The #ZendCon Interview | The Unique 2015 Edition of ZendCon

7PHP with Cal Evans - The PHP Icon
Aerial View Of The Las Vegas Strip At Night
Aerial View Of The Las Vegas Strip At Night

ZendCon is said to be The Global PHP Conference and every year is an amazement in itself. But this year, 2015, will be one of those “once in a blue moon” type of event with the arrival of PHP 7.

So Zend Inc., The PHP Company, promises to deliver one of the most unique and exciting ZendCon till date. Most of the PHP Rockstars and leaders will be there. I’m really sad I can’t be there. But if you are nearby, you should not miss it!

This 7PHP interview focuses entirely on ZendCon. I was honored to have this interview through The Community Father, Mr Cal Evans who is one of the key person behind the event and also the amazing Adam Culp being the main organizer.

I hope you enjoy it! #ZendCon folks have an AWESOME time this Oct 2015!

And Now The ZendCon Interview

>> When was ZendCon first launched?

The first ZendCon was 2004 2005 (date confirmed by @Zeev). I checked the Wayback Machine and the first ZendCon website they show is the 2007 one. (Which took place in Burlingame CA.) So some of it’s history have been lost to the ether.

>> What is ZendCon all about – the objectives?

ZendCon – or as it was first known as – The Zend PHP Conference and Expo – was originally designed to showcase PHP and Zend’s toolchain and services built around it.

It quickly however became the defacto PHP conference. Other great conferences have sprung up around the world, and any time the PHP community gets together it’s gonna be great, but there is only one ZendCon.

>> Have these objectives changed down the years?

Yes. Slowly over the years the focus have move from Zend’s tools and services, to general PHP, and now this year, we are focusing on PHP and all the sub communities.

I can remember working on ZendCon where it would never ever be considered to have someone from the symfony framework talk. Now we’ve got frameworks and projects all gathering together to talk about the one thing that unites us, PHP.

The PHP community has a lot of great projects and sub-communities. Some of these communities are farther down the road than others. All of them have learned unique sets of lessons.

This year at ZendCon, we are giving them a place to share those lessons outside of their communities. A chance to share them with everyone.

>> Who first came up with the idea of ZendCon?

I have no idea. So let’s say Andi and Zeev. 🙂

>> ZendCon is a major Global Conf in the PHP World, how massive is this compared to other php conf and is it very different from an operational point of view as compared to the others?

ZendCon has changed over the years. At one point it was the largest gathering of the PHP community.

These days however, we’ve slimmed back a bit. There are other conferences that will eclipse ZendCon in total registrants. Still, ZendCon is the Grandaddy of them all.

Operationally, no, it’s very similar to other conferences, we’ve got seats, speakers, and sponsors. 🙂

>> Place(s) it is(was) held (including country)

  • 2005 – Santa Clara DoubleTree, Santa Clara CA – US – Andi Gutmans, MC
  • 2006 – Santa Clara DoubleTree, Santa Clara CA – US – Cal Evans, MC
  • 2007 -Burlingame Hilton, Burlingame, CA – US – Cal Evans, MC
  • 2008 – Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA – US – Cal Evans, MC
  • 2009 – San Jose Convention Center, San Jose, CA – US – Eli White, MC
  • 2010 – Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA – US – Kevin Schroeder, MC
  • 2011 – Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA – US – Kevin Schroeder, MC
  • 2012 – Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA – US – Kevin Schroeder, MC
  • 2013 – Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA – US – Adam Culp, MC
  • 2014 – Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA – US – Adam Culp, MC
  • 2015 – Hard Rock Casino, Las Vegas, NV – US – Adam Culp, MC

>> How many editions of this conf have been organised till now?

This will be ZendCon #11.

>> Adam Culp is the main Organizer is this correct? Can you also tell us a bit about the whole crew behind ZendCon, how things are planned, who does what, how the task are dispatched among the team..etc

Adam is the front man and driving force behind ZendCon ‘15. However he couldn’t get it done without the help of people like Maurice Kherlakian, and Ido Moshe.

Plus there are many others at Zend that pitch in to help get tasks done. It’s really a group effort to put on something this large.

7PHP With Adam Culp At SunshinePHP 2015 Miami
7PHP With Adam Culp At SunshinePHP 2015 Miami

>> The average number of attendees?

It varies from year to year. I’ve seen it as high as 800. This year we are shooting for 500.

>> The highest number of attendees?

In the 800s

>> Attendees tend to be of what background mostly?


Seriously, they are all over the place. At ZendCon we tend to get more Enterprise developers. We also get a good number of Managers and Directors.

But there will be a good number of PHP Core developers. The PHP/IBM i community is always well represented, and this year we will have an unprecedented 10 talks in that track alone.

This year, given our focus on popular PHP projects and their communities, I expect we will get a wider variety of developers. I hope we get junior devs attending their first ZendCon, all the way to architect level programmers.

Of course we welcome anyone from the PHP community. Sometimes the best use of your time is just sitting and talking to sages like Michelangelo van Dam or Matthew Weier O’Phinney.

ZendCon has something for every PHP developer.

from left to right: Michelangelo with 7PHP aka Khayrattee
from left to right: Michelangelo van Dam with 7PHP aka Khayrattee

>> Is there any specific criteria for the ZendCon team to select speakers? Any chance you can share who are involved in choosing the speakers as well?

I cannot share the names of the team. I can say that I was blessed to be on it again this year. Obviously Adam Culp heads up the process.

There are no formal rules. I can tell you how *I* select. This should not be considered as an endorsement of Zend for my practice. But in the absence of rules, this is what I use.

1: Is the topic interesting?
I don’t care who you are, if the topic is not interesting to the PHP community, I’m not going to vote for you.

2: Is the speaker experienced?
This is not the #1 criteria but it is something that I weigh. Most of the time, all things being equal, I will choose an experienced speaker over a non-experienced speaker on the same topic.

Experienced!==has spoken at a conference before. I give extra points to people who give their talk at a PHP User Group first. People who are applying to speak at a conference but have NEVER spoken at a UG that I can see, actually lose points with me.

L to R: Rafael Dohms - Khayrattee - Michelangelo at Miami 2015 for SunshinePHP
L to R: Rafael Dohms – Khayrattee – Michelangelo at Miami 2015 for SunshinePHP

3: Is the speaker well known?
Now we are getting to things that don’t count much, but they do count. I don’t participate in blind CfPs because WHO is speaking is important to me when selecting.

I never select based solely on the person. (Regardless of what Rafael Dohms and Stefan Koopmanschap tell you, I don’t blindly reject based on who you are either) 🙂

Stefan Koopmanschap and Me (7PHP)
Stefan Koopmanschap and Me (7PHP)

Again, if the topic is strong and unique, I’ll pick an unknown speaker. However, if an unknown speaker has pitched a beginning PHPUnit talk, and Sebastian Bergman has pitched a beginning PHPUnit talk, I’ll pick Sebastian.

Sebastian WROTE PHPUnit, he can bring insight to the talk that no one else can.

I know I’ll get hate mail for this and I am sorry if you don’t agree with me. However, when there is a charge for the ticket – any charge – then it is the duty of the selection committee to select the best talks available, and put together the strongest possible lineup.

The duty is to the ticket holders and them alone. Everything else is secondary in my book.

This does not mean that if Sebastian is pitching a CfP that no one else should pitch PHPUnit. Come up with a unique angle. Pitch a talk on how *your team* used PHPUnit to solve a specific problem. THAT is an interesting talk. That goes back to point #1 and will short-circuit all the rest of them.


* Sorry Sebastian for picking on you. 🙂

>> From your amazing Conf Experience so far, how do you see ZendCon different from other PHP Conferences?

Back when there were 3 major PHP conferences in the US & Europe, I used to say:

  • php[tek] is the community conference
  • ZendCon is the management conference
  • The Dutch PHP Conference (DPC) is the advanced conference

These days there are PHP conferences around the world and that is no longer true. However ZendCon has always made a place for team leads, Managers, and Directors.

We love it when managers come learn with their developers and we are committed to give them a place to do it.

I love it when I see a team sitting around in the bar after day 1 of a conference comparing notes, sharing, figuring out who goes to what on day 2.

That is a team that loves working together! If you are a manager, do yourself and your company a favor, bring your entire team to ZendCon. They will go home energized, educated, and much more tight knit.

>> Lessons learned from previous editions

You need more IP addresses than you think. 🙂

Back in 2007 I was in charge of ZendCon. (Using the term “in charge” here VERY LOOSELY) 🙂 We had hired a company to run it for us. They ordered the wifi and only ordered a single Class C address block ( Now that is 255 IP addresses.

255 to be shared among 600 attendees. that’s not even 1 per attendee. I instructed the vendor to get all of because there are 600 developers at this conference, each with a phone, a laptop, and usually one other device that are trying to connect to the conference network!

>> It’s being said This ZendCon 2015 promises to be Unique and Special – your comments on that? 🙂

2 words. “Vegas Baby!”

>> Could you tell us a few words about Zeev and Andi – the two pillars of Zend Inc ?

I owe my current career arc to these two men. We all owe so much to all of the PHP Core developers. I take nothing away from them. That notwithstanding, Zend gave me a platform to build on when I started there back in 2006.

Andi and Zeev founded Zend. I owe them more than I can repay. I also owe Mr. Mark de Visser. Thanks Mark for giving me a chance. 🙂

>> Cal, since you are already our undeniable Special PHP Icon (The PHP Godfather as @DragonBE says), how has been all your ZendCon so far, is there one of them that has been special or are they all equally same in your heart?

Honest to God, I wish you and Michelangelo would stop calling me that. 🙂

Yes, one stands out, 2008. 2008 stands out, but for personal reasons. That was the last one where I was the Master of Ceremonies. I had already accepted a job offer with Ibuildings, but it had not been made public.

As I did the closing goodbye, I actually teared up a little, I hope nobody noticed. I loved working on ZendCon. Great people have come after me and crafted it into the conference that it is today, but I am very proud that I got to put my stamp on it as well.

7PHP with Cal Evans - The PHP Icon
7PHP with Cal Evans – The PHP Icon

>> Would you recommend anyone to work at Zend Inc. or Should I say how can someone be eligible to have a role at Zend Technologies, Inc. ?

7PHP With Matthew Weier O’Phinney
7PHP With Matthew Weier O’Phinney

I have had a lot of jobs. (no seriously, a lot of them!) There are three companies I have truly loved working for, one of them is Zend. Like any company, there are challenges working here.

I don’t want to insinuate that it’s all roses and poptarts, there are people here who challenge my positive attitude daily. But I get to work with people likeAdam Culp, Matthew Weier O’Phinney, Clark Everetts, Axel Schinke, Susie Pollock.

Even since I’ve been back I’ve made new friends that I can say will be with me for a long time. Zend is an awesome place to work and I am blessed to be here.

7PHP With Clark Everetts
7PHP With Clark Everetts

>> Your message to the people who are going to attend it

Work it. you will get out of ZendCon exactly as much as you put into it. If you just show up and sit in sessions, you’ll get talked at. If you ask questions, you’ll get answers.

If you network, you’ll get friends. If you get drunk and spew White Russians all over your friends at the bar, you’ll get laughed at for years to come. So work it. Plan the sessions you want to attend. Plan the times you want to skip a session and just sit around and talk to people.

Visit the expo hall and talk with the vendors. If you enjoy an adult beverage, do so in moderation. Don’t just show up, be a part of the conference.

>> A special word of Inspiration & Motivation for both me and also for all readers

You are part of the largest team in the world, the PHP community. There are 5 million women and men out there ready to help you solve your problems.

Of course, some of them have problems too, so make sure that you give back when you can in honor of those who have given to you.

>> Any other things you want to mention/share with The PHP World?

Yes, If you have not yet donated to Ed (@funkatron) Finkler’s Open Source Mental Health campaign, please do. Ed uses the money to cover travel expenses so that he can go talk to developers all around North America about Mental Health.

If all of us chipped in $5 (a coffee at Starbucks for those of us in North America) Ed wouldn’t need to ever ask again. Do it, donate now.

Ed can’t change the world by himself, he needs the PHP community to help him.

>> Cal, thank you very much for all you do, for all you do for me as well and for all the consistent things you do FOR The PHP Community

– either be it consistency in your PHP endeavours like NomadPHP / DayCamp4Developers, inspiration in the form of Wisdom of The ElePHPant

and for all your daily motivating PHP stuffs on twitter – THANK YOU very much, Sir!

You are welcome. Thank you for helping make the PHP community so awesome!

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