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Attending Laracon EU

This year, I'm attending my first in-person Laracon ever! It's happening in Amsterdam on April 26th, and I'm super excited about it. Laravel is probably the project that's had the biggest impact on my development career, and I love its community. So I'm sure it will be tons of fun.

I'll be in Amsterdam from the 23rd to the 27th (which is King's day!).


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I arrived to Amsterdam a few days before the conference, and I used this opportunity to visit Keukenhof, a beautiful botanic garden that's the most radiant in spring. I also visited a couple of museums, strolled around the city, and experienced Koningsdag first-hand. I have to say the part I enjoyed the most was seeing kids setting up shop in the streets :).

But the main purpose of my trip was of course Laracon. So, how was it?

First, I have to say that I was impressed by the quality of presentations. I shouldn't be that impressed, because I have seen many recorded Laracons and they are always great. But seeing it in person definetly has a different feel to it, it's like attending a live concert of your favorite band for the first time. You've seen them live countless times, but being there is a whole different experience. I think all the presenters did a great job, and I got something out of each presentation. If I had to pick my top 3, they would be the following:

  • Bugfixing your career by Diana Scharf
  • Living your Pest Life by Luke Downing
  • Taking Laravel to the edge with HTTP caching & Varnish by Thijs Feryn

One of the things I enjoy the most from Laracons is that, although I don't use Laravel as much as I would like, many of the presentations are still useful. Even if you have never used Laravel in your life, there were some presentations talking about non-technical topics like mental health and long-term career thinking that would be helpful for any developer.

It was also great to meet fellow artisans, and I was surprised by how many people were in a situation similar to mine. We like Laravel a lot, but we're not using it in our day-to-day for one reason or another. Still, our love for Laravel brings us together.

However, as much as I enjoyed the conference, there was room for improvement and since the organizers asked for feedback, I'll go ahead and share my honest opinion.

When this Laracon was announced, I was super excited about it. So much, in fact, that I was the 2nd person to purchase a ticket. I've always wanted to attend a Laracon, and I had some expectations that haven't been met. Sure, you could say it was my fault for having high expectations. And I would agree. But I still think sharing my experience can reveal things to improve, so let me break those down.

The first one, and the most obvious, was the speaker lineup. When I purchased the tickets, it was a blind purchase because it hadn't been revealed. But I assumed that at least Taylor would be there. After all, this was going to be the first in-person conference for a while, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to reveal Beep. But as time went by, I realized this wasn't going to happen. My suspicions were confirmed once the lineup was revealed (two weeks before the conference). I know what some of you may think "why is it so important to see Taylor?". Well, in my opinion, Laravel is Taylor. At least the community, ethos, and everything else that makes Laravel special. After all, Laravel is not "just the code" for me, or I wouldn't be so excited about a framework that I have barely used in the last 4 years. So this felt like attending an AC/DC concert without Angus Young. Not only that, there are others I've been following for a while and would love to see live: Adam Wathan, Jeffrey Way, Caleb Porzio, etc. So Bon Scott or Brian Johnson weren't there either. And nothing to take away from the speakers we had, as I said they did a great job. But I couldn't help but feel like something was missing.

Something else that bugged me was the price tag. I suppose for most people this isn't that important, because their company is covering the expenses. But I paid for this out of my own pocket, so I may be more sensitive to price than the average attendee. Tickets cost 482€ (excluding taxes), and I think that's a hefty price for a one-day event. Sure, I have no idea about organizing conferences, so this is just an opnion (like the rest of this rant). But I didn't care at all about the food, the drinks, or the venue. All I cared about was meeting people, and enjoying the talks. So when they announced that there would be an open bar during the second half of the conference, I couldn't help but think that the price was high for the wrong reasons.

Finally, something that you would think isn't that important, was the conference website. When I think about Laracons, one of the reasons I like them so much is that they always come with a gorgeous website and branding. And I've always been sharing Laracon websites with my peers even when I wasn't attending. However, this time, I was so embarassed by the website that I didn't share it at all.

In summary, a Laracon for me is an event with Taylor, a gorgeous website, and great talks. And only the last one was there. If I have to be honest this felt more like a "community Laracon" than an official one.

Not to end on a sour note, I will say that the downsides by no means overshadow the good parts. It was a great conference, and most of the issues arise from unmanaged expectations on my part. Overall, I'm happy to have finally attended my first Laracon. I had a great time, and hopefully some time in the future I'll get to see Taylor live. I did see AC/DC once, and that's a feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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