PHP UK Conference 2017

February 24th, 2017 by Hannes Van De Vreken and Frederick Vanbrabant

Frederick and I (Hannes) went to PHP UK last week! I was invited to speak again, for the second year in a row. After attending in 2015, this was my third time that I attended this conference.

Here’s our recap of this year’s event:

Speakers dinner and pre-conference social

Leading up to the event, we received regular updates via email from Johanna, one of the main organisers. She was very kind, personal and offered Frederick to join me to the speakers dinner so he wouldn’t “be alone”.

I was baffled by the hospitality. Of course Frederick accepted the invitation and I took him as my +1 :wink:. Thanks, Johanna!

After the dinner we crossed the street to attend the pre-conference social gathering. We had a couple of beers and talked to some of the speakers. It was great seeing some old friends again. Some I hadn’t seen in literally days, some I hadn’t seen in months.

First day

This day was a regular working day for me. I got up early for a morning run, showered, went to the conference to register and pick up my badge. After breakfast I watched the opening keynote while putting some work in.

Frederick attended and paid attention to as many talks as possible. Here’s his recap:

Enter Frederick:

So the first talk I attended was the State of the PHP Community keynote by Eli White. A strong talk about how even though the community is already very strong there are still some ways it can be improved upon. As you probably know, Eli is a very strong speaker so you can imagine he drove those points in like none other.

After the first talk I continued in the same room to check out I saw the future, and its web servers were written in PHP by David Zuelke and boy was I glad I did. This was for me the best talk I saw at PHP UK, really informative on ways you (maybe just me) normally don’t think about the code you write. I don’t want to talk too much about it cause I implore you to check it out for yourselves.

Next up was Derick Rethans’s It’s all about the goto. a very (very very) deep dive into the inner workings of the language itself. You really had to bring your A game to this talk. Sadly for me, I didn’t. I kinda lost track and was very confused when I picked back in. I’m really looking forward to seeing this talk again cause it’s really interesting.

It’s now time to get back to the main room and check out Anna Filina’s Unit Testing by Example. Again, a great speaker (do you see a pattern here?). This was a really refreshing talk about TDD and testing in general. Normally talks about testing tend to be a bit utopic where testing can solve everything and it’s the best thing in the world. This talk takes a more down to earth approach to real testing problems and possible solutions. Great stuff!

Next on the menu is Smoke Tests - Why you should try to burn down your production environment from Sebastian Thoss (I can’t find his twitter profile). If I had to be honest, this one fell a bit short for me. Sebastian is obviously a great and experienced speaker but the topic was a bit shallow. This might be a personal opinion though, because it got great reviews on

Last up before the closing keynote was Introduction to SOLID from Gareth Ellis. It was a fun introduction to the SOLID principles. The problem was that I already knew the SOLID principles. Still a fun talk especially if you keep in mind that it was his first conference talk.

Closing keynote time with Gary Hockin talking about Using Open Source for Fun and Profit. As you might expect this was a super motivating and hilarious talk. It was clearly something Gary cares a lot about and he was extremely successful in transferring that feeling to the crowd.

After the conference we decided that the most sensible thing to do was checking out this mystical thing called a “pub”. We met up with some old friends like Freek Van der Herten but also made a few new ones like Morten Bergset and Jenny Wong.

Second day

Hannes: Friday! This day was talk-day for me. My slot was at 11:30am local time. I got up at 6:30 and went for a morning run along the Thames again. After that I finished/rehearsed my presentation extensively. For me, on the day itself, mental preparation is the most important part. Especially because the slides were already 90% done/reused.

At 11:15 I went to check-out the room I was going to do my talk in. The room was actually a well-lit basement divided in 2 rooms full of chairs. The second room has a screen which streams the slides and video of the first part of the basement.

When I was all mic’ed up and waiting for my cue, I talked to the room manager who told me both parts of the basement were packed. Some people were even standing in the back of the room and in the hallway to see my talk.

Then it was GO time! I’ll paste the YouTube link here when the organisers finished uploading the footage :wink:

After that I was emotionally drained because I left all my energy in the talk delivery. I should really thank the audience because they were really setting the right atmosphere. Speaking in front of a British crowd is something!

The rest of the conference was back to relaxing and chatting with more interesting people. In the next tea break (Yeah, gotta drink tea in the UK.) we had our picture taken with all attending PHP user group organisers.

Frederick: Damn mornings, they seem shorter and for some reason I have a headache … probably something in the water.

Ok, back to the talks!

First up: I Think I Know What You’re Talking About, But I’m Not Sure with Jennifer Wong at the helm. A talk about how we live in a confusing industry with a lot of confusing acronyms and how it’s ok to not understand everything. The talk itself was very funny but I felt it kinda lacked a real point.

My friend Freek Van der Herten is about to give his talk. But I’m a bad friend, so I went and saw Luís Cobucci, the author of lcobucci/jwt, talk about JWT - To authentication & beyond! I really learned some cool things about JWT, those things are apparently a lot more versatile than I thought.

While Hannes Van De Vreken was giving his talk, I checked out James Titcumb - Kicking off with Zend Expressive and Doctrine ORM. Yes, I know I’m a bad friend. The talk was about the new micro framework from the nice folks of Zend: Expressive. James did a brilliant rundown of the framework. I kinda want to toy with it. The framework that is.

After that I took a small break, so I skipped the next slot and checked up on Freek and Hannes.

Drupal8 for Symfony developers by Antonio Perić was kinda special for me. I started my career as a Drupal developer and moved out just before Drupal 8 hit the scene, so it was very cool to see what has happened in all those years. I liked the talk but Antonio had some bad luck with his audience.

On to Debugging Effectively given by Colin O’Dell. A very competent speaker on a very fun topic. The conference fatigue was setting in somewhat, but this did nothing to lessen my enjoyment of the talk. I can freely admit that I currently use his steps in debugging stuff.

Just one talk left …

Closing the conference

The closing keynote was delivered by Michael Cullum, one of the current PHP-FIG secretaries. He talked about how composer and the PHP-FIG’s PSRs (PHP Standard Recommendations) helped evolve applications to be more framework-less.

After that, the conference ended and we headed out to the pub (what else?). We had a lot of conversations with interesting people and talked about what they do and how they contribute to the community. I also met Korvin Szanto, one of the future the PHP-FIG secretaries. We talked about the future of the PHP-FIG, some drafted and upcoming PSRs and how they help us evolve away from fixed frameworks to more agnostic libraries.

If you know me, you probably know that is one of my things. Needless to say: I had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and really enjoyed the conference. Thank you, Jo, Sam and the entire team, for organising PHP UK!