This week, I’m attending php[tek]. This is my seventh php[tek], and the first I’ve attended not as a speaker. It’s one of my favorite conferences, and I didn’t want to miss its first year in a new city: St. Louis. As we gear up for the eleventh php[tek] conference, I thought I’d list my seven tips for getting the most out of your php[tek] experience.
Hang out in the evenings, after the conference sessions.
php[tek] is known for hosting events in the evening, from video games and board games to hackathons. Make sure you you stick around and take part. One of the best features of PHP is its community, and taking part in the events following the day’s conference sessions is a great way to build relationships in this community.
After the conference events, follow folks to the bar.
Do you have to be a drinker? Nope. There’s much more to a bar than drinking. In Chicago (Rosemont), php[tek] had Shoeless Joe’s, a nearby sports bar, where attendees would congregate each evening following the conference activities. In St. Louis, I don’t know what that place will be, but I’m certain there will be one. This is where relationship-building continues. There’s so much that can come from these relationships—friendships, business opportunities, mentors, and more!
Take advantage of the “hallway track,” and don’t forget the regular sessions.
There is a high level of value gained by conversing with other conference attendees in the hallways between (and during) sessions at conferences. This “hallway track” has been touted as one of the most important reasons for attending a conference. The hallway allows you to build relationships and gain better understanding and insight into the technologies and tools you use on a daily basis. It’s an invaluable offering of any conference, but don’t forget about the value gained by attending the sessions. A healthy balance of both will help you have an awesome conference experience.
Attend the morning keynote sessions.
The morning keynote sessions set the tone for the conference, and this year’s keynotes are no different. While it’s tempting to stay up into the wee hours of the morning—building relationships at the St. Louis version of Shoeless Joe’s—and sleep in to catch up on rest, you’ll miss some of the most important messages of the conference. The keynotes keep you thinking the rest of the day, and they provide conversation fuel for the hallway track and the after-hours community building. So, plan your rest accordingly and don’t miss the keynotes.
Join the conference IRC backchannel: #phptek on Freenode.
The #phptek channel on Freenode IRC is the conference backchannel. If you’re unfamiliar with IRC or don’t have an IRC program, use Freenode’s free webchat to join the #phptek channel. The conference backchannel is an essential tool for navigating the conference. Use it to chat with other attendees during sessions to find out what they’re learning and to share what you’re learning. Use it to discuss your dinner plans, and invite others along with you. You may also use it to keep in touch when the conference is over.
Use the official hashtag: #phptek
The conference’s official hashtag is #phptek. Not #tek. Not #tek16. It’s #phptek. Use it when posting on Twitter. Use it for posts to Instagram. Search nearby check-ins on Swarm. Use it on your photo uploads to Flickr. Wherever you post about your php[tek] experience, use the hashtag #phptek. Using the hashtag helps connect you and your posts to the greater conversation about php[tek].
Take lots of pictures and upload them to Flickr.
If you don’t have a Flickr account, go get one. Then, take lots of pictures at php[tek] and upload them to Flickr with the hashtag #phptek. I also recommend licensing your photos for use under a Creative Commons license (Flickr can help you with this), but this is not a requirement—it’s just helpful to the community. Here are photos on Flickr from every year of php[tek]:
- php|tek 2006
- php|tek 2007
- php|tek 2008
- php|tek 2009
- php|tek 2010
- php|tek 2011
- php|tek 2012
- php[tek] 2013
- php[tek] 2014
- php[tek] 2015
There’s one more search for php[tek] 2016, but it has no photos (as of May 22). It’s up to you to add them!
php[tek] has been a cultural event in the PHP community over the last eleven years, inaugurating many community memes and launching many community projects. Over the years, we’ve started a Terry Chay Fuck Counter; hosted PHP internals meetings; started the PHP standards group that morphed into the PHP-FIG; held sessions on community leadership and panels on running user groups; created numerous unseemly, alliterative names for our favorite local sports bar; drank lots of root beer; held summits on mentoring, mental health, and open source; experienced Ed Finkler’s first presentation on “Open Sourcing Mental Illness;” exposed the PHP Bard; and much, much more.
The last nine years in Chicago have been amazing for php[tek]. I can’t wait to see what St. Louis will bring.