The PHP North West conference gets bigger and better every year, and 2011 sees the Saturday and Sunday conference enlived by a Friday tutorial day and an unconference running alongside the scheduled tracks.
Saturday morning kicked off with keynote speaker Ian Barber‘s revealing tour of the small steps that made great software even better, and the ways that diverse personal interests, hobbies and a willingness to ignore conventional wisdom led to innovations that we in turn can build upon and contribute to.
Having a broad range of work and hobby interests, I could only agree with Ian on his belief in cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches, and it was good to be reminded that being interested and aware is often more effective than aiming high.
Starting off Track 1, Enrico Zimuel introduced the new features and architecture of Zend Framework 2 followed by Sebastian Bergmann‘s talk on PHP Testing tools. Sebastian compared the various approaches and features of the most ubiquitous and newly released tools including his own project PHPUnit , the Atoum framework and the behaviour / scenario driven BeHat.
In the afternoon I attended Alistair Stead‘s track 2 talk about the Varnish reverse proxy cache. In addition to presenting Varnish’s impressive capabilities, Alistair examined the pitfalls of adding multiple cache layers, configuration gotchas, as well as privacy and security concerns in good depth.
Track 2 continued with Stefan Koopmanschap‘s introduction to the recently released Symfony2 framework. For those of us with experience of prior releases, Symfony2 appears to differ significantly and will take some getting used to. The Bundles approach follows the components theme running through the conference this year.
The final talk in track 1 was Laura Beth Denker‘s ‘Are your tests really helping?’. After informing the crowd that her company pushed code every 20 minutes or so, you would have expected a breakdown of intensive automated test routines, but what was presented was a practical approach involving well organised unit testing; having faith in fellow developers and trust in the external services (and if you don’t have faith or trust, you should probably replace both) in order to reduce the need for extensive integration and functional testing.