Just like last year, when I went to the PHP Community Conference, I have come back with many things to think about. Oddly, many of them are the same. Maybe that is the purpose of conferences, to keep us thinking about the persistent problems we all encounter, and continue to attempt to address them. Don't let apathy or defeat overtake us. Keep pushing. Keep working. Keep innovating.

The most obvious difference between Converge SE and the PHP Community Conference for me was the workshop day. The workshops offered focused more on actual code and possible techniques than pie in the sky ideals. I definitely enjoyed the workshop day more than the speaker day. This was probably due to the focus of each of the sessions. Several tracks were offered (Mobile, Development, Front-end, Design, Business Dev, and Marketing). By providing a focus, the speakers were able to get into the technical details that a designer might not need or want to know (Development track).

I can only comment on the sessions I attended, but I found them to be very informative. As is always possible though, I did find some things to be disappointed in. I'll focus on the positives here though, because they outweigh the negatives. (I have a plan for a post to address the negatives not only at the conference, but in the general development community.)

The workshops definitely gave me an opportunity to learn about some things I didn't know enough about, and some clarity on things I did. For instance, the first session I attended was about Node.js. I had read about Node.js online, but didn't know anyone that had actually used it. The general idea is non-blocking code, so that you can serve out more requests concurrently. The system is built on JavaScript, and can integrate with client-side javascript quite easily. I came away with my basic assumptions of Node.js confirmed. It is an interesting technology with specific uses, but I don't feel it will be effective for the general use. More to come later.

The second session I went to was Mobile Design Process. This was definitely my favorite workshop, which is funny, since it probably doesn't affect me that much. The focus was on responsive design and changing the way we think about it. Rather than letting screen-size dictate the breakpoints, let the content dictate it. Basically I hadn't seen anyone change their design based on watching the content flow in the browser. Once you see it, the idea validates itself.

For the third session, I went back to development and learned about identity on the internet. This was definitely the most eye-opening session. The sheer amount of data that can be easily gleaned about someone on the internet is impressive. Web Finger being the most scary to me. Basically, from just an email address you can get social profiles, contacts, etc. Luckily, it appears to be opt-in, and I'm not opted-in. However, I have a gmail account that is from the original beta, long before Google added it. Who knows whether it is on by default or not. Yet another reason to be wary of what you share on the internet.

The final session of the day for me was Breaking Free from JQuery. I found this to be the least convincing. The basic argument was that JQuery was heavy and had many bad plugins. Both of these are fair accusations, but both are easily deflected. As far as JQuery being heavy, use the Google CDN. Also, it has to be big to work properly in all browsers. It's not perfect, but you work with the tools you have. Gzip and minify the file (done for you on the Google CDN), and you reduce the burden. The second argument that there are bad plugins is missing the point. Of course there are bad plugins. Every language/tool with any popularity is going to have that problem. Don't blame the language/tool for amateur hour. Blame yourself if you use one of them without doing your homework. Plus, once Ender.js was completely laid out for everyone to see, it has the exact same problems as JQuery and more, but since you pick and choose plugins, you can save maybe 20kB. The added headache, in my opinion, isn't worth it. If you're a massive company like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc 20kB is a big deal, but most of the sites worked on can spend that time and money better. Infinite money = Superior optimization. Finite money = tough choices.

Overall, the first day was great. Even though I disagree with some of the speakers talks, I still respect them for getting up there and giving them. Speaking at a conference has to be difficult and takes some courage.
AuthorMichael Cantrell