PHP Tek 12 Recap

I started writing this on the plane on my three hour flight back to Salt Lake City. I have to say that php|tek 12 this year was very excellent. It was great to catch up with many people, and meet so many more. This was my first year as a speaker, which was a lot of work, but very worth it. I’m hoping to be able to speak again in the up coming years.

Every single talk I attended was good. The speakers has spent some serious time in their preparation, and I picked up a lot of great ideas for improving my own talks for the next time. I also want to give a big thanks to the Joind.in folks, their tool is great for helping us learn how to improve our talks. I got great feedback for both talks on things I did right, as well as suggestions on some ordering on information to help my talks be ever clearer.

The WiFi actually worked this year, which was nice. While the internet connection wasn’t the best, it was far better than the previous year. It is nice to see venues starting to have more roboust wifi options that can handle many, many geeks at once.

There are so many more things I could point out, but there is one in particular that I thought I should mention. There have been some blog posts lately that many tech conferences are heavily focusing on heavy drinking, causing people who drink little or none at all to feel excluded. I have seen events myself that soon as the talks were done, it felt like it was a race to get smashed. I have also heard of a few tech events where some after hours entertainment made several uncomfortable, especially for women. I am glad to say that PHP Tek has zero of these problems, but quite the opposite.

For those who do not know, I am LDS (aka Mormon), and so I do not drink. I always have that little worry in the back of my mind when I attend a conference I’m unfamiliar with if I’ll be heading up to my room early since everyone else is too busy getting wasted. But PHP Tek has never, ever, been a problem in my two years of attending. Don’t get me wrong, the PHP Community is known for it’s enjoyment of Alcohol, and there were plenty of free drinks during Tek. There were multiple attendees who are passionate about home brewing, and brought some of their beverages to share with everyone. I think each night there were free drinks of some sort, but they weren’t the focus. We would have an “UnCon” with impromptu talks, a “hack-a-thon” with everyone working on many different projects, and a community jaunt around downtown Chicago.

But each time, the focus was on socializing and having a good time, and it didn’t matter if you were holding a root beer or a regular beer. Not once did I feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, and when I headed up to my room it was due to exhaustion, not exclusion. I can honestly say I had a great time, and I believe the reason why is that from the organizers, to the sponsors, to the speaker, to the attendees: everyone was there to be a community. I even enjoyed the friendly jokes about my hot chocolate instead of coffee. šŸ™‚

So I hope all conferences can take a look at php|tek and see how they were able to organize their event. It is possible to make everyone feel welcome and still have a good time.

Thank you Marco, Cal, Beth, Arbi, Keith, and the rest of the Blue Parabola team. I was honored to speak at your conference, and I hope I can do it again in the future. To everyone I met and saw at the conference, I hope to see each one of you again in the future, and look forward to seeing you at php|tek 2013.

4 thoughts on “PHP Tek 12 Recap

  1. Justin, thanks. Both for speaking and for noting this.

    A few years back, I was contacted by a recovering alcoholic who had similar concerns.. except it was post-tek and he had felt excluded. Definitely *not* our goal and I was disappointed in myself for not considering it.

    Going forward, we worked to switch things around and have dual-track evenings where alcohol is served on one track (social) but not the other (technical, uncon & hackathon).

    We don’t exclude it, but we don’t include it either. If someone wants to partake, it’s up to them to get it from the other track or the bar.

    We don’t point this out – it may make the people we’re trying to include feel awkward and therefore excluded – but we keep it in mind.. so thanks for noticing. šŸ™‚

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  2. It was great meeting you, Justin! This was my first year attending (and speaking), so I had no idea what to expect. I was delighted to find such a welcoming community that is passionate about developing AND building relationships. Cal said it best, we’re not normal, but there sure was a good amount of awesome.

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  3. It’s great to hear that tek works for non-drinkers, especially considering the number of people who were drinking after hours. I’ll definitely keep your feedback in mind when I bug Liz Naramore to organize another jaunt next year! šŸ™‚

    I’m sorry I didn’t make it to any of your talks but hopefully I’ll see you at tek 2013!

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  4. Yup, and I had tweeted Liz before hand asking if a non-drinker would feel awkward, and she replied that we wouldn’t. I think she even added a note to the event page. The Jaunt was definitely a highlight of the trip, and was a ton of fun.

    So Conor, Luke, and Keith, it was all awesome seeing you guys at Tek, and I’m definitely planning on being back for 2013. šŸ™‚

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