17th October 2017

Deeson talks chatbots at PHP North West 2017

Katy Ereira
Senior Developer

At Deeson we’re open by default – from publishing our Team Handbook under a Creative Commons license to contributing to open source and offering support for team members to share what they’ve learned by speaking at events.

Last month I was proud to attend and speak at the 10th annual PHPNW conference in Manchester. 

As it turned out, my first was to be the last ever PHPNW. I’d heard great things about the event, and you could really tell that the organisers Jeremy Coates and Rick Ogden had put their heart and souls into building it up over the years.

I’m glad I got to experience the conference as both an attendee and a speaker before its doors closed, and I wanted to capture a few of my personal highlights from the event.

A standing ovation at the closing remarks, for all of the hard work put in over 10 years!

A recap of my talk.

We’ve been exploring and writing a lot about conversational interfaces at Deeson lately, and I’ve been working on an exciting new project with our product development studio, GreenShoot Labs.

Chatbots are rapidly increase in popularity, changing the way in which users engage with organisations online. My talk focussed on how to get started writing a bot in PHP using BotMan, and how to harness the power of artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

I gave an overview of the features in BotMan, installing and using drivers, and offered tips for quick and easy implementation. You can view my slidedeck here, and the talk was recorded so I hope to be able to share a video soon. 

I’m pleased to say the session went down an absolute treat! I was impressed with the number of attendees for so early on a Sunday (not to mention the night after the conference social), and very proud of the feedback I received. Massive thanks to all who attended!

Conference highlights.

My favourite sessions.

One of my personal highlights of the conference was the keynote by Mr PHP himself Rasmus Lerdorf about upcoming changes and improvements in PHP 7.2, 7.3 and beyond. Of particular interest is improvements in PHP’s ability to put up with bad code… wait, is that a good thing?

PHP’s opcode caching ignores pointless lines of code in 7.2!

Also, as a productivity nut, ‘The Mindful Developer’ by David McKay was useful and inspiring with a number of tips on how to be happier and more productive at work and in life.

New and old faces.

The speakers dinner took place on the Friday afternoon, before the conference kicked off, and was a great opportunity to mingle with the speakers and organisers over a tasty meal. The environment was very friendly and welcoming and I was glad to meet new people and catch up with some familiar faces.

Real life Instagram.


The venue had a large central hall with a number of sponsor stands. Most sponsors were hosting competitions with fun prizes, and there was plenty of swag to be had (fidget spinners took the top slot for desirable item, of course).

I won a competition held by O’Reilly and received a year’s subscription to the Safari Books service! This turned out to be a really great prize — I might have to persuade the team that we need this as part of our personal development incentive (hint, hint).

Slideshare karaoke.

The social on Saturday night comprised of food, a free unlimited bar, and a local band.

We also indulged in a bit of Slideshow Karaoke — picking a short slide deck on a random topic (not tech related!) from slideshare and getting a member of the audience to present it as a talk. Topics covered included fish morphology, spelunking, the Spice Girls, and marketing tactics for a rum brand. 

It was a great night, if a bit of a shame that my talk fell in the “hangover slot” of 9am on Sunday morning. I had to exercise some restraint and limit my intake of the unlimited gin and tonics! At least I didn’t have far to travel in the morning, as I stayed in the hotel attached to the conference centre.

Thank you to the organisers, speakers, sponsors and attendees of PHPNW17 for making this one of my most memorable conference experiences to date. I hope to at least see some of you again at the numerous other PHP conferences in the UK and Europe! 

We’re hiring for several roles in our tech chapter. We offer paid conference tickets and travel, an unlimited training budget and support for you to grow your profile through public speaking.