This year, we had the opportunity to attend the SymfonyCon in Paris. This was a pretty special event, marking the 10th birthday of the Symfony framework, so the Netgen crew was coming in big numbers. The 6 of us went to the conference (Edi, Hrvoje, Petar, Ivan,Mario and I) to listen to stimulating talks and meet interesting people.
More than 1000 people were at the conference, and it was absolutely mesmerizing to see all of them celebrating this big anniversary. Also, this was a chance to show off some features of the new edition of Symfony - Symfony 3.
This year’s SymfonyCon was, logically, held in Paris, the birthplace of Symfony. The city itself is gorgeous, so if you haven’t attended the conference and you’ve never been to Paris, we recommend it wholeheartedly.
The main venue, the Folies Bergère theater, was absolutely spot-on in my opinion. With more than 140 years of tradition and its beautiful foyer, gold trimmings around the edges, rich red carpet, and old posters of the famous plays, the theater made a perfect counterpoint to the conference and its laid-back attendees who carried around their laptops, cellphones, and hoodies. It was a meeting of the new and the old and, as one of the organizers I talked with put it, “very French”.
The additional venue for the B track was the more modern Les Feux de la Rampe theater which was literally next door to the Folies Bergère. That was a considerate solution by the organizers, enabling the attendees to almost seamlessly move from one track to the other without disturbing their personal schedules.
The main keynote, presented by Symfony’s creator Fabien Potencier, rounded out the last 10 years, showcasing the growth of Symfony framework. There was also a heartfelt moment when he invited his two sons and the entire Symfony Core team to the stage at the end of his talk in order to thank them and everybody attending.
“Move Fast, Break Less: From DevOps to NoOps with Platform.sh” by Fred Plais and Ori Pekelman was a highly energetic presentation of a really cool product. The guys showed us that deployment doesn’t have to be a rough, tedious process which takes up a lot of time. It can be as simple as a pull request.
In his lecture, “A Journey Down the Open Road”, Yoav Kutner explained why he chose to go open source in developing a major e-commerce product in the time e-commerce itself was in its early stages, and when open source was still ridiculed by many as a non-profitable venture.
Ryan Weaver showcased a cool new Symfony 2.8 bundle called Guard which deals with security authentication and which is already in Symfony 3. It makes user authentication really easy and straightforward to implement.
Kris Wallsmith talked about the Facebook React library, the difference between imperative and declarative programming, and turning a Symfony application into a simple state machine. Highly educational, with a couple of quirky moments such as “I find that building applications is much easier when you just drop the features”. Lots of laughs on this one.
Bernhard Schussek was educational as always with “3 Steps to Symfony2 Form Mastery” where he explained how to bypass certain traps developers fall into when working with Symfony’s Form bundle.
Finally, Jordi Boggiano talked about what it’s like behind the scenes of maintaining an open source project and his experience with Composer. He highlighted some of the more ridiculous pull requests he’s had to deal with from time to time, but also what it is like maintaining a project in common use on a day-to-day basis.
I may have singled out these talks as being the highlights, but in reality, all talks were on a really high level. The schedule is available on the SymfonyCon website so you can see what you’ve missed if you haven’t been there. And, worry not, the SensioLabs crew announced that they will put all sessions online so that nobody feels left out.
The most important thing to say is that almost all topics were interesting and engaging. Congratulations to all those who prepared them!
A good conference provides entertainment in-between the presentations and lectures, and this one wasn’t worse for wear.
The hosts, Jeremy Mikola and Ryan Weaver, were funny and informative, making a few sarcastic but well-meaning jabs to the Symfony community and also the PHP community in general. I found them refreshing since conferences are mostly opened and hosted in a more serious and somber tone.
Jeremy also created a new type of game show for this year, bypassing the standard Jeopardy!-style game shows of yesteryear. This year, three statements were presented on a huge screen behind the contestants. One of them was false and the contestants needed to stand under the false one to get points. Our own Edi Modrić participated in the game show and actually won 3rd place and a complimentary Symfony hoodie!
There were also parties! The party on the first day was held in an arcade where everybody got to unwind. We had a lot of fun there and got to play games with other conference attendees. The second day was wrapped up by a karaoke party which went on to the wee hours of the night.
And of course, what kind of a birthday would it be without a birthday cake? Everybody was treated to the cake in the course of the conference - and it was pretty tasty.
The overall experience
Interesting talks, great venue, fun moments - you might think this was a perfect conference. Well, almost. You see, as with any event with a large number of attendees, there were some bugs which will, we hope, be fixed until next year.
For example, breakfast and lunch could have been a bit more organized. It is really difficult to get to food when 1000 other people are trying to do the same at the same time. Also, some of the lecturers expected a bigger turnout of the French crowd, I guess, so they didn’t prepare lectures in English. They ended up reading from a piece of paper which diminished the whole experience of what was, essentially, a really good presentation. There were also some technical and schedule-related difficulties, but those can be overlooked.
One of the key components of such events is also the community part. I had a chance to reignite old friendships, chat up acquaintances, and meet many new engaging people in the process. Cheers to all those who are not mentioned, but nevertheless brightened up this whole experience with their cheerful attitudes, positive vibes, knowledge-sharing and inquisitive questions. I hope we meet again next year at this great event!
All in all, bugs aside, 2015 SymfonyCon was, indeed, a success and we had tons of fun. Also, we learned a lot.
All of the images from our trip are already available on Facebook, so you can see what a great time we had.
The organizers revealed the location for the next SymfonyCon: Berlin! We hope to see you all there.