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A Different Kind of Conference: the PHP Community Conference

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 19 January 2011.
Planet PHP

For those who have been following along, you'll know that I helped organize a mini-conference for PHP, along with Elizabeth Naramore, in the Fall of 2006. It was little more than an excuse for a small group of people to get together, aokamp,a talk shop, and have fun-and it was a lot of fun. It was so much fun, in fact, that Elizabeth and Keith organized it again in 2008. That was PHP Appalachia. It was the stuff of legends.

I've long wanted to organize a community-driven PHP conference, as far back as 2004, when I helped form the Atlanta PHP user group. Back then, I think my conference dreams were loftier, but I've since attended twenty-something conferences and given nearly sixty talks. I've seen conferences as both a speaker and an attendee, and from conversations with many other speakers and attendees, I knew it was time for something different. Unfortunately, I didn't know exactly what aodifferenta should mean.

Then, just over a year ago, I received an email from Elizabeth. She wrote:

OSBridge showed that a community-driven conference can be successful and readily accepted. I know the economy is tight, but I think there is room for a conference that has no other purpose than to be an educational and fun experience for attendees. [a] We've had a ton of people asking about PHP Appalachia, so maybe that kind of aoretreata versus aoconferencea idea holds merit as well.

Thus began a long thread of messages back-and-forth with a small group: Elizabeth, Paul, Chris, Sean, Ed, and myself; each one wholly committed to the idea of a community-driven conference. But I was still unsure. My uncertainty had nothing to do with whether we could run a PHP conference but, rather, what it would be that makes our conference different. I was tapped by the group to lead the effort, so I started some planning, but everything I did looked like the same ol' conference. I was talking to hotels, looking at traditional venues, and thinking too much inside the box. All of that was about to change, though, with Brooklyn Beta on the horizon.

With its simple narrative of aomake something you love,a Brooklyn Beta showed it was possible to craft a friendly web conference that was as intimate as it was inspiring. Chris himself is an inspiration to me because he views just about everything he does as a craft, something to hone and perfect. He takes great care and pride with everything he touches. The aomake something you lovea narrative was not just the theme of the conference, but Chris and Cameron put it into practice with the care they put into organizing Brooklyn Beta. They made a conference they loved, and it showed-boy, did it show!

At last, I had the inspiration I needed, and with the catalyst provided by Elizabeth, Paul, Chris, Sean, and Ed, I was ready to start a but not quite. Left to myself, I would fail, and by myself, I was failing. Working for a start-up does not leave much time to craft a conference. That's not a complaint; it's just a reality. Help would come in the form of two other Brooklyn Beta attendees, members of the PHP community, and friends of mine: Lisa Denlinger and Nicholas Sloan.

As I recall, Lisa and Nick were both interested in helping create a community-driven PHP conference, so Chris put them in touch with me back in October. The rest, as they say, is history. Things began to move fast, now that we had a small team to accomplish the work needed. Lisa visited venues and put together our budget. Nick began working with a designer to create our website and branding. It's been a lot of hard work, and we still have more hard work ahead of us, but we're making something we love, and I think that's the important part.

During one of our many planning conversations, Nick voiced what would become, for me, the narrative of our conference:

Truncated by Planet PHP, read more at the original (another 3210 bytes)