This past weekend, March 14 – 15, I had the pleasure of attending the Midwest PHP Conference in Minneapolis. While this was a PHP conference, coding wasn’t the only topic discussed.

The opening keynote by Joe Devon (@joedevon) covered the topic of accessibility. The statistics regarding the number of websites that aren’t accessible are sad. All developers, including myself, need to put more effort into making the sites we build more accessible. After all, 80 percent of what you do for accessibility is good for SEO.

In the closing keynote, Elizabeth Smith (@auroraeosrose) discussed getting involved in open source software. There are so many ways that someone can get involved, and many of them don’t even require you to write a single line of code. She challenged us to spend 15 minutes a day contributing to open source. I can help the cause by answering questions in the WordPress forums and looking for beginner/intermediate WordPress questions on StackOverflow. I use both of those resources myself when I need help. It’s time that I give back.

The rest of the conference was split into 45 minute sessions that included learning how a server is set up, how to set up your projects, navigating your Git repository, scaling WordPress websites and getting SSL/TLS right, just to name a few. There was even a panel discussion on women in technology.

My favorite session from the conference was the Project Triage: What to Do When Everything Hits the Fan by Eryn O’Neil (@eryno). Everyone has had projects go horribly wrong at some point or another. Eryn shared stories from her own experiences in these situations, which made her tips to get things back under control more relatable.

“Most project (and people) problems are the result of mismatched expectations, a lack of communication, or (most likely) both.” – Eryn O’Neil

There were several takeaways I got from this session that I hope to use here at Absolute. But the biggest takeaway was the idea of the power of the 5 whys. What is that you ask? It is the idea that you ask “why” five times to get to the root cause of the problem. You might think you know what the problem is, but the true reason for the problem is usually a few layers deeper.

All projects involve people. All projects have the possibility of going horribly wrong. When it inevitably “hits the fan” …

  1. Calm down.
  2. Make a plan.
  3. And then prevent it from happening again.

I am very happy that I had the opportunity to attend this conference. I learned quite a bit, and I’m looking forward to the next one.