IPC: International PHP Conference 2016 in Munich

I have been invited to Munich to do two talks at the IPC. I gave my introduction to HTTP caching with Varnish and a talk on practical tools to build REST APIs. The IPC wanted some talks in German, so the slides are in german. You can find older versions of the slides in english for HTTP caching and REST APIs. I always enjoy presenting on a topic I care about, and the discussions after the talk. I am glad to help people, and more often than not, questions lead to me having to reflect why I have that opinion or outright learning something new. The organization of the conference has been flawless and the venue in the center of Munich was very convenient.

I could not stay for very long unfortunately, but managed to sit in to a few talks. Most notable was the talk on content strategy by Neos CMS core developer Robert Lemke with a lot of valuable information. I found the slides of his talk. The other talk I managed to see was by Michael Haeuslmann on dependencies in large projects. Michael is the developer of dephpend (pronounced “defend”), a tool to analyse dependencies of your PHP code and detecting architecture violations. He advocate such tools to identify the most important places to start improving a large code base.

Living style guide meets Drupal 8

Times are constantly changing, and so is Liip. There is a particular term that caught our attention – living style guides. It might not be the latest or the coolest fad in web development, but tools that make Drupal 8 compatible with living style guides are fairly recent. That’s why we decided to take a look at what’s out there in order to introduce style guide driven development to our repertoire.

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Drupal SearchAPI and result grouping

In this blog post I will present how, in a recent e-Commerce project built on top of Drupal7 (the former version of the Drupal CMS), we make Drupal7, SearchAPI and Commerce play together to efficiently retrieve grouped results from Solr in SearchAPI, with no indexed data duplication.

We used the SearchAPI and the FacetAPI modules to build a search index for products, so far so good: available products and product-variations can be searched and filtered also by using a set of pre-defined facets. In a subsequent request, a new need arose from our project owner: provide a list of products where the results should include, in addition to the product details, a picture of one of the available product variations, while keep the ability to apply facets on products for the listing. Furthermore, the product variation picture displayed in the list must also match the filter applied by the user: this with the aim of not confusing users, and to provide a better user experience.

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Holacracy – what’s different in our daily life?

During the Swiss Web Festival, Laurent Prodon and I hold a workshop about the way we are internally structured. We focused on what it changes in our daily life.
Report of the conference.

Find the slides (FR only) Présentation SWF.

What does it change to be working in an enterprise organized according to a non-hierarchical framework?

Laurent and I went through our usual type of brainstorming in order to prepare this conference: we wrote on the walls and used sticky notes. We were divided about how much we should explain what Holacracy is and how much we should tell about how it feels. As we are both passionate personalities, we went through a great deal of debate! However, we settled on what we consider the main differences between a hierarchical management system and a system based on Holacracy.

Organise the work not the people

A classic hierarchical system would be organized according to the people and their position in the enterprise.


The credo of Holacracy is ‘organise the work, not the people’. It means that we focus on the work to be done, not the people or their position in the enterprise. We think in terms of purposes and the accountabilities they imply.

One person and many role

This is the most important difference for Laurent. The years passing by, he started doing a lot of different things, essential but not necessarily related to his ‘official’ title of Scrum Master. He is supporting the recruitment of new Liipers for example, which is usually related to the HR. He is also doing some Business Development.


Today, thanks to Holacracy, we defined these many roles. What Laurent does is now clear, for him and for others. Today, we know what we can and can’t expect from him.

With a system such as Holacracy, one person can grasp opportunities to develop his or her potential where it is most needed in the enterprise. No one is stopped by a contract or a statement of work. There is room for evolution. In other words, the employee can work where s/he can help fulfill tasks.

A dynamic organisation

The structure is in a direct connection with the teams and the work to be done. The organisation is subject to change any time. A role can be created, modified or cancelled any time that it feels necessary to its purpose. Furthermore, a role does not intend to fit the whole enterprise, but only to provide a solution to a given difficulty.

As a result, the structure of the organisation is constantly evolving and fits at the closest to the needs of the employees and the work to be fulfilled. The organisation chart always represents the reality, what people are actually doing.
For example, some day, a developer in Lausanne meant that it would be useful to have someone doing some Communication work for the project achieved here. In no-time, the role was created, first embodied internally, and eventually someone – me :) – was hired.

Decision making

That is the most important difference for me. A common issue in hierarchical enterprises is the fact that decision, once taken at the top, have to be applied and mirrored in each department. Often the top management will decide something, and the lower levels of management will undergo the decision in their department. As a specialist, you then end up with a project or a task you do not believe into.

In a system like Holacracy, each person is to take relevant decision in order to fulfill his/her roles’ purpose. In other words, each person decides which objectives, KPIs and task is relevant for his/her role(s). There is no decision taken ‘in theory’ with no knowledge of work field.


To conclude: the challenges and the joys

We are just humans. There is sometimes a great deal of scepticism; changing how one thinks or one’s habits is a difficult thing. It happens that I even hear trolls at my lunch breaks. However, in the end, we realize that we are part of something really innovative. This is exciting! And the advantages of the system are far greater: we can evolve and develop with our entreprise. Our workplace suits our needs, not the other way around!


Pictures at the Swiss Web Festival by Sarah Jaquemet

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The fears about innovation and Users’ loyalty – how can a UXer help? Part 1/2

Innovation – what a buzzword! The request for innovation is everywhere, in every request for proposal, even on the lips of some end users. As if companies that do not innovate go bankrupt. End users want exciting experience, and reject change at the same time. It is an ambiguous situation.

Let’s innovate while keeping users happy ! But how?

Innovation: Risky but necessary

Innovation is everywhere! Is every existing thing not good enough and has to be improved? As if we required on a daily basis cutting the edge and exciting experiences! May it be only for pouring coffee in our mugs, or for giving feedbacks to developers who implemented what we co-designed with a client, or for completing a survey, booking a room, making a conference call…

The users of a product know what’s wrong with a product, what is not working properly, what takes too much time. In other words, they know what could be improved. It might be risky  for a company to take the leap, because end users might dislike the change.

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Counting people on stairs – or IoT with a particle photon and node.js

In this article I will show you in 3 easy steps how to actually get started with an IoT a project build with a particle photon and a node.js server in order to have your own dashboard. I admit, IoT is a bit of a trend these days, and yes I jumped on the bandwaggon too. But since visiting the maker faire Zürich I have seen so many enthousiastic people building things, it has also motived me to also try out something. Thats why I decided to count the people that are running up and down our stairs at Liip. Follow along if you are – like me – a total noob when it comes to connecting wires but still want to experience the fun of building IoT devices.


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Drupal Cross-Squad Knowledge Sharing

We do lots of Drupal projects @ Liip, mainly in the Zürich and Fribourg offices. Since Liip is organized in individual and independent squads, we do not have lots of touchpoints or projects which we do cross-office wise. But all the squads doing Drupal have one thing in common: A big interest in Drupal and the strong will to do projects successfully.

If I talk about a “squads doing Drupal”, then don’t think of Developers only, but also of Project Owners, UXers, Business Developers, Designers, Analytics Specialists and so on. With such squads in Zürich and Fribourg, things are done differently. Different sitebuilding, different workflows, different opinions and finally also different projects. This is on the one hand very interesting but on the other hand… weird. Being in the same company, doing the same kind of work but not the same way while not using the same toolbox and processes.

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APIs for the public sector

I recently gave a presentation (in German) at the Beschaffungskonferenz. This is a conference for the public sector to exchange round procurement of IT. There were several tracks some focusing more on legal aspects, different procurement processes and agile development while I presented in the tech track. In my talk I presented some of the more established new development paradigms of the past years. But the key message was that APIs need to become a key aspect of how IT projects are planned for the public sector. Specifically I named transport.opendata.ch as a shining example of how providing existing data via a public API can lead to an entirely new economy of use cases on top of it. The idea is really: “Built it and they will come”.

Update: Another good example of a well documented API in the public sector is api3.geo.admin.ch which we have used for various projects here at Liip in the past already.

Update 2: An article which provides an additional perspective: API First at data.gov.uk

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A recap of PyCon UK 2016

PyCon UK has traditionally taken place in Coventry, but this September it was held in Cardiff, in the beautiful City Hall. We shared the space with several weddings — including one between a ladybird and a fireman, part of the City of the Unexpected celebrations of Roald Dahl!

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Startup tool inspiration – what we use

Liip has a fair number of startup customers who often struggle with finding the right set of tools, so I will share here a bit what we are using on a daily basis. We traditionally use a lot of open source tools in our projects. For our infrastructure tooling we also use a fair bit of open source but also an ever increasing amount of SaaS products. Additionally we build some tools internally, some of which we have made open source. One of my holacracy roles is called “Platform Gardener” with the purpose “Provide corporate-wide streamlined digital services and tools”. This role gives me a pretty good overview of the tools we use, which I would like to share below.

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