PHP|Tek and a Hackathon

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking at php|tek in Chicago. As usual there were a few great talks, a good crowd of new folk and a selection of established speakers all at the event and I had a great time. This year, there was one particular highlight that I wanted to share: the hackathon.

In actual fact I hadn’t attended anything similar before, apart from perhaps the PHP Test Fests, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was bringing my own open source project, to the event since I knew we had a few existing contributors present and since it’s a conference tool, I figured we’d probably get a few other interested people too. What I didn’t count on was that we’d have no existing contributors show up until later in the evening (when they’d finished getting involved with some other projects), or that we’d have 12 new contributors show up, with a few others trickling in during the event!

It was such a fun and exciting evening, I pointed people at the various resources we have for setting up the project and we worked around a bad combination of flaky wifi and JIRA by pinging requests for updates out to Chris Cornutt who was joining us via the magic of IRC. Chris is the other project lead on and I’m not totally sure how I would have coped without him fielding questions on IRC while I sat with and helped others! By about 9pm we had our first pull request come in (thanks jbafford!) and I realised I needed to calm down, sit down, and start merging changes.

This got increasingly exciting later in the evening since I don’t usually drink and code, or indeed code late at night, and I realised after getting confused for a third time by git (thanks to the ever-patient @tswicegood and @funkatron for their technical support!) that I should probably stop merging things into the main repo. I ended up bailing on the remaining hackathon-ers at around midnight (as I was speaking the following morning) and by the time I woke up and checked my mail we had almost 20 pull requests all told!

For me, the hackathon was the highlight of the conference. I’ve been project lead on for a year, actually since last year’s php|tek conference, and I’ve seen it grow into an increasingly mature and stable project with a friendly and active community. The hackathon showed me how approachable this project is (and also how much I personally have still to learn about being a “community leader”), and the “afterglow” of the experience is still evident in the project. Our IRC channel ( on freenode) is busy, the pull requests are coming in at a regular rate, we’re seeing more forks of the code on github, and there are bugs being opened and closed on the bug tracker all the time. If that sounds exciting, then please do join us!

Thanks to everyone who came along to the hackathon, hacked, helped, or just stopped to chat. Thanks to everyone who got involved with Joindin whether there, or in some other place/time. You have reminded me what happens when we work together, and inspired me with a new energy. For me, this is what open source is all about, so thankyou :)

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