In August, four user groups will join forces to once again host some of the world’s top speakers.

Conference preview: PHP Northeast
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The Northeast PHP Conference was born out of a humble conversation between organizers of the Boston PHP, Atlantic Canada PHP, and Burlington, Vermont PHP user groups. Boston PHP was (and still is) the largest and most active PHP community in the world and had long dreamed of starting its own conference. After almost a year of planning and collaboration between organizers throughout the northeast region, this dream was finally realized with the inaugural Northeast PHP Conference in August of 2012.

Starting with no budget and no conference experience, the organizational team overcame many challenges to create an event on par with the big technology conferences. With the event space generously donated by Microsoft’s New England Research and Development (NERD) Center and sponsors such as Wayfair (for t-shirts and a Saturday party for attendees) and Engine Yard (for a speakers‘ dinner), the NEPHP organizers were able to check many large ticket items off their list. Many other sponsors, too numerous to mention here, provided additional resources making it possible to keep the ticket price to an absurdly low $100 per person. Most profoundly, all the organizers or speakers not only volunteered their time, but also paid their own expenses to participate in the conference.

Last year’s conference featured NASA’s J.J. Toothman as the opening keynote, highlighting how NASA uses PHP in their everyday work. User experience guru Jared Spool brought down the house with his closing keynote on mobile and user experience. As one attendee shared, „This talk alone was worth the entire conference ticket price and more.“

Despite the lack of payment, over 30 speakers came from as far as Canada and Norway to give over 40 talks for the 2012 conference. Speakers included Alan Seiden on relaxing at the keyboard and IBM i; Anna Filina on documentation and motivating developers; Ben Ramsey on HTTP; Dave Stokes on MySQL; Heather O’Neill on testing and usability; Ilia Alshanetsky on Memcached and PHP 5.4; Jonathan Klein on high-performance PHP; Michael Stowe on PHP security, mobile development, and WordPress; Michelangelo van Dam on community and quality assurance; Mike Willbanks on Gearman and Varnish; Pek Pongpaet on user experience; and Ross Tuck on Redis.

Tickets sold out for the 2012 event, surpassing the organizers’ expectations, and the conference was voted #1 for 2012 at the Microsoft NERD Center. One attendee said that the Northeast PHP Conference 2012 „had to be one of the most enjoyable weekends that did not include close friends or family.“ Another attendee said, „I’ve attended a lot of conferences over the years, but I found this one to be one of the most enjoyable ones that I’ve ever attended.“

After a successful first year, the organizing team enthusiastically decided to do it again in 2013. This year’s conference is scheduled for Friday, August 16th through Sunday, August 18th, again at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Not content to just repeat last year’s success, the organizers are including a third day fully focused on workshops, to add a more hands-on element to the conference this year. The workshop day is a separate registration from the two days of talks, and users can opt in, though workshop space is more limited than general tickets. Both the workshops and regular sessions will be focused around PHP, Web Technology, and User Experience tracks.

While grounded in PHP, the Northeast PHP Conference is not just about PHP. As the organizers know, most PHP developers are working on websites and applications, which means that they need more than just PHP skills to get ahead. The Web Technology and User Experience tracks help these developers broaden their skill sets and expand their knowledge & experience.

As with the 2012 conference, this year’s conference is organized entirely by volunteers and backed by Boston PHP, a nonprofit organization. The organizers are keeping costs low through the generous support of Microsoft NERD Center, Engine Yard, GitHub, and other sponsors. Tickets for this year’s conference are $200 per person for the regular sessions (Saturday and Sunday). Friday’s workshops can be added for an additional $100. While still very affordable, the increased ticket price will allow the Northeast PHP Conference to provide a small travel stipend to speakers. This is huge, as speakers at the Northeast PHP Conference 2012 spent their own money on airfare and hotel in order to help make the event possible.

Speakers at this year’s conference will include Terry Chay on features engineering at Wikipedia; Anthony Ferrara on SOLID (Single responsibility, Open-closed, Liskov substitution, Interface segregation & Dependency inversion); Sheeri Cabral on InnoDB/Memcached; Anna Filina on jQuery Mobile; Larry Ullman on teaching PHP and AJAX; Eryn O’Neil on avoiding the programmer’s user interface; Jonathan Barronville on Laravel; Andrew Curioso on API development; Michael Stowe on REST and agile; Peter MacIntyre on preparing for Zend 5.3 certification; Adam Culp on clean application development; Heather O’Neill on honest empathy and usability testing for the common man; Ross Tuck on building JavaScript applications with vector graphics; and Jonathan Klein on scaling PHP and responsive design.

As the Northeast PHP team looks to the future there is a strong desire to take the event on the road, traveling throughout the northeast region. With many developers in the northeast region, and not many conferences serving these developers, Northeast PHP can help developers grow and learn, becoming confident and even sharing their own talks. Initially, the team plans to have satellite events in Prince Edward Island and Burlington, Vermont, with additional locations to be considered in future years. Follow @NEPHP on Twitter for updates and don’t miss out on the Northeast PHP Conference 2013 in Boston!

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