True North PHP Is Done post

November 7th, 2016

"Why are you stopping the conference?!?"

This is the most common question I've been asked since earlier in the year when my conference partner Pete and I decided that we would run our small PHP-centric conference TrueNorthPHP one more time and then shut it down.

While there are some short answers, there are also some very long ones. I did 30 minute closing talk at the end of the conference to talk about my feelings about all this. Since not everyone was able to be there, I thought I'd rehash some of my thoughts on this so others can learn from my experiences and draw their own conclusions.

I absolutely picked the right partner for all this in Pete. I was able to be the hype man for the event while Pete...did pretty much everything else. This, of course, was right in my ego-driven, self-promoting wheel house. Talk all the time about something cool I am doing and what others to participate in? EASY. Make sure speakers are treated the way I wanted to be treated? DONE. Keep everything on track during the event and keep the talk flow going? SIMPLE.

Because of this great partnership, doing the conference never felt stressful. Seriously. We knew what we needed to do, and made sure we got the right help for the things we couldn't do ourselves. The staff at Microsoft Canada did everything we needed...and then some. An extreme pleasure to deal with once we got things rolling, they often anticipated our needs and always delivered.

I know you might not believe me, but it's true -- we set things up so this event would run smoothly with some oversight from us instead of becoming an all-consuming monster like some conferences seem to be for other folks.

So 5 times I asked for people to submit talks, encouraged my old friends and hopeful strangers to submit talks, picked people up at the airport, tried to talk to all of them during the event itself, shook a lot of hands, thanked many people for compliments, and just tried to do what I thought was right.

Clearly it worked because I did notice all the people talking about the event over the years. I'm happy it all worked out so well and I'm happy so many other people looked at what Pete and I did as inspiration for running their own events.

But why did I go along with shutting down such an awesome event. Sure, I could keep doing this another 5 times. But I'm just not wired this way.

When Pete and I hatched a scheme to actually do this, the goal was clear -- run the first PHP-centric event in the Greater Toronto Area since 2006. I also saw that we could bring in some awesome speakers because I had made so many friends while speaking at events myself. The event was smaller than I wanted it to be, but I quickly realized that we couldn't possibly run something bigger than this with just 2 main organizers (Vic Metcalfe helped out so much over the years).

So 5 times we has from 130-150 folks spend the first Friday and Saturday of November learning about programming in a very chill environment.

But it's over. Done. Finished. No more TrueNorthPHP. I did everything I wanted to do with this thing, so to me there was no point in doing it any more. Better to go out while on top instead of let this thing linger and end up a pale shadow of itself. If other people want to run a PHP-centric event in the Toronto area, I'm happy to offer advice. But it won't be TrueNorthPHP.

I'm sure many of you are disappointed. That's okay. Many of you might find it egotistical that I have identified so strongly with TrueNorthPHP being an extension of myself. That's okay too. I didn't do this all just for you, I did it to prove something to myself too. I can now add "was an integral part of a successful developer conference" to my list of "things I did that are awesome".

But I always get restless. Things that were a challenge become normal, and I start doing them without reflecting on their awesomeness. "Running a conference" is now part of that. But don't worry, I'm not going to stop doing them. I'm just taking what I feel is a well-deserved break from doing this soft of stuff. I've spent almost 20 years as a programmer -- I think I've earned a year of relaxing with my wife and concentrating on really small tasks...like packing up and moving after 13 years to try and find a Compound of Grumpiness in a slightly-rural-but-has-high-speed-internet location.

At some point the restlessness will kick in and I will want to run an event. I have some ideas -- the early feedback seems interesting but it needs to percolate and roll around in my head until I fully figure out what it's going to be. The likelihood of there being a GrumpyCon in 2018 is very strong.

Like I said at the end of my talk, I cannot possibly thank everyone that helped me and Pete put on such a great event over the past few years. Instead, I will say "see you soon".