Monday, February 11, 2013

I'm Not One of the Cool Kids; We All Are

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending (and sponsoring) the first ever SunshinePHP Conference in Miami, FL. I must say, Adam Culp did an amazing job organizing and executing this event. Every moment I saw him, he had on is his regular friendly, beaming smile. I've never seen a conference coordinator so relaxed! On top of that, from what I understand, his only staff was the ever moving Pablo Godel.

Great job, Adam! You certainly made it look easy (and we all know it was anything but). Among everything you had to coordinate, you somehow found time to drive Paul, Matthew and I to dinner the first night. You even let me borrow your laptop for my talk! Your willingness to serve those around you is phenomenal.

I loved hanging out with great friends and making some new ones. I also finally took advantage of the "hallway track." I didn't attend a session during every single slot. Instead, I slowed down a bit and hung out with guys like Keith, Cal and Joe. I met the creators of the tools I use every day including Sebastian Bergmann (PHPUnit), Jordi Boggiano (Composer), Fabien Potencier (Twig, Silex... if you don't know all the things he's done, you probably don't use PHP)... I could go on and on. It was amazing.

Oh, and did I mention the guy who started this whole PHP thing (Rasmus Lerdorf) gave the opening keynote? That was epic. I really enjoyed the history lesson and the "why" behind the decisions he made (which actually made sense at the time in 1993).

(If you're wondering where that stat comes from, you can look into it yourself at

So on to the point of my post... as I was meeting and listening to these giants of the industry, schmoozing with the "cool kids" during the hallway track... I began to realize something.

There are no individual cool kids.

We're all the cool kids.

I got some really encouraging feedback on my Hypermedia API talk from people I previously thought were on another level. As I was meeting speakers in the hallways, I realized many of them do "the conference thing" quite a bit. They are conference regulars and are sought out to speak all over the world. They are what I had always thought of as "the cool people" when I was simply a "regular" conference attendee.

For a half second, I began to wonder if someone might think of me as "one of those" now that I've given this talk a few times. It was a humbling thought. I don't think of myself as someone special in the programming community. Other than helping start an ecommerce company, I haven't contributed much (yet).

It was then I realized a speaker isn't more or less special or cool than anyone else. We're all building and doing amazing things, and we're all on different stages in our journey. Whether you're just learning to code, or you've been doing it for years and contribute to the tools thousands of people around the world use every day: You are what makes the PHP community great.

As Cal said so well in his keynote, you are awesome.

Even if you don't feel like an expert and just started using PHP last week, guess what? You're probably an expert on what it feels like to use PHP for a week. Everyone has something to offer, and everyone contributes to the awesome PHP community.

So go build something awesome! As Keith so eloquently put in his keynote (I'm still thinking about the ideas he put out there), don't build a copy of something crappy thinking you'll hit the next gold mine. The next dating site? The next photo sharing app? The next Facebook? That's about as practical and as likely as a unicorn farting rainbows and pooping lucky charms.

Related note: When a friend like Keith looks at you with that "I'm up to no good" smile and says "I updated my slides", be afraid. Be very afraid. (If you missed his reference, we included this sticker in the sponsor bag which is from an image we built out for our 404 page)

In summary, the conference was amazing. The people in the PHP community are amazing. And as Larry Garfield quoted in the OOP panel discussion, "You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake." Whether you're a speaker or not isn't as important as being part of the community and helping make it better. Attend your local PHP group this month and help them out. If you didn't make it out to SunshinePHP this year, plan on it next year. While you're there, come find me and say hello.

1 comment:

Peggy O'Brien Brown said...

I especially liked the part about cool ones vs. everybody else. We all have individual gifts and can contribute in many ways. There is no "one way" to be cool or special. We all have a part that we can play towards the whole picture.