An overview: eZ UnConference 2012, Cologne

By Igor Vrdoljak -

It has been a crazy few weeks (nothing but work) here at Netgen since returning from eZ UnConference #1, so I am a bit behind schedule with this post, but better late than never. :-)

This year eZ Systems decided to change the standard eZ Conference style quite a bit so instead of having a big all-in-one conference both for developers and businessmen, from now on there will be two separate events. The one hosted in Cologne on 17th and 18th of October was primarily oriented towards the developer community, and there will also be a second event in February for the business crowd. The style of the event was quite different too, and elements of the unconference style were introduced and mixed with traditional presentations given both by the eZ Systems crew members and the people from the eZ community.

Conference style

5 people from Netgen went to Cologne, with two of our crew who are working on the next version of eZ Publish also attending an intensive 3-day Symfony2 training just before the conference days. We also gave two short presentations: "Building mobile applications fast and easy with eZ App Factory" by me and "About eZ Publish Summer Camp" by Ivo Lukač.

Igor Vrdoljak from Netgen AppFactory

Both talks received a good response from the attendees, and you can check them out on slideshare and YouTube!

A number of very interesting presentations were given, some of my favorites being:

  • “The Story of Symfony2 - innovation, passion, and openness” - this presentation was made by Fabien Potencier, CEO of SensioLabs and a leading figure in the Symfony2 community. As eZ Publish is going to rely heavily on Symfony2 in version 5, everyone was very interested in hearing the story behind one of most popular PHP frameworks today.
  • “eZ Publish top-performance through mastery (and extension) of the cache layers” - a real gem provided by Gilles Guirand, CTO of Kaliop. Anyone working with eZ on serious installations should hear Gilles talk about caching issues in eZ. The guy rocks. Totally.
  • “Published in 1885 and Shared on Facebook” - given by Joe Kepley from Blend Interactive. A mix of both technical and management insights on a large project done in eZ Publish, this presentation reminded me of so many issues we experience while managing a web project and interacting with clients.

UnConference style

The real change from the previous eZ Conference were the unconference sessions. I haven't attended such events in the past, and was interested if this participant driven style would work. And it did, very well.

The main idea here is that there is no enforced topic given upfront, so there is an internal voting procedure among participants which sets out the schedule. Most of the topics that emerged were (understandably) related to the upcoming v5 of eZ Publish and the transition process from v4. The impression is that we all will gain much with this upgrade, but there will also be much to learn. Interesting times ahead!

Other talks included a discussion on legal issues, content staging and even a much needed brainstorming session on the design issues of the administration interface (my colleague Vjeran also wrote a blog post on share.ez.no related to this subject).

The only problem here was that there was so many interesting topics, and one had to choose which ones to attend.

Symfony2 training

The final, post-conference day we were in Cologne, some of us took the chance to get introduced to Symfony2 web framework, which is one of the cornerstone technologies in the new version of eZ Publish.
The training was given by Sensio Labs and, even though it was only a short intro into the framework, it was enough to see the magnitude of changes after eZ Publish 5 gets fully implemented. Symfony2 brings a lot of value to eZ Publish and, coupled with other elements of the new stack such as the new Public API and the REST API, it will enable eZ developers to create some really cool stuff.

Conclusion

I think the new unconference style was a real win for a conference oriented mainly on the developers. A lot of attendees were more active in their participation instead of being just passive listeners to the talks, and the community feeling was much stronger than during classic, read-only events. We hope this will become a real tradition, and only grow in the years to come.

The location was really nice, Cologne being a really great place both for fun and business. The city itself, the Kölsch and the food were great and I hope to come again soon, either for business or leisure.

Finally, big congratulations go to eZ Systems team for organizing this event, and to all the community members who participated in the UnConference being such a success.

See you all next time!

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