PHPConfAsia Thoughts And More
The conference was just over and I’m already missing the fun times I had there. It was three days of fun and excitement; learning tons of things from the speakers – their experience, knowledge and most importantly, feeling their passion.
PHP Conference Asia is an annual pan-Asia conference that focuses on PHP. PHP stands for PHP Hypertext Pre-processor; a dynamic server sided language that has been around since 1995 (even before I was born!). This year’s PHP Conference Asia was spearheaded by Michael Cheng (@coderkungfu), PHP Code Father of Singapore, and was held in Singapore, from 22 Aug to 24 Aug. The first day of the conference was a tutorial day that has 3 different tracks for attendees to choose from and was held at Amazon Web Services’ office in Singapore. Whereas for the second and third day, there was only one main conference track and was held at Biopolis’s Matrix building. The conference had several prominent speakers, like Davey Shafik (@dshafik) and Samantha Quiñones (@ieatkillerbees), who gave wonderful and inspirational talks about the current and future state of PHP. There was more than 120 attendees this year, which was a slight decline from last year’s conference.
I participated in this year’s conference as a speaker and a volunteer. I wanted to share how my experience in Singapore’s technology community has been and how The Open Organization book inspired me to contribute. Then, I applied to give a lightning talk at the conference and my paper was accepted! My talk was scheduled to be on the 2nd day and as the first lightning talk of the conference. If you missed it, do check out the recorded version of my talk.
There was a pre-conference meetup held at Big Street, a hipster cafe located in a hipster place, and co-organized with KopiJS. I arrived a little early but there was already a few other folks around. Michael Cheng kindly sponsored the food for all folks who went for the pre-conference meetup and we had lots of food.
The hipster food served by the cafe was delicious and quite filling, although it came with quite a price tag too (which was quite expected). From the popular “salty egg” stuff to ice cream pratas, these food amazed the speakers who flew in from all over the world.
Tutorial day started off at Amazon Web Services’ office in Singapore (thanks AWS for sponsoring!) with 3 different tracks, varying from code design patterns and web applications to DevOps deployment. Some of the tutorials that I liked was “BDD with Behat for Beginners”, by Adam Englander (@adam_englander) and “Understanding and Implementing PSR”, by Zion Ng (@zionsg2015).
BDD with Behat for Beginners
Adam’s workshop taught me how applications can be designed through the behaviour of groups of people and be presented in a business manner that could be understood by any laymen. Behat allowed both the technical and non-technical folks to be on the same page and enables quick review of BDD code. I found it particular useful as this bridges the gap between the technical and non-technical folks, so that business processes and processes being coded will be inline, saving tons of development time and making communications a lot more intuitive. You should totally check out his amazing workshop if you’re interested in cutting down time lost to business-technical miscommunication – https://engineers.sg/v/1035
Understanding and Implementing PSR
Zion dived into PHP’s open standards, also known as PHP Standards Recommendations (PSR). There are many ways which a person can code their applications – using spaces or tabs, using camel casing for function names, etc. All of them are preferences and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, with different way of application communications and coding styles, there will be issues with interoperability and code readability. PHP Framework Interop Group (FIG) help to standardize these things within PHP, making it easier for PHP developers to develop applications that are interoperable and easy to read. During the workshop, he went through several PSRs and taught the attendees how to code tools to detect if an application is abiding by the PSRs. He was very patient and went through everything in detailed, and also made effort in engaging the audience by asking questions. If you’re interested in learning more about open standards in PHP, do check out his workshop – https://engineers.sg/v/1033
Day 1 Meetup
Night fell but the day was not quite over yet! There was a post-day 1 PHP meetup that was held at Microsoft Singapore’s office. There were 3 captivating talks given at the meetup, “HTTP/2 and Asynchronous APIs” by Davey Shafik, “scaling your PHP web app” by Harald Zeitlhofer (@HZeitlhofer) and “Building tools to support an Open Source Community” by Dion Hulse. Davey Shafik is one of the developer evangelist at Akamai Technologies and has over 15 years of experience developing with PHP. Although I already had some knowledge about HTTP/2, his talk compelled me with effective PHP use cases of HTTP/2 which I never really thought of.
The day continued on with several normal talks that lasts for 45 minutes each and also 3 lightning talks, each lasting for 15 minutes (not very “lightning” but still shorter than the normal ones). I was particularly intrigued by one of the talks given — “The sound of PHP” by Steven Cooper (@DeveloperSteve).
The sound of PHP
A slightly less serious talk where Steven Cooper, a senior evangelist at Xero, shares his experience fiddling with audio and sound in PHP. He encountered issues where PHP libraries that aided audio processing were severely outdated by 5+ years, and had to find and develop workarounds. Nevertheless, his patience and perseverance paid off and he managed to process and play audio notes on his laptop, using PHP. He also shared with the audience on Xero’s audio API. Do check out his sharing – https://engineers.sg/v/1019
Day 2 After Party
This was an after party organized specially for the speakers and volunteers; to thank them for their hard work and efforts. It was held at M Hotel’s bar. The food here was great and there was good music being played by the band at the bar. I had a conversation with Aloysius, Justin Lee and Zion Ng about their experience so far. They enjoyed it and we also discuss a little about the local technology community’s present and future. It was an interesting conversation and we had fun there. I left early as I was quite tired.
Day 3 After Party
Every conference needs to have an after party! Without any doubt, PHPConfAsia had an amazing one as well. It was held at Azucar, 345 Beach Road. There was finger food and drinks served, and it was quite nice too. There was a small band playing some music to entertain us. They were very friendly and did song requests and also allowed us to sing! We had lots of singing and small-talks at the after-party. It was a fun time and a great way to end of the conference.
Stickers And Swags!
What’s a conference without stickers and swags, right?!?!
Steven Cooper had a bag that contained lots of stickers from the conferences and meetups he went for.
He shared his collection of stickers with everyone at the conference and we were all very excited and thankful for his sharing!
Reflection And Closing Thoughts
This would probably be my last conference that I will be speaking at before I serve my nation in the army (Singaporean men must serve 2 years of mandatory national service). Thereafter, I would lose touch with the community for some time. It is an unarguable fact that the technology community in Singapore seems to be shrinking every year. There are insufficient young folks joining in to replace the senior folks, who are looking to retire sooner or later.
There were some young folks from Red Airship (@RedAirship), but that was about it. Justin Lee and Zion Ng were also quite concerned about the decline in passionate youths in the local technology community. Would the community become non-existent after I have finished my national service? Not sure. But I do sincerely hope to be able to help pull in and inspire more passionate youths and friends into the community…
Thank you everyone for taking your time to participate in PHPConfAsia, and huge thanks to Michael Cheng, all sponsors and volunteers for making it happen. (And also, thank you Josephine for volunteering when I asked at the last minute! You’re a fantastic friend!) Finally, thank you for reading. :)