recently attended the Midwest PHP 2018 conference in Bloomington, Minnesota. Besides talking PHP and the future of everything Cloud, we also made sure to make the most of our time in the Mall of America. From 8:15 am on Friday to 2:30 pm the next day, we didn’t leave.

Here are the highlights from spending over 30 hours surrounded by PHP frameworks and, occasionally, a programmer or two.

What is Midwest PHP?

Midwest PHP is a 2-day conference all about the PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) scripting language. From sessions on how to manage cybersecurity to PHP web development how-tos, Midwest PHP brings industry experts and trainees together to share best practices, industry developments, and ideas for building state-of-the-art software applications.

This year, the Midwest PHP schedule was split into 3 tracks: entry-level, mid-level, and advanced. Each of these tracks featured their own breakout sessions by a range of different speakers. Besides the breakout sessions, Midwest PHP was also a good opportunity to get in touch with others working in the PHP industry and learn how they’re using PHP to benefit their businesses.

It was also an excellent chance for those looking to start out in the industry. If you missed the event but are looking to become a PHP developer, head to the Midwest PHP 2018 job board and have a look around.

General Impressions at Midwest PHP 2018

Midwest PHP is definitely one of the better events we’ve visited for PHP. The quality of speakers this year was great. We were especially impressed by the wide variety of topics which ended up being discussed.

One of these was cybersecurity. As more businesses move to the Cloud, cybersecurity is a pressing issue which needs to be addressed in all areas of web development. We were also glad to see a lot of sessions on entry-level PHP skills, helping make an already accessible scripting language even more so.  

Of course, the venue of the Mall of America was impressive in and of itself. As the USA’s largest shopping center, there was a lot to love not only in the event but surrounding it.

Sessions Which Stood Out

Whilst all of the sessions this year sounded great, we were only able to see some of them. Some of the ones which stood out included:

Cryptography for Beginners (Adam Englander)

As Englander himself states “cryptography is a complex and confusing subject”, yet when it comes to network security, it’s one of the most important considerations developers will face. Englander’s entry-level session on securing data with encryption and ensuring data integrity helped give PHP developers a good understanding of what those considerations included.

For those looking to take security to a more advanced level, Englander also offered an advanced course in “Practical API Security”. We didn’t go, but will keep an eye out for any future events he’ll be speaking at.

Magento 2 Module Learning (Ben Marks)

Ben Mark’s intermediate dive into the world of Magento 2 was of particular interest to us. With being such an open sandbox, Magento is something we’ve seen people consider using frequently.

During this session, Marks dug into PHP framework by building a module in Magento 2, helping to highlight the capabilities (and limitations) of the modular architecture offered by Magento.

Despite being marked as an intermediate session, Mark’s presentation was clear and easy to understand. Overall, a great introduction to the more advanced components which make up the PHP framework.

Don’t Eat Grandma (Kara Ferguson)

Kara’s course on avoiding grammatical issues with technical writing injected a good dose of humor into a usually dry subject. Whilst the session itself wasn’t specifically about PHP web development, Kara covered the importance of ‘translating’ PHP code into content.

A good example she used was when it came to the use of “ID”. One programmer had a tendency towards writing it as “Id”, as he did when he would write code. For anyone familiar with the world of psychology, this can have a somewhat different meaning. Ferguson opened our eyes to the importance of making sure that things as simple as capitalization are correct and did so with a couple of laughs.

Intro to Laravel (Joe Ferguson)

You probably know Laravel as being one of the most popular PHP frameworks out there. It also happens to be open source and free. For those who have just gotten started with Laravel, Ferguson’s entry-level session on the Laravel PHP framework was a great introduction to exploring the basics of databases, views, routing, and more. A strong addition to the Midwest PHP 2018 lineup and one we’re glad we didn’t miss.

Essential Tools for Modern PHP (Alex Weissman)

PHP is known for its low entry barriers. After you know how to set up a LAMP stack, you’re ready to go. However, there is a big difference between playing around in a sandbox and releasing production-level applications.

Weissman’s session introduced some of the more advanced tools every PHP developer should have in their toolbox. From Composter and PHPUnit to Markdown, phpDoc and more, this was one session entry-level PHP developers didn’t want to miss.

Midwest PHP 2019

We’re looking forward to Midwest PHP 2019. Year on year the quality of speakers only gets better, and the event itself is more than worthwhile for anyone working as a PHP developer and looking to network.  

We also loved the venue at the Mall of America. More than a few Shake Shacks were had: very possibly the best, fresh, fast food burgers in the world! Hopefully next year we’ll be able to talk PHP over a burger with you.

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