ZendCon 2007 Wrap Up

The past couple days I attend ZendCon 2007. I had low expectations for the event but planned to attend most of the break out sessions. My company, AdMob, also sent me to do some recruiting but with the job market so tight not many attendees were looking for jobs.

I tried to hit up every session about scaling web sites hoping to learn something new. However, all techniques end up being the same. Some combination of load balanced front end server, a memcached server pool, partitioned databases with purpose divided read only slaves, and if needed a jobs/queue server.

The most useful talk of the two days was done by Eli White on PHP Features You Didn’t Know Existed. (Slides available here.) Take aways for me were:

  • http_build_query – easy function to rebuild get parameters.
  • ignore_user_abort / connection_aborted – allows a php script to continue even after the user has ended the connection
  • register_shutdown_function – a destructor for your scripts, no matter how they end
  • set_time_limit – increase execution time on a script. Already a well known function, but didn’t realize it resets the counter every time, so you can throw this in a loop and you have N seconds from when the line gets executed
  • pspell – built in spell check library, great for English. Not sure about i18n support

Also Joel Spolsky of JoelOnSoftware.com fame gave Day 2’s afternoon keynote. Very entertaining speech, mainly because he showed numerous pictures of Angelina Jolie… and Brad Pitt so all the PHP women in the room wouldn’t feel left out. Then proceeded to BLAST Microsoft, from the Brown Zune to a hilarious Windows ME simulator. However, the main take away from his speech were his 3 tips to building great software.

  • Make People Happy – put people in control, even if it’s faux control. People that feel helpless or not in control are not happy. Software should do things for you, not ask you to do things (insert original Windows CD-ROM is a classic example).
  • Think About Emotions – Apple does this well. People connect to their devices because they evoke emotion. His example was SUVs make people feel safer due to small things such as cup holders and things being soft and round.
  • Obsess over Aethetics – Rounded corners are king. Mentioned French buildings which contain no fire escape stairs versus buildings in New York which all have them.

I’m obviously butchering his presentation. If you ever have a chance to hear Joel talk, take it.

Other than those 2 sessions, the rest of the conference was a waste of time in my opinion. If I didn’t work 3 exits away from the conference, I definitely wouldn’t have attended.

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