Earlier this week I attended my first “Big” Conference - Laracon EU 2016. I’ve been to other tech conferences before but by comparison Laracon EU was HUGE, there were 650 people in attendance in one of the most incredible venues I’ve seen. I sent pictures back to my friends and home who said that it looked like a club night more than a conference!
In this post I’m going to mention a few of my favorite speakers and their topics as well as some of my own observations and feelings about the event:
After a quick registration process the conference started with the opening keynote talk from Taylor Otwell where he spoke about and demonstrated the new Laravel 5.3 features, including an overview of the changes to the notifications / echo components from their initial announcement at Laracon US a few weeks earlier.
Now that I’ve been able to look back on my notes and think about all of the talks that I got to see, it was the mix of both a talk and the demonstration that i found the most compelling since you got to see the technical information being applied there and then. Obviously there are always going to be talks where there is no “Tech demo” but i feel that if you are delivering a technical presentation then you should be able to demonstrate what you’re talking about to some degree.
Freek Van der Herten also gave a fantastic talk on “Taking care of backups with Laravel“ which not only was an in-depth talk and demonstration of his Laravel-Backup Package but gave some great insight into alternative strategies for taking care of backup. He said that this had been his first time talking on a stage of this scale but you would never have known! On the week running up to the conference I was looking at integrating this package into Easel, so hearing about it and seeing its capabilities first hand has gotten me even more excited to implement this now!
One of the talks I was really looking forward to was “How to Effectively Grow a Development Team“ by Jeroen v.d. Gulik. Where I currently work the team hasn’t grown too much over the past few years and as I’ve progressed towards management, growing the team is something I’ve really wanted to address. The presentation was full of awful jokes and hillarious gifs which made it entertaining and whilst there was a lot to take it in definitely didn’t feel like “information over load” to me. The key take away was really that growth will come from a good developer culture, so It’ll be interesting to see how I can influence the culture of the teams I work with going forward.
To complement this, on the “Un-conference“ track, Povilas Korop gave a good short talk on his transition from Developer to Manager / Business Owner, where he went over some of the difficulties he’d faced as well as some of the tools / technologies that he’s used to help him through the transition of roles within his organisation.
Adam Wathan wrapped up the conference with an introduction to his book “Refactoring to collections“. I’ve read the book and so knew the content of the presentation but there was something awesome about watching him live refactor a number of examples in such a short space of time. The audience loved it and it was a great end to the conference!
On the run up to Laracon, I spent a lot of time looking at the schedule trying to figure out which talks to go to and only once I was there did I realise that this conference was (or at least felt like) 50% Laravel orientated and 50% other “stuff”. “Stuff” being anything from front end web design / development to managerial / soft skills. I actually liked the mix but felt it could lean slightly more towards the Laravel side of things given that we were at a Laravel conference, maybe with a 75/25 split going forward.
Of course the part of the conference I was probably most worried and excited about was the social element, luckily the vast majority of people I met at Laracon were really friendly and approachable, i was also surprised at how far some people had traveled. As well as the expected European countries (loads of people from Germany and Austria!) I met someone who had flown in from South Africa! On the flip side the first person I met out in Amsterdam from the conference was a guy who now lived in my home town but grew up where I studied - small world or what!
The obvious great thing about meeting people from the conference was the opportunity to learn from them, exchange ideas, a number of people I spoke to said that they placed higher value on those interactions than the conference speakers themselves! I feel like there was an equal value in both but the social experience is definitely a reason to come to the conference rather than watching the videos of the talks online afterwards.
There was also an after party / bbq that the conference had put on which included some great food but a weird drinks system, you had to buy tokens to pay for drinks, most of which had been given away for free throughout the conference itself (except the alcohol). But you could only pay for tokens on your Card, for people like me who had taken Euros out for the trip it was slightly annoying that they wouldn’t accept cash.
There was also some live music that didn’t really appeal to me and by the time the DJ had started playing most of the people had seemed to have gone. I’m not sure I’d do that again next time I go but glad I did go and experience it.
I had a blast at Laracon EU, I got to spend 3 days with so many new people all of varying skill levels, hear some incredible, technical, inspirational and motivating talks and can not wait to attend next year - Roll on Laracon 2017!