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On the last weekend in September 2017, I attended the PHPNW conference in Manchester on behalf of CTI Digital. This was something of a special occasion being the 10th anniversary of the conference, but also something of a sad one as it turned out to be the last conference for the foreseeable future.

The highlight of the event was a keynote from PHP Creator Rasmus Lerdorf. He discussed exciting new developments in PHP and open source such as the recent open source release of Yahoo’s Vespa project for processing big data. He also talked through the performance improvements users can expect to see from upgrading to PHP7, and particularly the vast improvements that will be made to PHP7.3 when using opcache. The opcache process has been updated to evaluate functions for redundant code and ignore it when creating the cache. Therefore, if you write bad code with heavy processing, just to return a fixed value in the local scope, all that will be stored in the cache is that returned value. This provides memory and performance boosts. Essentially, the worse your codebase is, the bigger performance benefit you’ll get moving from PHP5.6.

In the world of Drupal – where you can’t always vouch for the code quality of the contributed module you’re using – this could be a lifesaver. Those performance improvements mean you can house the same site, to the same number of visitors but on smaller machines. That also means less money, less electricity, and less CO2 into the atmosphere: therefore PHP could actually help save the planet.

The award for the scariest presentation of the conference goes to Michelangelo van Dam. Michelangelo talked about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that comes into force on May 25th 2018. This is a new piece of EU Regulation – already promised to be moved into British law post-Brexit – that codifies the current best practice guidelines on Data Protection. It's also backed up with real teeth: fines of up to 20 million Euros or 4% of group worldwide turnover (whichever is more). The laws apply to any business that holds data on any EU resident, whether or not that business is registered or trading within the EU.

There shouldn’t be anything new or surprising in the GDPR: businesses handling data (and that can include usernames, emails, and IP Addresses) should already be protecting, maintaining and destroying that data in accordance with current best practices. But given some of the reactions to the talk (“Is this just going to be another EU Cookie Directive? Will they really bother to enforce it?”) there might be a few businesses out there who haven’t realised the importance their customers place on data security.

There were lots of other interesting talks to catch up on, introducing a lot of new tools and toys to play with. I learnt about the proposed Credential API W3C directive, that has already been implemented by Google. It allows users to carry their login across multiple devices, browsers and sessions to make using a site much more intuitive and friendly. I learnt about the possibilities of machine learning and the tools that already exist to help you benefit from it today. I learnt how the man behind Xdebug, Derick Rethans, debugs issues with that project.

But most of all, I learnt how much I’m going to miss PHPNW, and how much I hope that it comes back in the future.


You can watch videos of the conference from over the years by clicking here.

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