First In-Person PHP Meetup In A Long Time

First In-Person PHP Meetup In A Long Time

by Bob Bloom

category: "meet-ups"

For the first time in years, on April 06, 2022, three Toronto area PHP meet-up groups held an in-person meet-up,

Our three groups are The Greater Toronto Area PHP Group, Laravel Toronto, and York Region PHP.

This meet-up was possible due to our incredible corporate host, 7Shifts. A special thank you to Luke Galea for enduring an unusual number of emails whilst arranging this meet-up, for staying late, for arranging with some staff to stick around to lend a hand with this meet-up, for providing an abundance of hot pizza and beverages, and for offering  tremendous conference facilities in the heart of Toronto's financial district.

(April 6, 2022: Front Street looking west at Bay Street. Royal York Hotel on the right.)
The last couple of years have been a bear market for our PHP groups, with a contraction in membership, corporate hosts, and organizers. It was deep into the lockdowns when Luke reached out to me, which was as surprising as it was welcome ☺ 

As the lead organizer, I was wondering if it was legal to hold in-person meet-ups in late 2021/early 2022? I am sure that turn-out would have been quite abysmal, but I was curious. I pored over the relevant Ontario Regulations and, strictly speaking, in-person meet-ups were not forbidden. The way I saw it, the main issue was liability. If an attendee claimed that their testing positive was because of going to our in-person meet-up, was I, and/or the corporate host, liable? I think the answer was yes. However, IMO, the March 21st easings made the attendee liable, not the corporate host/organizer. The only thing comparable to this, although it is not really comparable, is serving liquor at meet-ups. BTW, in my opinion, virtual meet-ups are not devoid of liability issues. 

This first in-person meet-up had especial challenges. 7Shifts was very patient working through these challenges to bring this in-person meet-up to fruition. 

For the first time ever for a downtown Toronto meet-up, we worried about no one attending this meet-up. There were a few times with the York Region PHP group that we had, how shall I put it, "nominal" attendence. But never in Toronto. GTA-PHP had 2,000+ members on, typically 30-40 members would RSVP, and 50% of RSVP's would show up. Now, after purging the groups of pro-forma members, aggregate membership is not even 10% of pre-purge membership. To achieve the same attendence, we need a decent percentage of members to RSVP, with almost zero no-shows.   

(April 6, 2022: Bay Street looking north at Front Street. left=Royal Bank. right=Brookfield Place. The white tower is CIBC.)

That our new corporate host was willing to run the risk of no one showing up is absolutely amazing. To prepare a professional presentation for potentially no audience, to let stacks of hot pizza get cold, to risk the wrath of staff having to "stay for nothing", was precisely why this meet-up was possible. 

My guess is that total RSVP's in and in Discord was around 15. Four wonderful PHP devs -- three new members whom I have never met, and a long-time veteran -- did attend. Plus me. Plus Luke. Plus a few 7Shifts folks.  

(April 6, 2022: "Upstairs" food court at First Canadian Place, western section. Good to see line-ups.)

(April 6, 2022: "Upstairs" food court at First Canadian Place, central section. Good to see line-ups.)

The restrictions that prevented us from holding in-person meet-ups were lifted on March 21st, the first day of school after March Break. But would that translate into PHP devs returning to their Toronto offices, and then by virtue of already being at/near downtown, would attend the meet-up? The answer, so far, is no. For the first time, the meet-up is a destination in itself. A reason to head downtown. Rather than work being the destination, with the meet-up a beneficiary of devs already downtwon. 

Generally, there are people downtown. Above are two pics of the upstairs food court at noon at First Canadian Place, and good to see line-ups. But, the food court thinned within an hour, and was practically devoid of people by 3:00pm, instead of the usual post-lunch meetings and off-office-premises gatherings. After the meet-up, I was the only one in the PATH, walking to the subway. 

You might think that with just a handful of PHP devs, most whom never met before, the meet-up would have been terrible. Wrong. The meet-up was fantastic. We chit-chatted. Luke delivered his full presentation. There were questions. Very Good Questions.  

Something that I enjoy are lightening talks by fellow devs. We were fortunate that a dev was game to do an impromptu "lightening talk" about his passion project.

It is not easy to just get up there and present. Kudos to Mike. I would love to do this at every meet-up, whether planned, or someone volunteers right then and there.
What date is good for you in May/June for another meet-up at 7Shifts?

If you are not on Discord, or you are on Discord but I have yet to assign you the elevated role to see the Channels -- I need to match your Discord user with your user -- then email me at Or, go to this site's contact form.