CICON2011 was last weekend in NYC, and I had a lot of fun. In March, I told Phil Sturgeon I’d love to help out if he needed it, and I ended up getting to be part of the three man crew (me, Phil, and Kenny Katzgrau) who put together the event.
It was the first of it’s kind in the US, and I believe a hugely significant point for the CodeIgniter community as a whole, so I thought I’d get down my thoughts on the whole affair. Here we go!
It signaled a change in community/Ellislab relations
In my opinion, CICON in NYC was a huge milestone for the relationship and communication between the CodeIgniter community and Ellislab. Why? Ellislab was the premiere sponsor of CICON and their logo was all over the place, but right from the start the message was clear: CodeIgniter is driven by us.
The first announcement on Saturday was that CodeIgniter has moved to Github, and Reactor is now CodeIgniter. If you are used to things on Github and yawn at the news, you’re suppressing several years of CodeIgniter memory where sending a pull request was not even possible, let alone so easy and in such a central and visible place. For many, CI in the past was open source, but you couldn’t touch it or contribute to it.
So, having Ellislab fully behind an event where a contest was held over the two day period to see who could make the most/best pull requests to CI is a huge sea change in the way Ellislab and the community interact, and a big leap forward.
(As a side note I think it’s a relationship that worked and felt natural: EllisLab showed their support in a substantial way, but everything else was planned, executed, and set up by the community.)
The line where CI ends is blurry
I realized something a few hours into Saturday at CICON – many presentations, although informative, weren’t just about CodeIgniter. Kenny’s talk about stack optimization, Calvin’s talk about payment gateways, and even John Crepezzi’s talk about writing friendly libraries could conceivably be at home at several development conferences if you made some changes.
I’m not saying these presentations were not great or valuable. Just the opposite, they were great. I’m baffled by payment gateways, for instance, so Calvin’s talk on them was extremely valuable, as well as thorough and original. However, it says something about the way we use CodeIgniter. CI is so flexible and light that we often simply find ourselves talking about something else entirely without realizing it. In the same way CI doesn’t get in the way, we do not generally get bogged down in the constructs that our framework places on us – we build on top of it because CI works with us.
In other words, we were all there because of the tool we use, but we were not all there to figure out how to use it.
Above: Phil giving the opening talk on Saturday.
We walked away with a shared mission
There was a great moment on Saturday where we were running well short of our schedule, and Phil asked Greg Aker to see if he could fill a gap with some group discussion. Greg was willing, and after some warm up time eventually got a huge group discussion going about where CI was going, and what was next. Kenny was taking minutes, and soon we had a really good list going.
If everyone walked away with just one thing, I think group discussions like this one created a shared sense ownership of where CI is headed. That’s something new, and something that will help keep the CI community going.
CICON was a true community effort, and it showed
This may seem self-evident, but developers are not really the same type of people who excel at event planning. That being said, we stepped out of our element to try and provide all the things that a cool conference should have: a great venue, a great location, food, working A/V equipment, lanyards, fun t-shirts, a bar to go to after, etc.
Throughout the process, the community really stepped up to help. Ellislab was our main sponsor and additionally provided the resources to send Greg Aker (who was critical to the success of the conference). PHP Fog, Mindfulware, and Conflux Group generously sponsored. Whooz! (the people behind the very successful EECI conferences) not only sponsored but provided the design elements and web design for the conference. Although we put together the swag and other materials, their work on the design and look/feel saved us a lot of time and energy.
The last piece of the puzzle was the most important: the attendees. Everyone brought their enthusiasm, and as a result, we had a fantastic group of people who allowed us to go with the flow, improvise when we needed to, and hopefully create an environment that led to the important community milestone that CICON was.
CI has a bright future ahead of it.
PS: My offer still stands to pay Greg Aker $20 to merge in my echo helper pull request.