Final thoughts on PHP North West 2011

Sunday’s track choices

My second day at the PHP North West Conference 2011 kicked off with Paul Lemon’s ‘Feeling Secure?’ talk.

Paul used succinct code samples and made a point of covering the basic attack methods, assuming no great depth of knowledge for some and the need to re-iterate its importance to the rest of us. For each attack type, variant methods were demonstrated that perhaps would have been unfamiliar to some – this was certainly borne out during the Q&A session. Paul had far more topics to cover and hopefully there’ll be an extended security presentation at a future conference.

Following this I attended Walter Ebert‘s talk on URL design. Walter had gone to some trouble to locate examples of good practice in human-readable, RESTful web addressing as well as some neat workarounds for common problems – for example url handling routines for those long descriptive links that email clients break when they wrap text.

Finally I listened to Richard Backhouse talk about compiling PHP to .NET using open source tool Phalanger. Richard covered the background to his company’s adoption of the approach, client considerations, use cases and opportunities for mixing languages & libraries for a best-of-both approach.

Take Away

I tend to take away both strong themes and important (though sometimes small) messages from conferences that stick with me, influencing the design decisions and production routes on current and future projects. They’re not always from a favourite or most enjoyable presentation, but they highlight the event’s greater whole.

Laura Beth Denker‘s Saturday track 1 talk emphasised the need to retain practicality and perspective in software production (in particular, testing). Yes we have the tools, but are we using them effectively, are we curtailing our own faculties in favour automated methods, do we put enough trust in our collaborators?

The major frameworks has a strong showing, but Alistair Stead and Paul Lemon provided timely reminders of those areas that still require careful thought and action – response times, the right caching techniques regardless of chosen technology, the importance of validation and knoweldge of protocols and security basics.

Finally, Ian Barber‘s keynote brings all this together – the tools exist to allow you to contribute to great developments and create new ones. Use the right tools for right purpose and keep a keen eye on what’s around you – in programming, and in the wider world.

PHPNW11 was all about (as @Elblinkin put it) ‘Keyboard, mouse and You’.