MidwestPHP 2015 is now wrapped up and I had an absolutely incredible time speaking to, listening to, and engaging with the midwest PHP community. As a good conference tends to do, I feel really inspired to tackle new projects, explore new tools, and continue work on exist projects following the conference. In this post, I want to share some of the conference highlights, as well as follow-up on my two talks.

Talk Highlights

Talks were generally really good at this conference. I was really excited to find a nice mixture of inspirational and technical talks. While most talks were great, there were three that really resonated with me.

Samantha QuiƱones: Demystifying the REST API

Ironically, I did not want to attend this talk and after accidentally ending up in the wrong room, this became my favorite talk of the event. I feel like I have a solid grasp on RESTful interfaces. Samantha did a fantastic job explaining these concepts with a wonderful organizational structure in such a way that helped me clarify points of confusion that I’ve often had. I particularly liked her categorization of RESTful verbs into idempotent and safe/unsafe buckets. It’s an approachable way of presenting these concepts that I’ve never seen anyone use. She also contextualized the talk with her own experiences of coming to understand REST, which was helpful in making a potentially dry subject human.

Beau Simensen: Bringing Sculpin to Life

Sculpin; I didn’t know what it was and didn’t care really. That completely changed after Beau’s inspirational (and somewhat sad) talk about his journey to creating Sculpin, a PHP based static site generator. Beau told the story of how he came to work with a Jekyll site, engaged with the open source project, and eventually was left wanting. After a series of other attempts to not reinvent the wheel, Beau developed Sculpin based on his criticisms of competing products. Although I cannot remember exactly what the criticisms were, Beau did his homework and made a noble effort to first fix the issues with these projects before moving on to create his own version. He stuck in there much longer than many developers would have.

There were a few disheartening parts of his talk. At one point, it seems like his contributions to some open source projects were ignore that led him to concede that these projects weren’t owned by him and thus, he had no say in such decisions (that is a really bad paraphrase). Additionally, early in Sculpin development, he was told not to promote the project because there was already a PHP based static site generator. Unfortunately, this piece of advice stuck with him and he seemed to devalue his new “wheel” as a result. I was really bummed that someone would give such advice to someone trying to create a thing. Fortunately, he got over that and I now know about Sculpin.

Joel Clermont: Hack, Why Should I Care?

I’m interested in Hack, but not interested enough to explore it on my own. Hats off to Joel for getting me to engage with it. Joel’s talk was a quick walk through Hack’s set of language features. Joel is a polyglot and this was evident through his explanation and deep understanding of the features that Hack provides to wayward PHP developers the world over. My interest is piqued and I know I’ll be looking into it more in the future. Joel, I care!

My Talks

I had the pleasure to deliver two talks at this conference. The first was on TLS. By far, this was the hardest talk I’ve ever prepared. My goal was to demystify TLS as much as possible. While creating this talk, I couldn’t stop thinking about why the web development community universally sucks at implementing TLS. I aimed to identify the most complicated part of TLS that I could try to explain that would lead to a better understanding of TLS overall, all while giving people an opportunity to improve their TLS deployments. To this end, I focused my talk on deciphering cipher suites. Since cipher suites map nicely to the features that TLS provides, it was a good way to introduce higher level TLS concepts while also covering TLS basics. The talk went well and I think people got it for the most part even though I know it was tough to follow. If you care to peruse the lackluster slides, I have posted them on Speaker Deck.

My second talk was on Scaling WordPress. I tried to make this talk applicable to everyone; people running small sites should get just as much out of it as people running larger sites. I took a “triage approach” to scaling WordPress sites. I’ve personally had so many situations where the first step to scaling was applying a bandaid to keep a site going while additional work was done to improve performance. I broke this approach into 4 steps: stabilizing, diagnosing, treating, and preventing. Slides for this talk are also on Speaker Deck.

Many thanks to the wonderful organizers and sponsors for putting on a fantastic event. I certainly hope to be there again next year.