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Hackathon at php|tek 2009 - Interview with Matthew Turland
April 24, 2009 @ 13:08:15

This year's php|tek conference is rapidly approaching and this year has a few more things in store for attendees than previous years. One of them is a Hackathon, organized by Matthew Turland (of Blue Parabola). I managed to grab a few minutes of Matt's time to has him a few questions about the Hackathon.


Q: Why a Hackathon?
The PHP community at large has seen a few recent events like Bughuntday and TestFest, but at the point where the idea came up to have a Hackathon, events like this had never part of a conference. This seems odd when you think about it, because conferences are a situation where a number of people interested in development are all in one physical location. While online collaboration is certainly possible it's not always as easy or fun as in-person real-time collaboration. And yet, events like these have occurred independently of conferences rather than in conjunction with them.

This will be the first year that an unconference event is included in the conference program for php|tek. I suppose my colleague who originated the Hackathon idea, Keith Casey, figured that firsts come better in pairs. Seriously, though, it gives this large number of aggregated developers a chance to make significant contributions to PHP projects that we all know and use.

Q: How has the interest level been?
The idea has had very positive reception. We've already gotten commitments from core developers of a number of major projects including PHP itself and a few well-known frameworks. It's commonplace at a conference for people to get into ad-hoc discussions with project developers and for patches to be written for issues or potential new features during those discussions. The Hackathon is an attempt to organize these occurrences so that many people are doing it at the same time and have an opportunity to coordinate and pool their efforts.

Q: Have any coding sprints been considered?
As a matter of fact, we've gotten a commitment from people involved in last year's TestFest event to organize another like it as part of the Hackathon. If you're unfamiliar with TestFest, it's a coordinated effort to improve the code coverage of PHP itself by writing tests in PHP. It's easy to get involved and people will be available at the Hackathon to bring you up to speed on what you need to know if you'd like to contribute. This is an excellent opportunity for developers to contribute to the stability and reliability of PHP, which has a widespread effect on all of us.

Q: Will the groups for each of the softwares be the ones to pick whats worked on or will people be free to hack away at any part?
While groups may guide those working, whether they do so will be their prerogative. Ultimately, it's your choice what you work on, and it doesn't have to be a project that someone else is representing. I myself plan to hack on Phergie, my PHP-based IRC bot. Bring your laptop, sit, hack, and have a good time with the rest of us. If everyone enjoys the event, I'll consider it a success and any contributions we make to PHP projects will be icing on the cake.

Q: So, what happens to the bugs they fix? Will they get pushed back into the project?
Ideally, yes. If not, they can be submitted as patches to project issue trackers, which makes them all the more likely to be accepted eventually. We're trying to get as many core project developers involved in the Hackathon as possible. At worst, they'll at least be aware of the patches that are submitted. At best, they can inspect them and push into project version control repositories soon after they're submitted at the Hackathon. So, if you know of a project whose core developers will be present at php|tek, you can help by encouraging them to attend the Hackathon!

Q: And the most important question - will food and beverage be provided?
The tentative plan is for the Hackathon to run from 4:30 to 10:30 on Thursday. Hors d'oeuvres will be served from 7:30 to 8:30, followed by drinks for the remaining time. While we'd certainly like for people to stay the entire time, there are a number of restaurants in the area where people can get dinner then come back for the rest of the event. In any case, we'll update the Hackathon page on the php|tek web site (http://tek.mtacon.com/c/s/hackathon) as more information becomes available.

You can find out more about this year's php|tek conference on its main site and more details on the Hackthon here.

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