this time he had a lot more valid points and he did a better job of getting them across. (On the other hand, if he converts this to a real talk, probably the charm of running it as an informal uncon session using just a flip-chart will be lost.)
The next conference I'm looking forward to is php|works where for the first time a PHP conference is combined with a Python conference. It will be interesting to see how that works out. But first I'll be visiting Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference in October. Although that is not likely to contain a lot of PHP, I was invited by Microsoft because they want to reach out to the PHP community (which was also obvious from their ZendCon presence), so let's find out what they have to tell us.