Let’s stop creating alcoholics in PHP

Note: I am referring to the PHP world because this is what I know. Based on comments I received from readers, it appears it is a general problem in other IT communities.

You may already have guessed what this post is about, I am sure there will be lots of people that will disagree with it, but I am in need to share this.

PHP and alcohol (and more specifically beer) are almost synonyms. Lots of PHP developers love beer. And it has become a very common practice to have beer (lots) at PHP events, user groups, conferences, etc.

But don’t get it wrong, they love to drink high quality beer as someone would love to drink a very fine wine or whisky. They do it carefully. Many of them actually brew their own beer as a craft, a hobby. They don’t drink to get drunk.

I like beer, I don’t love it, but I enjoy one or two when I am at a conference. I like wine more. And I have drank more than I should have more than once. Usually I realize this the day after. But I don’t enjoy getting drunk.

Unfortunately, not everybody has a strong self-control, and many times, they end up drunk, and you know, when people are drunk, bad things may happen.

When people get drunk, the most minor thing that may happen is that they will make a fool of themselves, sometimes without even realizing it. Everybody laugh and have a good time. But the borderline between this harmless fun and a bad moment is blurry and very thin, and very subjective to the moment. And if this happens frequently, they will be known and the fun person that drinks a lot, would that be a good thing?

Already we had instances where things went south. Someone says the improper thing, and it may ruin the whole conference experience for one or more people. If this is your first time at one of these events, you may not come back again. But even if you are a “pro” of the conference circuit, you will remember this one time episode forever. As a conference organizer, this is a nightmare come true.

Then you have the people that don’t drink, for whatever reason. Not everybody likes alcohol. They don’t like the taste, they don’t like the feeling, they know people had issues with it, they are trying to stay in shape, it does not go along with their religion, etc. If a conference is promoting drinks, these people may feel excluded.

We are not in the drinks industry, we are professional developers, we have an obligation to produce high quality work for our employers or customers. So heavily promoting alcohol in events feels wrong.

I go to a lot of conferences. I love going to them. I love being part of the PHP community, meeting new people, hanging out with all the friends I have made over the years. And a lot of the fun activities outside the talks take place in a bar or around drinks.

Recently I started hearing about, or seeing episodes where people have problems due to alcohol. Some are aware of the issues, and are speaking out and asking for help. They should be commended. And some don’t realize what is happening. This may lead to alcoholism if not addressed on time.

I think it is time we stop encouraging people to drink at conferences. As mature individuals we should be able to enjoy one or two drinks. But we need to have limits. We need to put more emphasis on promoting healthier activities and lifestyles. As the PHP community matures, like it or not, we, the individuals that make this community, are getting older, fatter, less healthier. Alcohol does not help. Due to our work, we spend lots of time on a chair. We should be promoting walks, running, sports, etc.

Let’s stop creating alcoholics before it becomes a problem and something serious happens. If it does, we will be partially responsible.

Checkout this post by @dcousineau on how to conference organizers can try to be more inclusive to non-drinkers and still allow everyone to have a good time.

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5 comments on “Let’s stop creating alcoholics in PHP
  1. Frank says:

    While I’m also no friend of Alcohol-centric event theming I have never encountered a negative situation in 10+ years of tech conferences due to substance abuse.

  2. Greg Wilson says:

    In terms of staying healthy and promoting wellbeing, I know a couple of us are on RunKeeper, and perhaps some are on Fitocracy as well (though I know of no PHP groups in those apps). Kind of cold in the morning/night at #phpworld, but perhaps we can have a #phptek15 5k run (to support phpWomen)?

  3. Dev Guy says:

    PHP, conferences, or readily available beer does not create alcoholics any more than serving lunch causes food addiction or obesity.

  4. Jrf says:

    While I agree with the basic premise of your article, I’m not sure what the solution should be.

    I very much like your idea of promoting some sports activities during conferences! Most conference hotels will be able to point to local running routes and some have gyms or pools available. Having a time slot on the program for such activities will encourage people to use these facilities more freely.

    Imposing limits,as in ‘limited open bar’ either in time or money, will in my experience actually encourage binging on the alcohol rather than limit people’s intake.

    All the same, actually having a more varied bar would already help a lot. Don’t just offer beer and one type of soft-drink. Offer a wide variety of soft drinks (and make sure you offer diet versions too!) and at the very least both beer and (reasonable quality) wine.
    I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been at meetups or conference were the wine was undrinkable and as I don’t drink beer and there was only one type of (non-diet) soft drink, I ended up drinking tap water and not feeling very welcome.
    While I tend towards non-alcoholic drinks in those situations, a lot of people will choose the alcoholic drink if there are no non-alcohol drinks they like available.

  5. I totally agree.

    The PHPConf AR (’14) was my fist; so I don’t know how it is in other PHP conferences. I don’t have a problem with people enjoying their drinks, but watching people drinking beer like if they were in a rock concert makes me feel like I was in a teenage spring break cliché movie, instead of a professional conference of the language that drives the world wide web.

    PHP, our beloved language, has matured; it’s time for the rest of the ecosystem to “man up”.

    Cheers.

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