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For those who are unfamiliar, Laracon is a two-day conference held annually in both the United States and Europe that gathers developers who are passionate about developing applications with the Laravel PHP framework. The conference is full of incredible speakers from the Laravel community that provide developers an opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of the framework through their talks alongside networking and other fun events. This year Taylor Otwell, the creator of Laravel, hosted a group of 800+ developers in the Playstation Theatre in Times Square for the biggest Laracon turn out to date!
What is Laravel?
Laravel is an open-source PHP web application framework based on Symfony. In creating Laravel, Taylor combined the very best of what he saw in other web frameworks to deliver a tool that improved various back-end development processes without sacrificing application functionality. Laravel’s security, authorization techniques, MVC support, and Blade templating engine are a handful of the technical advantages that have kept it voted as one of the best PHP frameworks for developers.
Why does Atypic choose Laravel?
As an agency that primarily does LAMP based development, I asked our Senior Developer, Garrett Dengler, what he loves about Laravel and how it makes the work we do at Atypic easier. “We’ve been using Laravel since version 3, and over the years we’ve been increasing the utilization of the framework’s capabilities from Eloquent to Laravel Mix (different features offered by Laravel). I’m confident that any challenge a client presents to us can be handled by Laravel with ease. If it isn’t part of the core framework, you can bet that a high-quality package has been developed by the passionate community. This is why I love Laravel and believe that it is the only framework that makes sense for Atypic.”
Best of Laracon VII
Comparing this year’s experience to last year’s conference – one of the better improvements was their decision to change the timing of the talks down to thirty minutes each. This afforded us the chance to learn so much more during the two days, but it made it that much harder to choose the talks that I felt would benefit me most as a developer. Here’s a brief summary of talks that I consider the Best of Laracon VII.
Adam Wathan – TailwindCSS Best Practices
My first introduction to TailwindCSS was during Adam Wathan’s talk at Laracon 2018. TaillwindCSS is a highly customizable, low-level CSS framework that provides utility classes that let you build completely custom designs without ever leaving your HTML. Now for some of us front-end developers, hearing this could be a screeching halt moment since we’re all familiar with the idea of ‘separation of concerns’. Keeping our styles separate from our content has always been a means to improve readability and to reduce code duplication for ease of maintenance – the latter being one reason I disagree with Wathan’s claim that “maintaining CSS is hard.” Though, I do believe when extracting the provided utility classes into higher levels of abstractions, as the documentation suggests, it can be a great tool for establishing your design systems.
If you have yet to explore how amazing this framework really is, I encourage you to see how you can get started with TailwindCSS.
Kaya Thomas – Launching Your Side Project While Working
For me, I always think it’s a breath of fresh air at conferences to break up a round of tech talks with something a bit more lifestyle focused and this is exactly what this talk offered. Kaya Thomas was generous enough to lay out the blueprint for how she was able to accomplish launching her side project, We Read Too, while working full-time at Slack (she has since moved on to develop for Calm) as an iOS developer.
I was particularly grateful for this talk, because I am infamous for coming up with an idea for a passion project I'd like to pursue, but I can never seem to follow through with it long enough to see it come to fruition. This usually happens for several reasons – I get too hung up on thinking everything has to be perfect, there's a belief that I can't find the time to work on it, or I just don't know how or where to start. Thankfully after Thomas’ talk, I felt that I was in a good space to know how to get started and I’ll share my key takeaways below.
- Find A Meaningful Project
It’s important for the project to be meaningful so that you’re more likely to follow through with completing it. To help you choose, think about these things:
- Is there something you want to share with others?
- Are you solving or contributing to solving a problem?
- Do you have a hobby that you can take to the next level?
- Get Started
To get started with your project, first determine what skills you need to complete it. This will help you figure out whether you’ll need to bring on others to help and, in turn, if that will affect your starting costs. You’ll also want to determine how much time you have to dedicate to working on your project. Whether it’s one day a week or one hour, any time you commit to it is better than none.
- Set Expectations
Have goals and deadlines that you set for yourself, but you should also encourage someone you trust to act as an accountability partner that can help you stay true to said deadlines.
Write down everything that you want to do with your project and pick the top two or three things that you can actually do. Split these three things into goals that'll help you easily achieve them. Once they’re completed, take the leap and LAUNCH IT! Now that your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is out, you can get direct user feedback you can use to improve your next release and get moving on knocking out your next three items.
Justin Jackson – Cleaning Up The Psyche
Of all the talks I attended during the conference, Justin Jackson’s talk on cleaning up the psyche was by far my favorite. The basis of what he shared was to give guidance on navigating the feeling we may often have when it comes to determining our own value based on our perception of others. Being at a conference with 800+ developers with varying degrees of experience and knowledge, I could easily see how this may have been the case for many of us who were in attendance at that very moment. He went into great detail about how seeking professional help, building healthier habits, and losing his ego all helped him in times when he felt he struggled to see his value.
After it was delivered, I wasn’t at all surprised at the outpouring of feedback and praise Justin’s talk received. It’s fairly easy to believe that a lot of the doubt we place on ourselves as developers and in everyday life are not the same that a prominent figure in our community we look up to may be going through. To hear someone of his stature speak so candidly about those things came as a great relief and I’m sure the other developers in attendance would agree with me in saying they appreciated the humanness Justin brought to the conference this year.
If you’re ready to clean up your psyche and want to learn more on how to build healthier habits, Atomic Habits by James Clear comes highly recommended by Jackson himself.
What Did Taylor Have Up His Sleeves This Year?
Last year during Laracon, Taylor unveiled Laravel Nova to us all so when it was time for his keynote this year, we were all on the edge of our seats.
To kick-start his keynote, Taylor talked about the next major release for the framework, Laravel 6, which will be released this month. Taylor explained that while moving to version 6 as opposed to 5.9 was “not a paradigm shifting release,” he is happy with the overall architecture of the framework refined throughout the releases in version 5 so moving the versioning scheme to 6 can simply be looked at as a clean slate.
Of course with the new version of Laravel comes new branding! Taylor gave us all a sneak peek of the complete rebrand and a fresh look of the redesigned website and logo done by Focus Lab.
The final and biggest surprise to us all was the highly anticipated unveiling of Taylor’s new hosted platform for serverless deployment powered by AWS – Laravel Vapor! With each of the plans, you get unlimited deployment, unlimited projects, and a collection of other amazing features including quick rollbacks, environment metrics, DNS, and cloud storage.
Here's what Taylor had to say about what he envisioned when developing Vapor:
“With Vapor, I want people to be proud of PHP. This is the first serverless platform for any language with this feature set (assets, databases, cache, queues, mail) all integrated into one cohesive picture. Trying to do my part to make the next 25 years of PHP glorious.”
Taylor Otwell, Creator of Laravel
If you’re excited to see how you or your agency can get started with Laravel Vapor, check it out here.
Being that it was our first time in New York City, we really didn’t know what to expect, but after it all, there was so much to love about Laracon VII being held in the city that never sleeps. We got to chow on some of New York’s finest slices of pie, spent time with our former Director of Technology (Hi Derek!), took a jog through Central Park with other conference attendees, and most importantly, learned more about how we can utilize the Laravel framework to continue thoughtfully crafting custom approaches for our client’s needs. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year!
Instead of packing everything I loved about Laracon VII into the “Best of,” here’s a list of cool packages and tools that were used during the conference – some of which made their debuts on the PlayStation Theatre stage:
- Livewire by Caleb Porzio
Livewire is a full-stack framework for Laravel that makes building dynamic front-ends as simple as writing vanilla PHP.
- Blade X from Spatie
This package provides an easy way to render custom HTML components in your Blade views.
- Laravel Debug Bar by Barry vd. Heuvel
This is a package to integrate PHP Debug Bar with Laravel 5 during development.
Svelte is a radical new approach to building user interfaces.
- Onramp powered by Tighten
Onramp is a knowledge base maintained by the Laravel community to provide an easy entrance to Laravel for new developers.