It was that time of year again, the JH development team were headed out in force to Manchester, looking forward to the 10th anniversary of the PHP North West Conference.
Having attended PHPNW for the past 4 years, we are always impressed by the quality of the talks, as well as how well organised the event is. On top of that, this year, our lead develop Michael gave a great talk about teaching the next generation.
The conference kicked off with the opening keynote by Rasmus Lerdorf, the creator of PHP. He talked us through some history of the language and how it’s evolved through the years, then went on to tell us about the exciting things they’re working on such as OPCODE caching optimisations and just in time compilation. Hugely inspirational to hear it from Lerdorf.
Many of the other talks were also very thought-provoking, let me tell you about a few:
Nuclear Powered Software Security, by Christopher Riley
Christopher talked us through several case studies of security disasters from around the world, from the aviation industry to the nuclear energy industry, what caused them and how they could have been avoided.
He then compared that to the software industry and provided examples of how you can detect vulnerabilities in an IT system, and how you can protect them as much as possible. Security is always at the forefront of our mind when developing software for our clients, and that’s the reason I’ll always make the time for a security-related talk when a conference is offering one.
The Mindful Developer, by David McKay
How can we keep our focus and be productive in an industry that is continuously changing, with new technologies and processes coming out all the time? David talked us through his personal methods for staying productive, including:
- Getting up at 5am. He gets his most difficult task out the way first, after that everything seems easy
- Prioritising his tasks, so that he’s only doing the work that matters
- Setting personal medium and long-term goals, for example, reading 2 books a month
As Developers we’re busy people, and I think it’s important to work smart and leave time to enjoy after work. I’ll definitely take away some of his advice, and apply it to my life.
Then there was the social. There was a live band playing, the atmosphere was great, I met some great new people, and really enjoyed it.
Chatbots and PHP, by Katy Ereira
Katy has been working with Chatbots for a long time and had so much valuable insight to share with us. She showed us tools that we can use today, to write chatbots for PHP applications. She started with simple examples, then showed us how to use Machine Learning APIs to identify the intent of the customer’s words and how we can program a custom conversation to achieve whatever the customer wants. It could be buying a product or anything your application can do.
The PHP chatbot framework she showed us is https://botman.io/
Chatbots are now more useful and accessible than ever. With the power of machine learning and natural language processing, they achieve many tasks we’re used to doing by clicking on links and going from page to page. Definitely an area worth exploring.
Machine Learning Basics, by Tom Walder
This talk was extremely well put together and informative, Tom talked us through his experience using machine learning at gear4music.com. I was totally blown away by how easy it is to take advantage of machine learning in PHP applications, to add value to your customers.
The Creative Developer, by Renato Mendes
This was an awesome talk about cognitive biases, insightful and funny, perfect for the final talk of the day. He recommended lots of books we should all be reading, a couple of which I’d already read, but always interesting to have new titles suggested.
It was a great day overall, we all got to meet some new people from the PHP community and had some interesting conversations. Here are my main takeaways from the conference :
- Explore the machine learning resources that are out there and can make an impact on the experiences customers have when they use eCommerce technologies such as Magento
- Restrict social media usage during working hours, and prioritise what’s actually important. That would have an impact on your work/life balance, and definitely, improve your overall wellbeing
- Learn about cognitive biases, they affect everything we do including development quotes and negotiations, so you can avoid some problems down the line
It’s really been amazing to be part of this great conference for 4 years, we were sad to find that PHPNW 2017 was the last PHPNW conference. If they do choose to run it again, we will absolutely, 100% be there.