I stopped writing conference wrap-ups a while ago, mostly because conferences are pretty much all the same. You go, listen to some smart people talk about PHP, eat-drink-be-merry with friends and fellow PHP geeks, then you go home.
However, imagine sticking roughly 25 geeks together in a house in the mountains for 4 days and see what comes of it. Cooking together, hacking together, talking PHP together, playing some video games together and of course drinking together. I think everyone would agree that it's worth the $15 plus travel and the cost of the cabin.
We came from 9 different states and 2 different countries (yay Paul!) and we all had different backgrounds and working environments. We all had differing opinions on quite a lot of things from politics to IDE usage to just about everything else. There were some great discussions, some great meals, and some *awesome* impromptu presentations. The PHP Trivia was a hoot also, although I realized much to my chagrin the answers I knew revolved around spelling people's names or drunken escapades by PHPers at past conferences. Oh well. Despite crappy Internet connectivity, a toxic hot tub, a visit to the emergency room (poor Cal) and a visit from the Pigeon Forge Fire Department, the whole conference went off without a hitch.
What I found most interesting is the group bonding that occurred (note, I said bondING). Everybody pitched in to cook, and clean, and present, and discuss, and participate. I feel like we all met some new friends and had a lot of fun with the old ones. But it wasn't just about having fun, it was about the exchange of information which so readily happens when you're stuck with people for 4 days straight.
Don't get me wrong, large, more formal conferences obviously have their place, and I really look forward to those too, but for a different reason. The nature of a large conference definitely allows for broader networking, more presentations, and sometimes a bit of formality is a good thing. A small uncon like this basically takes all the great things about a conference and compiles it into one nice neat little package. Kind of like the top of the muffin. Tastes awesome, but might not entirely fill you up like a whole muffin would.
So, anyway after all is said and done, I think I can consider this a success and something I'll definitely be up for helping to plan again. A very special thanks to:
- Whitney Turland for cooking authentic Louisiana gumbo for the entire crew (and even a special veggie batch just for yours truly!)
- Sara Golemon and Maggie Nelson for cooking breakfast for the crew
- Keith Casey for completely planning the uncon schedule
- Paul Reinheimer for keeping us entertained the entire time
- Cal Evans for enduring 13 stitches despite being one of the few sober ones at the time
- all those that took the time to present (they were great, guys.. seriously)
- Joe LeBlanc for disarming the fire alarm multiple times
- and of course our sponsors, who really did help us make the event a success (php|architect, NuSphere, Cool Blue Interactive, and ServerGrove Networks. Many, many thanks to you.)
We've also begun talking about next year's PHP Appalachia, so if you think it sounds like fun, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open. :)