A quick chat with Thijs Feryn

Only two weeks at Codemotion Rome! This time lets have a quick chat with our Thijs Feryn.

He is a technical evangelist at a Belgian webhosting company called Combell. His goal is to bring technology to the people and people to technology. He focuses on bridging the gap between code and infrastructure. Thijs is also involved in many open source communities and leads the PHPBenelux community. He speaks, listens, writes, codes, teaches and organizes conferences/meetups. You can find more about him and his talks on his personal blog.


Hi Thijs, could you give us a quick introduction to your talk?

I like MySQL, but in some specific cases a relational database couldn’t solve the problem I was trying to solve. I had a look at other tools and I came across certain NoSQL solutions. At first I looked at Solr, but quickly noticed that it requires lots of config in XML files, it wasn’t that intuitive and clustering it was kind of painful.

Then ElasticSearch crossed my path and I immediately loved it. Although it’s also based on Lucene indices and also written in Java, it felt less Java-ish.

After a while I started watching presentations about ElasticSearch, some of them were great, others were just OK.

I wanted a different approach. Instead of explaining what ElasticSearch is, I wanted to show people what you can do with it. People usually like action-packed presentations and that’s exactly what my talk is about.

I’ll explain what ElasticSearch is in a single slide and after that we’ll dive right in.

Comparing to Solr or other search solution, in which case we should choose Elasticsearch and why?

I don’t believe there’s a straightforward reason to pick the one or the other. I believe it’s a matter of taste. The reality is that there’s also a hype factor. ElasticSearch is doing well these days and the cool kids are using it.

There’s no denying though that using ElasticSearch is pretty easy and (nomen est omen) it scales quite well out of the box.

Elasticsearch is mainly a search tool to analyze data in real time, but sometimes is used also as a storage solution. What’s your position on that?

ElasticSearch does 3 things very well: it’s an excellent full-text search engine, a good NoSQL database and a quite underestimated analytics engine.

ElasticSearch is my goto NoSQL database. The clustering works really well, you have built-in sharding and replication. I feel quite confident using ElasticSearch is my main database. But, ElasticSearch is not a replacement for your RDBMS.

You’re a serial speaker and conference organizer (PHPBenelux), If you could improve one thing in tech conferences, what would it be?

Make it an experience, that’s probably my main advice to conference organizers. Conference organizers play it too safe in my opinion. I know that people come for the talks and the speakers.

But nowadays there are so many conferences, events and meetups that it’s tough for organizers to get the attention of potential attendees. Conferences that focus on social activities, good food, a nice location and some special activities will have the edge on more traditional events.

As a conference organizer I have very strong opinions on this topic and I even wrote a blog post about it.

It pretty much boils down to this: people come for the content, but they stay for the people.

If you make it an event, rather than just a conference, people will remember you. If you facilitate genuine conversations, people will appreciate this. And I’m not just talking about the attendees. It also matters to sponsors and speakers.


If a wanna-be developer intends to start coding today, which language or platform would you suggest her/him and why?

Depends on the context. If you looking at a well-balanced, general purpose language I would say PHP. PHP has a huge community, lots of online resources and libraries, components & frameworks.

If you’re not writing web applications, but small services or daemons, you could go for Python or Go.

But if you’re a frontend person that wants to interact with compact and fast services, you could just go for NodeJS.


Who is/are your tech heroes?

I’m not really a fanboy. I respect people in tech who go the extra mile, who are genuine and who don’t care about the politics that surround open source communities in this day and age.


What’s your current music album on repeat?

I’m mixing it up:

I try to listen to Rolling Stones on a weekly basis. I love their Hyde Park Live album. I was raised on that music from the age of 6.

But I also listen to some harder stuff. Madball, Terror and Hatebreed are bands that are definitely in my playlist. All 3 of them are touring Europe this year, so I’ll definitely check them out. Madball is doing anniversary tour to celebrate the 20th birthday of their “Demonstrating My Style” album. So that one is on quite a lot.

Besides rock ‘n roll and hardcore I also like metal. I love listening to some brutal tunes. Slayer certainly fits that category. But the death of Lemmy made me think about some fallen heroes, so I started listening to Motörhead again and I rediscovered Ronnie James Dio.

Thanks for the for the quick chat Thijs, can’t wait to see you on stage at Codemotion Rome 2016!



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