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.