I had an awesome time at Tek-X in Chicago last week. It was worth the 8 hour drive to get to Chicago from my basement lair. Of course, it helped that the wait at the border was under 10 minutes both times. There were good talks, but even better *people*.
A programming language is only as good as the community that supports. By supporting it, I mean willing to get together several times a year for conferences and bust their asses to have people share interesting talks with everyone else. Look at Python and Ruby. Awesome languages to work with. But even more awesome are the conferences that serve as anchors for the community.
There seems to be lots of little regional Ruby conferences, which give the language itself a unique flavour in return. Of course, it helps that Ruby can be used quite easily outside the traditional web application building environment. I don’t see so many regional Python conferences, just PyCon and DjangoCon both in the US and over in Europe. It could be that I’m not looking hard enough.
As for PHP, to be fair, it shows up at pretty much any open source web-related conference. OS Bridge. OSCON. Codemash. I could go on, but I am not in the conference-promotion business. I mean, why is there no Great Canadian PHP Conference? I know there was phpworks in Toronto back in the mid 2000’s. It was my first conference I ever went to. But I’ll tell you why there is no Great Canadian PHP Conference: there is no PHP community in Toronto.
Oh sure, there are tons of PHP jobs to be had in Toronto. Lots of code monkey positions to be filled. But the Toronto PHP User’s group has been dormant since last year. I sent an email to the organizer telling him I wanted to help out at least 3 days ago. Haven’t heard a damn thing back. Perhaps it is time to go around such a person and just do it myself.
See, without the PHP community I do not have a career. Once I took the plunge, submitted a talk, and got accepted (I gave a talk about what the PHP community could learn from Ruby on Rails) I found I had suddenly joined the PHP *community*. Instantly I had people asking me questions AND people willing to answer my questions. Like I was their long-lost buddy. That was an awesome feeling, let me tell you. But even more important were the people I met.
As a result of the community, I have found myself in the awesome position that every time I needed a job, it took less than a week to get one. It was a combination of my blogging and my work in making those connections in the community that put me in this position, but it is sure a nice feeling to be able to convince your nervous wife that we were not about to face a rough patch while I struggled to find work. So it’s a no-brainer for me to continue to submit talks to conferences and try to attend even when I don’t speak. It’s about giving something back to the community that has helped me grow my career.
So don’t just *use* your language of choice. Try and become part of that community. Doesn’t matter if it’s Python, Ruby, or good-old-solved-the-web-problem-first PHP. You’d be surprised what doors are opened up by your participation.