For the second year in a row, I got to attend and speak at php|tek in Chicago. I typically blog the heck out of all the conferences I go to, going into detail about every session and event, but that just didn't seem appropriate this time around. That's because, for me, php|tek 2011 was more about the people and less about the sessions.
Don't get me wrong...there were some great sessions, but I feel like my overall takeaways from this years conference came outside of those sessions rather than in them. The "hall track" was where I ended up spending most of my time. Chatting it up about everything from PHP to beer to open source to hiring to BBQ. To some, that will look like I was just hanging out with friends, but to me those moments and relationships are invaluable.
In the keynote on the second day, Elizabeth Naramore (who I had met once before, but she likely doesn't remember that) made a statement that hit home to me. I forget the exact quote, but the basic concept was that all this technology crap will eventually change and go away, but the friendships you make because of it will last for a lifetime. It's the people that matter, not the technology.
Coming in as a more experienced speaker (although for whatever reason, I was rattled in my first session) gave me a different perspective too. All these speakers that get up and speak at conferences do it because they love what they do and they want to share it. They don't get paid. They usually don't get anything additional from their daily jobs to do it. They just love what they do and want to share it. Their passion for their work is contagious and that is a great thing for PHP.
I guess my point is, php|tek is just a different animal. It's become more of a family reunion (the good kind...) than a conference to me. The first day I got here, I made the comment that I didn't feel like I was in "conference mode" and wasn't really feeling it. But when I started seeing old friends and talking to new people, I remembered why I spent days preparing my slides. I remembered why I desperately try to convince anyone who will listen to me about the value of attending conferences. I remembered why I fight for budget money to send myself and the other developers on my team to php|tek. I remembered that this was supposed to be fun.
And dammit, it was the best time I've had at a conference. See you next year, tek!