April 8, 2011

February aftermatch

Finally, during the first days of my holiday, I have found a few days to finish this post.

Well, Feb this year has been extremely busy. First hot house at work, a brand new idea for me that worked brilliantly, then PHP Unconference Europe in Manchester, and finally PHPUK 2011 in London. And although that was already March, it’s worth adding PHPNW monthly user group meeting in Manchester as well, where I had a talk about PHPUnit, the next one in “Back to basics” series.

But lets start from the beggining.

The hot house

Brand new idea for me. We got off site for 3 days from the office to prototype and implement a first version of our end to end continuous integration process. And by end-to-end I mean end-to-end – form project initialisation to the final release integration and automated deployment. It’s been 3 very exhausting days, not the usual 9-5 working day you usually have at work, but it was well worth having it. The idea of it is, you get the gather the whole team – developers, project managers, BAs, QA engineers and everybody else that are crucial for the project, in one room, away from any sort of distraction and plan (and most importantly execute) the whole thing. The 3 days have a specific structure, with the 1st day being sort of introduction and planning, 2nd day being entirely focused on execution and 3rd day, the shorter one, being a wrap-up and summary of the whole event with the main goal of raising post event actions that are meant to be executed in the office afterwards.

During this 3 days we achieved something that we couldn’t in the past several months – we have put a concept in place and implemented it proving the the whole thing can work. Now we know that we can automate the process of developing, building and testing single project workstreams and when they are ready put them altogether during a merge into a release, build, deploy and test the whole release. That includes both PHP and Java artifacts, DB changes, internal CMS artifacts and regression selenium packs and functional tests developed and executed during the project. Oh! How I love automation.

PHP Unconference Europe (19-20 Feb 2011)

Official site: http://www.phpuceu.org/phpuceu-2011/
Unconference wiki: http://eu.php-unconference.de/

I was looking forward to it very much. I have never been to an unconference before, and I didn’t quite get the whole idea of an unconference. Well, I knew roughly the idea behind it, just never seen it in action.

So, in general I am a bit disappointed. As a completely community driven event it was an enormous success. A load of people turned up, we had a few interesting proposals upfront, then a few more was added during the event. From the organisation point of view it was brilliant. Everything went smoothly, beer was good, food was good, people were great. The bit that needs improving are the talks itself. And I don’t blame anybody for it. In fact if I could blame somebody I would start from myself. The talks that were proposed upfront and were chosen by the community went quite well. The disussion panels – not so much. They weren’t bad, don’t get me wrong. They just simply could be better. But I already know, that next time I will come better prepared. Always learn on mistakes – that’s my motto.

PHPUK 2011 (25 Feb)

Official site: http://www.phpconference.co.uk/conference/php-uk-conference-2011

Just 5 days after, I attended another big UK event, this time in London. Schedule this year was pretty impressive. I was mainly interested in the two afternoon talks in Auditorium – Sebastian Bergmann’s “Agility and Quality” and Thorsten Rinne’s “Continuous Improvement in PHP Projects”. But before I get to them, let’s rewind and start from the beginning.

The conference had started with Marco Tabini’s “Experience” key note. Marco refereshed the idea od user experience with a few funny anecdotes and targeted it specifically at developers. Nothing really new, but we all need to be reminded from time to time, that we should always be focused and don’t forget about end users and their needs.

After that I had to choose between 3 talks:

  • Martin Beeby’s “HTML5 and CSS3 Today”
  • Ivo Jansch’s “PHP in a Mobile Ecosystem”
  • Ian Barber’s “ZeroMQ Is The Answer”

I didn’t hesitate a second and went straight away to Sidetrack 2 to see what ZeroMQ is all about. And I don’t regret my decision. I think it was the best talk of PHPUK 2011. Ian kept me focused all the time and definitely convinced me to try out ZeroMQ. Great talk, with plenty of usage examples and a demo. Well done!

After a short break it was time for the talk I was waiting for. But again the choice for me wasn’t difficult either. We had:

  • “Xdebug” by Derick Rethans in Sidetrack 1
  • “Agility and Quality” by Sebastian Bergmann in Auditorium
  • “Running on Amazon EC2” by Jonathan Weiss in Sidetrack 2

I had seen Derick’s talk before and I am not really interested in Amazon EC2, not just yet at least. So I went straight away to see Sebastian’s talk. Sebastian is a well known international speaker, practically an expert in QA for PHP topics. And maybe that’s why I was really disappointed. Sebastian seemed to be nervous at the beggining, although it went better as he went along. Still I was expecting something new. Instead of that, the talk brought up some of the well known “agility practices”, how they fit in during project lifecycle and how some of the tools can help to achieve that. Nice WOW theme made it look interesting, but not interesting enough to keep me focused.

I have stayed at the Auditorium to listen to “Continuous Improvement in PHP Projects” by Thorsten Rinne. The other 2 talks that I have missed were:

  • “Large-scale Data Processing with MapReduce and PHP” by David Zülke in Sidetrack 1
  • “The InnoDB Storage Engine for MySQL” by Morgan Tocker in Sidetrack 2

And I must say, that was the worst talk I have heard during the conference. It seemed Thorsten either didn’t prepare very well to do this talk or he had real problems expressing himself. Not that I couldn’t understand him, but he was repeating some phrases all over again. Adding to that, some of the things were pretty much the same things Sebastian has talked about just before. The significant amount of time was spent introducing and explaining how to install some CI tools. And then, during Q&A session, he said some things that I strongly disagree with, like advising to implement CI process (and doing unit tests) without telling that to management. In my opinion that is the worst thing that you can do. I really regret I didn’t go to Sidetrack 2 and didn’t see David Zülke’s talk. I am sure it was much much better.

Next talk I have chosen was “Optimising a Zend Framework Application” by Rob Allen. It was a difficult choice, as I also wanted to see Stuart Herbert with his “Beyond Frameworks” talk in Sidetrack 1. I wasn’t that interested in Lorenzo Alberton’s “NoSQL Databases: What, When and Why”. All I can say, Rob delivered a good talk again. Learnt a few things about Zend Framework, which will definitely help me in my day to day job. I only heard that the other 2 talks were equally good and interesting!

At last I have attended “Advanced OO Patterns” by Tobias Schlitt in Auditorium. The other 2 talks were:

  • “Varnish in Action” by Thijs Feryn in Sidetrack 1
  • “99 Problems, But The Search Ain’t One” in Sidetrack 2

It was a good talk with a bit of humour. Tobias went through some of the design patterns explaining their pros and cons. Nothing really revolutionary, but it is always good to refresh this stuff from time to time. Shame that, at the same time Stuart Herbert and Jeremy Coates where discussing phpfundamentals matters at the lobby. I have left the talk to join them to learn more about that.

In general I must say it was a successful event, very well organised. Good food, free beers at the end and the after conference socials at “Slug And Lettuce” only made it better. I will definitely try to attend the next edition in 2012!

PHPNW montly user group meeting

I try to attend this local community event whenever I can, so I couldn’t miss it this time either. Especially that I was going to to do an introductory talk about PHPUnit. When I have arrived there was only a few people, so we have decided to wait a few more minutes to wait for the late comers. And it appeared to be a good decision as in the next 20 mins or so the room was nearly packed full! I went through some basic features of unit testing based on some live examples. A small accident near the end made me finish the talk without the slides (my MBP battery went out of power), so I had to improvise a bit, but I think, overall, it all went pretty well as we had quite a few questions afterwards and a really nice discussion at the end. You can find the slides from the talk on slideshare.

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