Laracon US: Day Two

We have had a fantastic time at Laracon US and wanted to share our final thoughts from day two. Laracon resumed on the second day with back-to-back talks by Jeffrey Way and Paul Jones on what it means to be a coder. After another round of JeoPHPardy and lunch, we enjoyed listening to more open-source advice from Indatus' CTO Brian Webb and keynote speaker Rabbi Yitzchok Willroth.


Things Laravel Made Me Believe

Jeffrey Way stared off day two with a talk addressing modern developer struggles and the key to finding the “secret sauce” to managing complex development problems. Part of his solution included using the Laravel ecosystem to simplify the developer stack. He also gave us this list of three “things he has come to believe” about good programming:

Care

What is unimportant is paramount.

Jeffrey emphasized the importance of caring for programming details and of making the user the top priority instead of sticking to a specific design.

Simplicity

Simplicity in code is more powerful than adhering to a pattern; simplicity always wins.

Creating a simple, natural and intuitive API is more powerful than adhering to a pattern. Focus on making your project work before you program to a specific pattern.

Distrust

Be careful, really smart people can offer really bad advice.

Maintain a healthy level of distrust for all information you encounter. Research and affirm the validity of the solutions offered to you.

By far, Jeffrey’s talk was the most entertaining and animated-GIF-filled talk of the conference. His killer storytelling skills kept our team engaged for the duration and we learned a lot from his stories. As for the “secret sauce”? It’s simple, natural, clean code.

Same Thing Happens Every Time

The next talk was by Paul M. Jones. He opened his discussion with a survey of Joseph Campbell’s work on cultural mythologies and then segued into a conversation about identifying patterns. Developers can discover patterns in these four main areas:

He showed how when we learn to identify these underlying patterns in the workplace that we can establish strategies for working with and around them. Understanding personalities and individual strengths helps helps project workflow, while making the team better. Paul encouraged us to work each day at becoming a better person, programmer and coworker.

This session wrapped up with a combined Q&A with both Paul and Jeffrey, where they shared insight on developer perception and time.

Open Source & Company Culture

After a lunch break and a round of "JeoPHPardy”, Indatus CTO Brian Webb led a talk about building an ideal company environment through an Open Source & Company Culture. He discussed the importance of distinguishing between being satisfied and engaged. While 7 out of 10 employees are disengaged, he showed how the remaining engaged employees are the ones who are fully involved in their work and who move the company forward. So how do we help employees become engaged in their work?

Autonomy

Empowering your employees to make rational, informed, and un-coerced decisions in their work. Extreme micromanaging is the opposite of this view.

An example would be allowing your team to choose how to tackle a task (SCRUM, Waterfall, etc.) and allowing them to explain their plan. Ask the questions what? and why? Just make sure it is within the constraints and budgets of the project and then let your team work.

Mastery

Encourage the continuation of learning and the desire to get better. If employees are making progress in meaningful tasks, there will be a positive return in their work and in the workplace environment.

Feedback in these areas needs to be balanced with constructive criticism (include both positive and negative feedback). The purpose of this technique is to improve the project outcome and to empower the employee to become better. If an employee does a good job on a task, tell them. It will go a long way in the long run.

Purpose

Desiring to do what we do in service of something greater than ourselves. Does what I do make a difference in the world?

Open source projects are an excellent example of purpose since they do not just make one person successful, they make others successful too. In the same way, open source work environments are a group of people working together to solve problems. Sometimes these problems are technical and sometimes they are social.

Service Oriented Laravel & Lumen

One of the most anticipated sessions of the conferences, Samantha Geitz’s talk centered around service-oriented architecture by developing reliable products with Laravel and Lumen. She gave amazing insight on how to simplify large applications by distributing code base to a dedicated service application. For an in-depth guide on building large-scale applications, Samantha recommended reading Laravel: From Apprentice to Artisan - Taylor Otwell. After this excellent technical talk, we headed to the hall-way track where we swapped service-oriented architecture experiences.

Hacking the Human Interface

Samantha Quiñones followed up with a non-technical talk about workplace empathy and authority. It was a great extension of Ed Finkler's talk from day one. Samantha’s discussion underscored the necessity of understanding your coworkers troubles and empathizing with them rather than trying to solve their problems.

Decreasing the degrees of separation and biases allows empathy to develop.

Her main goal was to show how empathetic conversations can lead to a more supportive and accepting workplace, and, by extension, a more empathetic industry.

Talmudic Maxims to Maximize Your Growth as a Developer

In the last session of the convention, Yitzchok Willroth (@CodeRabbi) explained how the teachings of the Talmud can apply to the developer community. His message was clear: you can only truly gain when you work with others. Yitzchok gave us these three areas in which to practice these teachings:

By implementing these practices, you can create a fierce multiplier effect that will allow you to advance your knowledge even further. This was an amazing talk that really inspired us to share our knowledge and experiences with each other.

After Parties

It was not really mentioned in our post for Laracon US: Day One, but there were plenty of hallway tracks and after parties to get to. Taylor and the event organizers provided color-coded stickers for everyone to wear to indicate their job status (recruiting/looking/happily employed), and that helped identify people you might want to network with. We meandered the conference center and ended up sharing design philosophies, application architecture ideas, and even fixed a few bugs for some people. After the official after parties, we went to local Louisville restaurants to do some more socializing. We highly recommend the Gralehaus. On the day following the conference, we also took in some local attractions by zip-lining in an underground mine.

Code of Conduct

Something worth mentioning about Laracon is the the Code of Conduct policy. It was well-written and was required to be accepted by all ticket-holding attendees. Having such a policy formally deterred any bad behavior that other conferences have become known for. While no attendees that we came into contact with behaved offensively towards our team, select speakers were seemingly exempt in their talks from having to abide by the same policies as the attendees.

Since Laracon was a conference for professional developers, potentially offensive language by the speakers should not be permitted. Some people took to Twitter to vent their frustration and were cyber-bullied for their desire to see the Code of Conduct enforced. It hurts the future conferences when people decide to not attend the sessions because the speakers are not respectable.

A policy is only as good as it is enforced. If a policy is not going to be enforced it should not be a policy to begin with. It is a meaningless statement at that point. If there was one thing that we would like to see improved at all professional conferences it is that the Code of Conduct (whatever it might be) be enforced on all participants – especially the speakers.

Conclusion

Once again day two did not let us down. The morning tracks were very engaging and were wrapped up nicely by the keynote. Overall the conference was very enjoyable. If anything, it gave us a break from the daily grind. The talks were pertinent to the industry and the atmosphere was inviting. We met lots of nice people who we look forward to seeing at next year's conference. We want to publicly thank Taylor Otwell and his team for organizing such a wonderful conference. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.