The ScientiaMobile technical team has been on tour. Steve and I just came back from Munich, Germany, where we were invited speakers at the International PHP Conference 2013.
It was a good experience. Since the inception of ScientiaMobile, the time to participate in conferences has been scarce for both of us, we have been way too busy building WURFL products and services, but there is no denying that there is a lot to be gained in staying connected with developers from around the world: sharing knowledge, know-how and, above all, that experience that you can only gain by working on technologies for real (as opposed to simply reading about it).
As far as hands-on experience goes, Steve did his part by showing up with a solid set of slides on Facebook’s HipHop for PHP and the HHVM (Hip Hop Virtual Machine). This is a technology that Facebook developed internally in2009 to boost the performance of native PHP, once they realized that the service popularity was growing exponentially.
Since Facebook relies on WURFL for its device detection needs, we decided a long time ago that adopting HipHop was a good idea for our APIs and infrastructure. Today, the DB API, the PHP API and the WURFL Cloud run on HipHop, thanks to Steve’s amazing work. That experience was an integral part of Steve’s presentation, along with all the information about the tool that you would expect from a speaker at an international conference. The presentation was so successful that organizers asked Steve to repeat it in a bigger room in the afternoon.
Steve discussed the issues that Facebook faced, and how HipHop for PHP was a solution to those issues. An overview of HipHop was provided as well as the gotchas that come with it (mostly related to compiling statically from a language designed to be, to a large extent, dynamic). The WURFL Cloud was illustrated as a case study for the use of both HipHop and HHVM, the HipHop Virtual Machine. Is a mod_hhvm for Apache and NGINX visible on the horizon?
Here is an interview with Steve talking about the same topic (don’t be scared by Thomas Wießeckel quick introduction in German. Interview is in English).
As far as I (Luca) was concerned, I had the honor to be the keynote speaker on the first day. There was a bit of irony in having me, the lead evangelist in server-side adaptation and mobile detection, give a keynote at an event which focused on Responsive Web Design as one of the main topics. But I love irony, so I titled my presentation:
If Responsive Web Design is the Answer, What Was the Question?
In addition to explaining that the most important book in the history of Computer Science is not a Computer Science book, but rather an economy book, I presented some fresh perspective on how those in charge of web and product development should look at two different approaches to Responsive Web Design: “Don’t Touch me” RWD vs. Custom Made RWD. The first one is about integrating a $20 RWD template with your existing content. The second is having someone with a solid understanding of RWD in the team. These are radically different approaches that will have an impact when dealing with the “burden of failure”, another concept that I introduced in the keynote.
I praised RESS, explained why it can be a compelling proposition for many cases and reaffirmed the centrality of the end-user when it comes to delivering great mobile services. I also sketched out a map of the different paths that lead from requirements for mobile to the best mobile experience that that an organization’s money (and resources) can buy.
No matter how many times I rehearse, stepping up on a stage and having the eyes of 500 people on me feels intimidating. Hopefully, that did not show too much:
There was time for a question from the audience. “So, what is the answer?”. To which, being the relativist that I am, I could only respond with the answer that most makes sense whenever humans are involved. “It depends”.