ZendCon User Group Contest – Free Pass Announcements

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As previously announced, Zend held a contest here to give away 5 free tickets to ZendCon 2009 to 5 deserving User Groups. It’s now time for the announcements of who won!

First of all, I want to thank everyone for entering, I had numerous entries and the decision process wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Especially since I abandoned the idea of throwing darts to make the decisions, and decided I had to put some more thought into it.

To the end, the following groups are being chosen to each receive a free ticket, and they will get an email from me to start processing that soon.

Austin PHP Meetup
The Austin PHP group seem to be a great bunch of folks, and one of the larger groups on Meetup (Though neighboring Dallas gives them a run for the money). They mentioned that they have lots of people with a passion for PHP; however, many of them are at small startups or free lancers, and therefore don’t have the ability to attend ZendCon on their own. They said that to determine who would get the pass, they would end up having a competition or puzzle based upon some esoteric features of PHP. I look forward to seeing that! (Though they also mentioned they might just opt for an obstacle course, if that happens I expect a video!)

Chicago PHP User Group
The Chicago User Group claims to be the first PHP User Group and has many members who have been active for a long time. The letter specifically mentioned that there were a number of members who were hard pressed and looking for a job at the moment, and that the pass would be given to one of them as a way to increase their visibility. I think that’s an excellent idea!

Burlington, VT PHP Users Group
The Burlington group wrote one the the best emails, detailing numerous reasons why they should be granted the free pass. Heck, it was even fully footnoted! They are actually a very large and active group of PHP developers, for being in a rather low population area. Last year one of their members attended ZendCon and then returned to the group and gave a presentation all about what he saw, and why people should be attending ZendCon ’09. The problem of course is that not everyone can afford to do so. To that end, they decided that they would come up with a set of criteria for applicants, people who’s company won’t be paying them to attend, and/or can’t afford to attend in full, but yet will have the ability to take the time off and afford the airfare. From this list of applicants, they hope to have the group come to consensus as to who should be awarded the pass. If that fails, they’ll take a vote. Of course, this pales in comparison to their original idea that they almost went with. Which was to have a cage match, with only USB peripherals allowed as weapons. This got squashed quickly though, when one of their members linked to the USB Chainsaw. (I have to get myself one of those!)

PHPBenelux is a huge user group with over 1000 active members, covering all of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg. They wrote a very impassioned request for why they should be awarded the pass. However they had one very specific claim to fame. If it wasn’t for one of the cofounders of PHPBenelux, this user group contest wouldn’t exist. It was his prodding and plea for Zend to give away passes to the conference, that led to this contest in the first place. As far as giving the ticket away they said that in the past when they’ve had things to give away, they usually do so via a raffle that requires members to ask PHP related questions, to ensure that the prizes go to people who are eager to win them.

I never stated that the user group needed to be location based, and the PHPWomen jumped on that. So I have to give them bonus points for that. They thought that having more members of PHPWomen at attendance in ZendCon would be a great boon to other women attendees at the conference. It seems when brainstorming how they decide who the pass would go to, they passed through ideas such as PHP-themed blanket knitting competition or a caption contest to poke fun at speakers who use photos of themselves from when they were much younger. In the end though, unlike some of the other groups above, they decided they would be really civilized about it, and just have an honest discussion among themselves and who can and can’t go, as well as who they feel should best represent PHPWomen at ZendCon.

I look forward to seeing all the attendees from not only these, but other user groups in attendance at ZendCon, when you are there, please look me up and say hello. I especially look forward to meeting the people who get chosen from these groups to attend on the free pass!