The MODX Weekend Recap
From September 19-22 just shy of 50 MODX Professionals gathered in Zeist, The Netherlands, for the first ever MODX Weekend. There was already a great vibe on Friday, and I've seen nothing but happy faces throughout the rest of the weekend.
Considering this is the first conference of its kind, I'm very pleased with how it went. In this blog post, I'll go over the weekend chronologically, sharing some of my personal highlights and pictures to give you an idea of the event. I'm also linking to the MODX Weekend Videos for the sessions, as those are online now as well.
In another blog post over the next few weeks I'll talk more about the MODX Weekend concept, the feedback I've received through the attendee survey and other takeaways on an organisational/planning level.
Okay, so we didn't have the 100+ attendees I was initially hoping for, but we did have 48 really dedicated MODX professionals attending a new conference concept. Right off the bat, there was a great, relaxed atmosphere (the Dutch would call it "gezellig") so I couldn't be more happier about the people.
The large majority of guests flew in from outside The Netherlands, coming all the way from India, the United States and everything in between, so that's really cool. Luckily, they didn't have to worry about getting to the venue - the bus was waiting for them at Schiphol Airport and Utrecht, so they just had to hop on board, sit back and relax. The venue was hard to miss - just follow the red carpet!
After checking in to their hotel, and devouring the box of modmore m&ms, people headed to the lounge - and later to the Sociëteit bar - to get to know each other. Many people already met each other at one of the earlier MODX events, so there was lots of catching up as well.
Watch the WelcomeOn the foggy Saturday morning, after a shared breakfast and coffee, the actual conference sessions started with myself having a way too short opening talk, throwing off the planning right off the bat. We now had plenty of time to spare for questions and sessions going past the planned time, but I still feel silly for only having a 5 minute speech in a 30 minute time slot... ah well.
Watch John's TalkTo kick off the actual speakers, we had John "theboxer" Peca as senior developer from MODX talking about what the business is up to, and what they've got planned for MODX 2.4: package dependencies and a more accessible manager. Of course, the community was not forgotten either and John talked about the importance of the community helping out and shaping the product.
Watch Vasilis' TalkAfter John's talk, we took a quick coffee break before Vasilis van Gemert took the floor. Vasilis, who is not a MODX user himself, had a marvellous talk about the web. It's a weird medium, on one hand it's incredibly flexible, but we also have to think about who may be consuming our content and in what way. It's like art.
Watch Chris' TalkAfter lunch, it was up to Chris Cherrett to teach us something and his talk about Create Once, Publish Everywhere went into great detail on how we can use MODX as an actual Content Management System, instead of just a web publishing tool. Separating content from markup is essential when you want to use content in other channels, and it just so happens that ContentBlocks is great at doing that, and making it possible to extract your content without the markup.
Watch Graeme's TalkThen Graeme Leighfield took to the stage to explain us how he gets clients on board with MODX - and training them to actually use it properly, too. Despite some technical problems, there were a lot of great take aways in this talk on how to more effectively communicate with your clients. One of the best quotes of the weekend came from Graeme's talk: "People that moan love to shout".
Watch Mark's TalkAfter another coffee break, Mark Willis took it upon himself to tell us about High Availability. This was a pretty technical session, and I'm sure this may have been too technical for some, but it really gives a great view into what a high availability platform really is, what important factors are and how you could set one up.
Watch the Lightning TalksAs the final session for the day, we had the Lightning Talks. Short talks about interesting tools or projects by different speakers. The speakers were:
- Helen Warner, talking about the Discover MODX website and how everyone can help collect relevant links easily
- Susan Ottwell, showing how you can add a log of page not found errors to your MODX dashboard
- Roger Sullivan, giving an introduction of Picturefill.js and showing how to set it up for a client
- Mark Willis, showing a work-in-progress content editing workflow tool they are developing at Adido
- Gernot Ebenlechner, discussing new EU legislation and what that means for us building websites
After all those sessions, it was time for a three course dinner in the restaurant. Not just any three course menu, mind you, but a high end aiming-for-a-michelin-star three course menu. Beautifully plated dishes with a mix of tastes. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures until the dessert, and I haven't seen anyone else take pictures either.
Next, at the bar, there were drinks, an 8-person party band, an hilarious comedy show, fussball, billiards and lots of smiling people until late at night.
To wake up after the night in the bar, we first went for a walk through the forest with a group of about 12. Very refreshing!
After some more coffee, we got started with the second day of sessions. This time, there were two tracks to choose from: front-end and back-end.
Watch Mark's talkOn the back-end track I kicked off the back-end track with an introduction for Gitify, a command line toolkit to help you build MODX sites with Git. It seemed to be well received and got people thinking about how they can incorporate it into their workflow. It's obviously still a bit too soon to use in production, but everyone is invited to contribute and discuss about how to shape it further.
Watch Charles' talkCharles Sanders followed with a very interesting talk about scaling MODX across multiple servers. He talked about how he went from a static to a dynamic site, and the challenges in scaling that across different servers with layers for the database, web/app and caching. Charles actually went surprisingly low-tech with a whiteboard to illustrate how the infrastructure tied together and how it evolved over time, which made it really clear.
After Charles' talk there was supposed to be a talk by Petri about optimising MySQL, but unfortunately that session was cancelled :( Instead, we had an open hour for people to ask difficult questions one-on-one, or to simply do some work before lunch.
Watch Jan's talkAfter lunch we got right back into the technical back-end stuff, with a talk by Jan Tezner about best practices in component development. This session was full of great takeaways including the ExtJS debug files, how to set up PhpStorm for auto completion and introducing a tool that lets you quickly create the base files and folders required for a component.
View John's talkImmediately following that, John Peca took the stage (again!) to follow up Jan's talk with more information about ExtJS. He talked about how ExtJS works and how you can use it to tweak the manager with overrides and extends, which was really interesting. He even did some live coding to show how you could get rid of certain fields in the resource panel, and add others, with only a little bit of ExtJS.
Watch Berts TalkThe final session in the back-end track was an introduction to SimpleCart 2.2 by Bert Oost, where he talked about the new features and improvements and how it enables a complete ecommerce solution right within MODX.
After Bert's talk, everyone gathered back in the Front-end track room for the Ask the Experts session.
Backing up a couple of hours, the Front-end track was hosted by Taco Piek and he'll walk through the highlights there.
Watch Gernot's TalkGernot Ebenlechner opened the day with a philosophical talk about the possibilities of the web and what's new in the world of responsive development, including Motion UI from Zurb.
Watch Job's talkThe next talk by Job van der Voort was about Time Travel for Beginners, with 5 basic rules. With these rules he explained how to do versioning with Git and GitLab. Step by step, taking the Back to the Future films as example, he walked through the git workflow.
Watch Susan's talkAfter lunch, Susan Ottwell had an interactive session with the audience about Simplifying Site Setups. Despite some technical issues with an upload that wouldn't work, she showed a bunch of tools that can help streamline setting up MODX for starting your next project. These tools include an install script to quickly install multiple MODX versions and Vapor which is used for injecting base elements, resources and packages, but a lot more tools were discussed as well.
Watch Hugo's talkThen Hugo Peek followed with a session that went way over time because it was very interesting. ;) There were a lot of discussions with the audience about the content-first approach and how to involve clients in that process, with the goal of getting to the best possible end result in the shortest amount of time. This made use of ContentBlocks so clients can easier add content while visualising the end result. ContentBlocks allows clients to be more flexible in the layout of their content.
Watch Chris' talkThe final presentation of the front-end track was by our own Christian Seel, who talked about ContentBlocks some more. He showed some more advanced examples such as using field and layout settings to create simple custom inputs, nested layouts for tabs and automatic navigation for one-page sites.
At this point, the group from the back-end track joined us for the Ask the Expert session. The experts were Mark Willis, Graeme Leighfield, John Peca and myself. We tried to answer as much questions as possible in this session.
After the ask the expert session we had a giveaway featuring prizes like Bob Ray's book MODX: The Official Guide, limited edition modmore shirts, PHPStorm licenses and of course free licenses for our own Premium Extras, including a 5-license pack for ContentBlocks, worth €349. Finally, Mark closed the conference with a few words and the request to fill in the attendee survey, and everybody went to the bar for a BBQ, drinks and live lounge music.
After one more night at the stunning venue, people gathered at the Villa Lounge for a final coffee and chance to catch up. At this point I was pushing everyone to fill in the attendee survey (all 8 pages!) as the feedback would be invaluable and very important in evaluating the conference. Pestering people about it proved very successful: before lunch I had already received over a dozen responses with some great insights.
Also, big thank you to everyone that helped out with the final cleanup / putting stuff back in to my car - really appreciated that. The fact that 4 or 5 people immediately jumped up when I asked for a single volunteer shows how awesome this community is and I'm grateful to be part of that.
In a next blog post, I'll go in to the received feedback a bit more to talk about what worked well and what didn't from a concept/organisational perspective. Expect that in the next couple of weeks.