MODX Conferences are an excuse to connect, develop and simply talk MODX related stuff! The 2014 MODX Conference (19-22 Sept) has definitely raised the bar in terms of delivering an exceptional event with a mixture of interesting presentations, some MODX related others more technical or design related, and an opportunity to socialise with some of the what makes MODX different - in simple terms, the community.
I've been fortunate enough to have attended several MODX conferences and meetups over the years, and each one get better and better. And this year's, organised by Mark Hamstra of Modmore, took the conference experience to a new level.
The all inclusive ticket proved extremely good value for money including hotel accommodation (full board for 3 nights), drinks in the bar, evening entertainment (great band and stand-up comedians), BBQ Sunday evening, transfers to and from the airport / station, and, of course, tickets to the conference itself.
The venue was superb, a hotel complex tucked away in beautiful woodland setting with comfortable rooms, good food and ideal conference facilities.
The event kicked off on Friday with the "red carpet treatment" on arrival along with a welcome from Mark himself. Upon checking in to the rooms, there was a name badge (with complimentary SimpleCartlicence secreted in the wallet), a personal handwritten welcome note from Mark (really nice touch), an agenda of the weekend, the all important Modmore choccies (didn't last long in my room!) and a couple of bottles of water sponsored by ThemesMODX.
Throughout the Friday afternoon and evening more people arrived, and the evening proved very relaxed and was the perfect opportunity to catch up with some of the "regulars" and to meet new folk who hadn't been before.
The following morning, there was a really positive vibe at breakfast, and expectations were high. The conference was formally opened by Mark and the event got underway. The first presentation was delivered by John Peca, representing MODX LLC, who spoke about the Empowered Community. Then it was an enlighting talking from Vasillis van Gemert of asking "Do we have to reinvent the Wheel?" who certainly provided plenty of food for thought on how to approach projects and even about removing the logo from your site designs! After lunch it was the turn of Chris Cherrett, Adido, who's presentation covered the ever growing challenge presented by multichannel content management and who shared some first class knowledge and experience. Following on was a presentation by Graeme Leighfield, Gel Studios, about selling MODX and training clients. Again another excellent presentation which provided some great tips and advice on how to improve your own training techniques and, if necessary tips on how to sell MODX. Quick coffee break, before another Adido bod, Mark Willis took to the floor for his presentation on High Availability. The afternoon finished off with some lightning talks which were given very impromptu and included one from myself (reluctantally - need to work on my public speaking!) about Discover MODX. There was also a quick overview of Bob's LogPageNotFound plugin from Susan, as well other short presentations before finally closing the first day.
Everyone was buzzing, and the chatter continued over dinner and long into the night as we enjoyed an evening's entertainment in the bar where there was a live band and even a couple of stand-up comedians who managed to successfully entertain a very multi-national audience. All in all, an excellent first day of conference.
Sunday morning in the restaurant was a little quieter, was it something to do with the bar bill?! Having said that there were a few who managed to make it for the Forest Tour at 8.30 that Mark had organised which at least helped to clear the head! And so the second day began. As has been tradition, the talks were split into Front End and Back End, which always causing conflict when deciding which one you want to attend most, fortunately Mark had that covered since all the presentations were being videoed so there was no danger of missing anything.
For the most part I'm a front end developer so that was the track I took, and once again we were spoilt with some first class presentations. It never ceases to amaze me just how much knowledge and experience people are willing to share so that others can learn more. Gernot's Responsive Madness wasn't so much about MODX but designing and building websites that work on multitude of platforms and devices - always a challenge. This was followed by an informative talk about versioning using Git & Git Flow from Job van Voort from GitLab, definitely worth looking into even if you are a one man (or woman) band. This was quickly followed by Menno Pietersen's presentation on Rapid MODX Workflow and some great fun using BrowserSync which provided some entertainment.
After lunch Susan Ottwell gave her tips and advice on How to Simplify Site Setups and she has developed some nice "shortcuts" to help get you started. Next up was Hugo Peek who's presentation about Content First Webdesign almost ended up being a tutorial in using Content Blocks! Hugo was very enthusiastic during this talk so much so that he almost had to be dragged off the stage! The final front end presentation was from Christian Seel about Content Blocks, but after much deliberation I decided to head to the Back End talk on SimpleCart which was presented by it's creator Bert Oost, who was also finishing off the SimpleCart website before, during and even immediately after the conference.
The conference was almost over, there was a 45 min session to "Ask the Experts" where a improptu panel made up of Graeme, Mark Willis, Mark Hamstra and John answered questions relating to a variety of things including generic MODX training information, Modmore products, MODX 3 and more.... The day closed with some prize giving and a closing address from Mark before heading off once more to the bar for a post conference social.
Finally on the Monday morning everyone started to disperse, heading back to their respective countries with heads full of more knowledge and more things on the list of things to do!
It has to be said that this was a superb conference, whilst the total number of delegates who attended was 50, I think this only helped to create a strengthened community.
So what does make MODX different? It's not just that it is an amazingly flexible CMS, its about the awesome community who willingly share knowledge, continually develop new features/extras/plugins, and who choose to push boundaries in trying to think outside the box - because with MODX you're not hemmed in and you're definitely not alone. I am proud to be a part of this community and I look forward to the future, whatever shape that may be.
Here's to the next MODXpo in 2015 (?).