Laracon Online 2018 Recap

Reading time ~3 minutes

I recently attended Laracon Online 2018 and got a lot out of it! I happened to see a tweet about early bird tickets in January and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’ve admittedly been sheltered in Drupal/Symfony over the last several years, and it was a bit of a shock to see the popularity and rich features of Laravel (like Rails for PHP). The presenters were knowledgable, practiced, and engaging. The format flowed well and was expertly M.C.’d by Ian Landsman. I’ve come away with a lot to mull over, and following are some thoughts, takeaways, and references.

It was nice for so many reasons to be able to attend a conference from my home! It’s tough to travel right now with two young kids, and this format makes it possible to get a conference experience without sacrificing family obligations. It’s kinda surprising to me that it’s not more common, or offered as a cheaper option for in-person conferences.

The conference used a Discourse instance for chat, which seemed like a good choice. I heard grumblings about the lack of a Slack channel (some folks managed to assemble on Slack anyway), but I didn’t feel like I needed anything more. The Discourse site is easy to navigate and will be available for a year. The conference was broadcast via Zoom, which was solid throughout, with a minor exception of slow-down/speed-ups on one presentation. Thanks to @ianlandsman for showcasing Zoom green screen capability (TIL)!

I started out taking some notes, but soon learned that Michael Roderick was sharing much more detailed conference notes in a Github repo (including code snippets and diagrams!). Thanks! Nicely done.

The talks spanned a range of topics, from front-end to back-end, with a good dose of “human experience” sprinkled in. Adam Wathan kicked things off with a nail-biter of a live coding presentation demonstrating a Vue.js component refactor. Steve Schoger demonstrated modern design principles through transforming a typical app design to be more streamlined and professional. Taylor Otwell walked through contributions from the newly minted Laravel 5.6 (complete with attributions), and the proprietary Spark project. Chris Fidao reviewed common bottlenecks and solutions when scaling Laravel apps. Wes Bos discussed modern and upcoming Javascript features. Jonathan Reinink gave a fast-paced live coding demo of implementing increasingly complex Eloquent queries without sacrificing performance. Sandi Metz gave a moving talk on the common element of effective teams. Matt Stauffer ended the day with a compelling reminder to have fun!

Some big takeaways from the conference (for me):

  • Presenters were mostly using Sublime Text (o_O?) and getting it done!
  • Look out for the “n+1” performance problem, and remedy with Eager loading
  • Psychological safety is crucial to effective engineering/teamwork
  • I need a frontend project so I can flex my Javascript muscles
  • Laravel (software, popularity, momentum) is HUGE

A few small critiques:

  • A nice enhancement to the current conference setup would be to include a stenographer for real-time captions and improved accessibility
  • I would love to see a more diverse group of speakers
  • I saw at least one image that didn’t belong in a professional presentation

Coming from the Drupal/Symfony world, it was awesome to get a window into another realm of PHP. Laravel is definitely something I’ll be evaluating more fully, and Laracon Online has provided a number of reference pointers for learning more about the framework.