Much like the application on which so many relationships and stories have been born, Magento Imagine is many things to many people, and it is always, always a good time. Whether you’re a user, an enthusiast, a solution provider, an independent developer, or a vendor, Imagine draws its attendees in, enticing with and engulfing them in the culture of Magento. It is a time and a place for friends to visit, for online colleagues to meet in person, for prospects to become clients, and for developers to learn and grow. And for many of us, it all begins before the beginning!
Magento Imagine 2013 for me started with a Saturday evening arrival, just in time to meet Aron Stanic from Inchoo, community superstar Sherrie Rohdie, and Rico Neitzel (a fellow Magento U instructor) in baggage claim. Before leaving the airport, and two full days before the official start, Magento community members representing four countries in two continents shared a cab to the spectacular M Resort.
Upon arrival, I enjoyed dinner with folks I have met online and many whom I have met in person, including Mosses Akizian (community man and jack-of-many trades at Magento, Inc.), Brent and Susan Peterson from Wagento Creative (organizers of the now-traditional pre-Imagine run); Dutch community organizer Guido Jansen; my dearest colleague and fellow Magento U instructor, Vinai Kopp; renowned frontend developer Brendan Falkowski (a veteran Imagine speaker); and several others. Together, we shared food and stories as we (ahem) “carb-loaded” for the following day’s run through the gorgeous Nevada countryside. Chalk up more countries, more backgrounds, more stories; a couple hours slipped by with ease and enjoyment.
The Pre-Imagine Race
The next morning began with a shuttle bus ride full of Imagine attendees to the race site. The race – a benefit for cancer patient charity Hope 4 Lives – was a combination 5K / half marathon. I opted for the 5K, having run a 10K road race 24 hours prior. While the race was full of mirth and personal successes, we spent a lot of time talking shop on the shuttle bus rides; I was able to have some incredible conversation with one of Magento’s project managers. Chalk up more states, more countries, more stories, more knowledge, and more camaraderie.
The Pre-Imagine Pool Party
Following a much needed refresh, I awaited for my Blue Acorn contingent to set up our booth and ahead of the legendary pre-Imagine pool party, which is sponsored by Blue Acorn. The event was, ah, well-attended, and I’m sure they could hear us on the strip a few miles away. Deals, relationships, war stories, and speculation about the conference could be heard everywhere around you.
I enjoyed meeting yet more of my online acquaintances as well as several developers who learned from the Magento Fundamentals of Development videos which Magento, Inc. has kindly made freely available. It’s quite humbling to have been a part of something which helped start developer careers, and I am forever indebted to Magento for making me a part of it (and to Vinai for helping to edit it!). Among the many people with whom I was privileged to visit was Mr. Unirgy, one of the original architects of the Magento framework. Yes, it was a lively, exciting time. I lost my voice somewhere around that pool for the remainder of the conference. You could say that my voice stayed in Vegas.
After a much-needed night of sleep, Monday started with an influx of current and soon-to-be friends and acquaintances. In the weeks leading up to the Imagine, it occurred to me that with so much developer talent in one place, we ought to get together and discuss the complexities of managing the Magento development workflow. Just prior to early registration opening, a number of developers and managers from several companies met up in the excellent beer bar in the M Casino to openly discuss approaches, tools, and tribulations.
The entire Flagbit contingent was there along with developers from AOE Media, Human Element, Guidance, and SUMO Heavy. This meetup demonstrated that many of us engage in deployment and test automation using utilities such as Capistrano, Apache Ant, Travis CI, Selenium, Behat, and all sorts of relevant environment configurations. It was an excellent casual warm-up to the official technical talks which would take place over the next couple of days, and it was awesome to see how readily – and passionately – different Magento service providers handle problems common to us all. I think we all walked away from the meeting with an awareness of our common struggles and the understanding that there are several valid approaches to delivering client needs with certainty and efficiency.
Following the meetup, I noticed that our meetup of developers with common goals and a common technology was taking place dozens of times a day, every day of the conference. From the developers in the halls outside the presentation rooms to the hustling vendor room, people were working together to get things done and move their business forward. Combined with the framework improvements announced during the event, and I expect the incredible momentum of Magento to continue through the release of version 2.0 next year.
My Final Impression
There have been a number of other writeups on the meat of the conference, so – rather than cover the excellent speeches, presentations, and the parties – I’ll distill one final point.
From the very first announcement of the framework, Magento worked hard to create an impassioned developer community. This was achieved through a mix of openness, collaboration, and delivery of features which demonstrated a response to feedback, whether application features, organizational changes, developer education initiatives, etc.
Fast forward several years and we see that, despite the acquisition by a multi-billion dollar company, Magento continues to facilitate the communal drive with enhancements to the framework and events such as Imagine. We all hope for and expect Magento, Inc. to continue in the collaborative tradition with the people who have spent so much time organizing events, parties, meetups, and hackathons, and contributing value to the framework. We expect this because it benefits us all, even as it ultimately benefits the clients whom we ultimately serve.
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