Usually engrossed in code, with an extra-large mug of coffee, it’s not very often we developers in drpdigital get to travel the world as part of our day job – but when an opportunity comes up for us to visit one of the most iconic cities in the world for a conference on a topic we live and breathe, how could we say no?
But first, to provide some context – what is Laravel and Laracon?
Laravel is one of the frameworks we use heavily in drpdigital, to support rapid and secure application development, and allows us to deliver modern and easily maintained code without stressing over the fundamentals of application architecture.
And, with a clever play on words, Laracon is a Laravel focused conference – but with a helping of other talks aimed at developers to provide additional support in areas including design, productisation, start-ups, and key developer skills such as productivity and time management.
The two-day event, held in New York City, consisted of two streams of talks – the main stage and, for the first time, a community ‘Science Fair’, which allowed attendees to showcase work and share ideas, concepts and challenges with the community.
The day kicked off with a talk from Freek Van der Herten of Spatie in Belgium, covering the subject of ‘creating an informative dashboard for developers’ (something we feature in our own office with ‘drpdigital Mission Control’ based on Spatie’s product!). These dashboards allow quick and timely data sharing for everyone, and provide an overview of the state of operations, at a glance.
Other highlights from the first day included ‘CRUDDY by Design’ from one of the top thought-leaders in the Laravel world – Adam Wathan – on concepts to help reduce complexity of applications, using the popular product Basecamp as a model example of the concept.
The talk focused on ‘never writing custom actions’ – that is, to keep controllers of applications as simple as possible by only utilising the common seven CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) actions of: index, show, create, store, edit, update and destroy.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the first day ended with a talk from the creator of Laravel, Taylor Otwell, addressing the launch of Laravel Horizon – a tool that had been teased to the community for some time.
The tool offers a simple, integrated way to help manage complex, hidden application queues and background jobs in a simple and beautiful user interface – which is free to the community. To find out more about Laravel Horizon, click here.
Other highlights from Taylor included upcoming features and improvements to the future 5.5 release of the framework, and teasing of more exciting features that are on their way.
The second day focused a little more on the Laravel skillset, beginning with a fantastic ‘Custom Laravel’ talk from Matt Stauffer from Tighten Co, covering the importance of how to maintain a high level of discoverability in the application. He highlighted a perhaps easily forgotten point that we as developers need to prioritise when working in a team: code must be easy to understand and visualise so we can all grasp what is going on and where it is happening in the application.
Mathias and Michele Hansen offered a great insight into the development and launch of their side project and business, geocod.io, a geo-location service that was born out of a gap in the market they discovered when developing another project. The talk highlighted that some ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) products often fail to cater to the needs of small-to-medium businesses that often don’t require costly enterprise levels, as they outgrow the free or low-cost tiers of their service.
This blog post could easily turn into a small book if we covered every talk we attended, and it’s extremely difficult to pick just a few of the many to highlight, but one of our favourites was ‘Deep Impact’ from Jack McDade, a thought-provoking exercise delving deep into the thoughts and pitfall behaviours of developers in today’s world.
Jack pointed out that we have more information than ever before – the entire internet is at our disposal. Our generation gets the same satisfaction from passing along information as the previous generations got from accomplishing it – the thought of doing something is more important than doing it.
And not only that – deep work (as opposed to shallow work, such as answering emails, tweeting or marking tasks as done) is drastically missing in our distraction-driven culture of today. We don’t understand any more how to ‘turn off’ those distractions – such as notifications on our phones – and we have trained ourselves to need a ‘hit’ (or distraction) every 20 minutes on average.
A surprising example he spoke of was a social experiment. A person put in a room with nothing more than a button to deliver an electrical shock. On average, after 6-15 minutes of being alone in the room, 60% of people touch the end of the wire – electrocuting themselves – rather than sitting and being alone with their thoughts.
We need to embrace boredom and downtime – cut ourselves off from the distractions, even from social media – and allow ourselves to focus. Schedule every minute of the day so we can get the things done we need to do, and schedule time to relax and disconnect. If we complete everything we needed to get done, avoid ‘auto-piloting’ and stop working instead.
New York, New York…
Of course – we couldn’t travel over 3,000 miles to New York just for a conference – and fortunately we got the opportunity to take a few extra days after the conference to soak up the sights!
Chris Normansell & Joel Stanford – Developers at drpdigital