Category: Community


The Future of (PHP) Progress

December 2nd, 2011 — 11:26pm

I’ll admit it – I love to geek out as much as the next guy at the latest features of the PHP frameworks out there. I read the articles and tutorials every day about something awesome some framework can do (that maybe another can’t) and wish I had a place to apply it. I even find myself trying to think of new little projects so I can say I work with the latest tech. It’s an easy trap to fall into. I came to a realization earlier about frameworks, though – it’s less about the new hotness that the frameworks offer and more about what you do with them that matters.

Tech is great, don’t get me wrong – I love digging into some good code and getting my hands dirty. I love being close to the action and watching my work evolve with each reload. It’s easy to get lost in line after line of curly braces and colons and not look at the bigger picture, though. Remember as you’re doing your development – pick the right tool for the job and don’t be pulled in by the latest and greatest “just because”. Remember that the future of this language we love isn’t in the tech, but it’s in what you do with it.

If you haven’t gotten to check them out yet, be sure you listen to the webcasts from EngineYard about the future of PHP. So far they’ve covered a few of the more popular frameworks and where they’re headed, but I have it on good authority that upcoming episodes will be talking less about the “what powers it” and more about the “why it’s there” kind of topics.

1 comment » | Community, PHP

The Joind.in & I

September 3rd, 2011 — 8:48pm

By now I’m sure a lot of the folks reading the posts from this blog know of the site I’ve helped shape over the past few years, Joind.in. It’s become most successful in PHP circles, but has branched out into other communities, both tech and non-tech. Not too long after the project started up, it was decided to open source the code and pull in contributions from whoever offered their time. I personally feel that, for a first out of the box open source project for me, it’s turned out well and has a great, active community around it. I’ve learned a lot working on not only the code but in management of the project as well.

I’m taking a break from all of this for now though. I know, Joind.in has been my baby for the last few years, but I’ve been feeling a little burnt out on it the last few months and I’m starting to feel like it’s having a negative impact on the project. My plan is to take a few months to regroup myself and pull my head out of the code and maybe even get a better, broader picture of what the project could become. My priorities are shifting towards another project I’ve been putting in some time on (no hints yet) that I hope can be a good tool for a similar community.

The management of the project is being put in capable hands, though – no worries there. Lorna will be the gatekeeper for all things Joind.in. She’ll be handling both the site and the open source project in their day to day needs. I’ll still be lurking around in the same places, but I won’t be as active in the project as I have been.

Thank you to the community that has made the site everything it is and I know it will grow even more in the months to come. Thanks for your contributions, both in code and even just in kind words. Please keep them coming and if you’re a fan or contributor of the project, ask Lorna if there’s a helpful hand you can lend. I know she’d appreciate it.

UPDATE: You can also see Lorna’s post here.

2 comments » | Community, joind.in, PHP

“It’s Not Just About the News”

April 21st, 2011 — 9:34am

Originally, I was going to present these thoughts at the PHP Community Conference (in a session titled “It’s not Just About the News”) but it didn’t work out for me to be there. I still wanted to share some of my thoughts and experience in running PHPDeveloper.org for the last 11 years.

In its very first form, PHPDeveloper.org was just a page of links. It was hosted on a local server I had at the college I attended and was aliased to the outside world under the hostname “bender.ods.org”. I started gathering links on that page to some of my favorite PHP resources of the time – things like PHPBuilder.com and, of course, the PHP.net manual. I was new to the language – this was back in 1999-2000 range – and was constantly devouring everything I could about it. Not many of the free hosting services supported PHP back then so running it on my own server was clearly the answer. I compiled my own installations from scratch complete with some of the earlier versions of Apache, PHP3 (fresh off of PHP/FI) and MySQL. All of my code was procedural and I had no clue about application design. All I knew was that I loved the language. I left my Perl books to gather dust and marched on to a bright PHP-based future.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure when I made the leap from a set of links to the sort of blog style PHPDev is in today. I was a huge fan of Slashdot back then (weren’t we all?) and I think I thought to myself one day, “I could totally do that”. So I hacked together a custom sort of content management system and started to work. Things weren’t as consistent then as they were now. Back then I might have posted once a week, two or three times if I was feeling ambitious. If you want a good laugh, go back and take a look at some of my earliest posts on the Internet Archive.

I was a big IRC user back then – still am on Freenode – and I spread the word about the site mostly through there. There was no such thing as Twitter and getting sites like Yahoo to notice you wasn’t as easy as it is now. I had one thing going for me though…back then there just wasn’t another PHP news site out there, at least not one that was consistently updated. I was determined that PHPDev would become one of the best resources out there for PHP-related news and community happenings that it could be.

Some folks have called me a human aggregator in the past, and I think that’s what really sets the site apart from some of the other PHP news/community sites out there. I’ve never, ever pulled in posts automatically from other sources. Yep, that’s right – I hand-write every post you read on the site. I spend about an hour or so each day trolling through my Google Reader feeds (I’m up to 434 of them currently) to find some of the most interesting content out there. I actually spend some time reading the posts and writing up a good summary of what it has to offer. Plus, I can do some fun things the other automatic readers can’t like:

  • Pulling announcements from Twitter
  • Listening to podcasts and summarizing their content
  • Filtering out posts that are related to a product or general commentary
  • Making community announcements about conferences
  • Taking specific article submissions

One of the best things, though, is subscribing to things like DZone or PHPCamp and discovering new articles that aren’t even on other aggregator’s radar. I gather things from the four corners of the web and try to make the best sense I can out them to share with the world. In recent years, I’ve realized that the “stuff I find interesting” approach is good, but I had to widen the scope to make it really work. I now read through my feeds and think more “is there a group that would find this interesting” instead. As a result there’s been posts on things outside of PHP touching on software like Drupal/WordPress/Joomla as well as Open Source projects that might be related to PHP, but not always directly.

I’m sure you’re curious about the technology behind the site. Well, let me say off the bat, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Remember when I said I had a hacked together CMSish kind of thing to manage the content – it’s not much different these days. I started with it back in PHP3 and it was all procedural. It wasn’t pretty but I was proud of it and it worked. Then PHP4 came along and these magical things called objects and OOP came along with it. Of course, I just had to do a rewrite. PHPDev v2 was born. Things changed again when Zend announced that they were making a framework (framework? what’s a framework?) and released some of their earliest versions. So, being the curious developer I was, I did what any good developer would do – another rewrite (PHPDev v3). If you’re wondering, I think it was ZF 0.7 or 0.8 – not sure which. Keep in mind that most of these rewrites came with a design update, but they all took the same basic news site/blog format. Finally, and this is the current form, I wanted to learn something different so I branched out to the Solar framework in yet another rewrite (yep, PHPDev v4).

So, what does all of that mean? It shows that the tools don’t matter. I could probably rewrite the site a million different ways, but that’s not what it’s about. Most of my current posting is just done on a simple form with subject, content and date/time. I write them in the morning and queue them to go out during the day. Sure, there’s been a few hiccups now and then when the technology changed, but what matters to most of my visitors is the content.

I checked in my logs a little while back just to see how many people were hitting the feeds on my site and found an interesting statistic – there’s now more people following the @phpdeveloper account on Twitter than there are pulling the feeds. Now, that’s not taking into consideration any re-blogging folks do of my content (that’s a whole other topic), but it’s still interesting to me.

So, how far have things come since the site’s birth back in 2000? Well, without trying to sound too boastful about it, I think PHPDev has become one of the most respected PHP news sites out there and provides a valuable service to the community that can only come from a human behind the helm. As of my latest post, the database now hosts 16232 articles that chronicle the history of the years the PHP community has been through, both the good and the bad.

Of course, I couldn’t end this post without thanking each and every one of you out there – my readers have made the site what it is. I couldn’t have done it without you. Your contributions – either through blog posts or actual submissions – are the lifeblood of the site. I’ve stood on the shoulders of everyone in the community to reach this high, and I thank you for letting me come along.

4 comments » | Community, PHP

A Few Joind.in Thanks

April 7th, 2011 — 11:13am

If you’re a listener of the Voices of the ElePHPant podcast, you’ve probably already spotted the latest episode where Cal interviewed me about Joind.in and the experiences I’ve had with making to open source and the challenges associated with it. Unfortunately, the podcast was only a few minutes long and wasn’t a good forum for me to thank the folks that have helped to make the project into what it is today. As I mentioned in the recording, I knew to make the site all it could be, I needed to open it and share it with other minds greater than mine.

So, here’s a few thanks to some of the folks that have made an impact on the project:

  • Lorna Mitchell

    Honestly, without Lorna, a co-lead on the project, things wouldn’t be where they are today. She is one of the very first contributors to the project and was around back when the code was hosted on my own SVN server. She’s been the one that has waded through my early code and has helped point out the broken parts and encourage work on the features we agreed would be best to have. Her involvement with the project has grown considerably ever since php|tek last year and she’s become an invaluable part of the project.

    Because of her busy schedule, we’ve moved into different roles in the project that play more to our strengths. She, the always outgoing, willing to talk to anyone person she is, has taken up championing the project to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. Some of the sessions she’s given have even included Joind.in as an integral part. In fact, she has a talk coming up at Dutch PHP Conference that’s about the new version of the Joind.in API she’s been hard at work on. Oh, and not to be forgotten, she also pushed the bug tracking for the project off of Github and onto Jira – a major upgrade to the bug tracking abilities of the project. The project is lucky to have her as a lead.

  • Kathryn Reeve

    Kathryn has been one of the few that’s voluntarily tackled the Javascript for the project. The changes she’s made won’t jump out at you when you visit the site, but they’ve
    helped to make the site more stable and more usable. She’s recently been working on date picker update for all of the date fields on the site and has made the tabs on the
    event page more accessible via the URL.

  • Joshua Thijssen

    Joshua’s a relatively new developer to the project, but he’s the kind open source projects love. He’s the kind of guy that dives head-first into code and doesn’t look back. I’m
    not completely sure, but I think that in the first week he was involved in the project, he closed about 10 bugs single-handedly. He’s active in both the IRC channel
    (#joind.in on irc.freenode.net) and in the bug tracker, both in providing suggestions and in closing out issues. Joshua is also the creator of the Android Joind.in application (which he gave a presentation on at the 4Developers conference).

  • Kevin Bowman

    Kevin’s been involved in the project for quite a while with contributions that range from server-side work, code updates, conversations on the mailing list and his most visible
    contribution, the iPhone application. This app, along with the Android one, are widely used at conferences for those times when it’s just easier to get out a phone than
    a laptop. He’s a great asset to have around for some of the more technical bits and I’m thankful for his continued efforts to help the project grow.

  • Mike van Riel

    Mike has been another one of those developers that’s extremely eager to help. Some of his latest work has helped bring the project more up to a unified coding standard.
    He and Michelangelo van Dam also laid the foundation for the unit testing functionality that the site currently uses (as well as some additional debugging handling). Before that
    he contributed loads of bug fixes.

I could go on and on with a list of folks that have helped out the project in one way or another, but here’s a few more of the thanks I want to send out…thank you to Jeremy Kindall, Derick Rethans, Stefan Koopmanschap, Ryan Mauger, Michelangelo van Dam and Rob Allen. I know there’s people I’ve missed on this list – there’s a whole host of you out there that have helped promote the site and make it what it is. I am so thankful that the PHP community is as open and sharing as it is. Without it, there’s no way a project like this would have gotten much beyond its infancy.

Thanks you to all of the PHP conferences that consistently use the site for their feedback – PHPUK, php|tek, ZendCon, PHPBelenux, ConFoo, Symfony events, PHP Community Conference, Day Camp 4 Developers, phpDay, PHP Unconference Europe, Dutch PHP Conference, PHP Northwest and the PHP Brazil Conference – and to all of the user groups and other events that contribute events and show their support daily.

I personally want to thank you all for being a part of our project, and I’m looking forward to where the future will take us. :)

1 comment » | Community, joind.in, PHP

The Lone Star PHP Conference

March 29th, 2011 — 1:13pm


This morning I and fellow DallasPHP-er Jake Smith officially launched the website for the local PHP conference we’ve been working on for the past few months – the Lone Star PHP Conference (happening in Dallas, Tx on June 11th).

It’s a one-day, two-track event that brings together some great speakers from around the Dallas area to talk on loads of different topics. Here’s a few of them from the list:

  • Using PHP and MySQL to Build Applications with Windows Azure
  • Disregard Inputs, Acquire Zend_Form
  • Using Dependency Injection for Proper Unit Testing
  • Drupal
  • Unsung Heroes of PHP

Why another conference, you ask? Well, the PHP community here in Dallas is definitely strong and, if the attendance of our user group meetings is any indication, it’s growing stronger all the time. We’ve been bouncing around the idea of having an event here for a while, it was just finally the right time to step up and organize it. There’s a gap in the area covered by some of the major conferences with ZendCon out in California, and php|tek in Chicago. The CodeWorks conference has been here in town before, but they made the move down to Austin last year. It may not be the biggest conference out there (or the most well known) but we hope that it’ll bring the quality content to the DFW masses they expect out of a great conference.

The response so far has been great so far and tickets have already started selling, so if you’re planning on attending, be sure to grab your ticket – space is limited! The event costs $60 for the full day, including a lunch and an after-party event too. If you’re out of town and wanting to come in, we have some special rates there at the hotel you can get for that Friday and Saturday night – just email us and ask to get the details.

Lone Star PHP Conference: http://lonestarphp.com
On Facebook: http://facebook.com/lonestarconference
On Twitter: @lonestarphp

2 comments » | Community, PHP

It’s not a conference… (redux)

March 19th, 2011 — 5:10am

It’s interesting – sitting here writing a few emails, sending a few tweets – I was reminded of a me from not so long ago. He was the one that tried to convince you that conferences aren’t about the talks. He pointed out that the real key to conferences was the people you met there. I’d sort of forgotten him until just this morning, and I wanted to invite him back to the stage.

See, the key to it all is the people. Sure, you can talk about or another specifically, but then you’d lose sight of the one thing that binds them all together. Without the community attending these events, well, there’d be no event at all. It takes all kinds too. There’s the first-timer that’s not quite sure about everything and everyone, but recognizes names from blogs and the speaker list (hint: this was me). There’s the seasoned conference-goer that has been around the block a few times and knows how things really work and then there’s the tireless staff of the events that work sometimes all year long to pull these events off as flawlessly as they can. Each and every one of them has a place in this community but the key is – they’re all people just the same. Without that human connection between them, the community fails and falters and could just sputter and die like we’ve seen from other languages in the past.

Conferences with their talks and tutorials are great – don’t get me wrong. That’s what gets me to the event half the time. There’s several sessions that I’m looking forward to at this year’s tek and PHP Community Confernece (oh, how I wish i’d been accepted to DPC) but what I’m looking forward to the most is seeing my friends. IRC and email just doesn’t cut it. Sitting down with a group of people that get me and know me, either through the work I’ve done or just from talking online, is priceless. We bounce ideas off of each other, crack jokes about the downfalls of other languages (with names based on precious stones) and just generally have a good time.

There is no other place like it and my wish for you is that you pick one of the upcoming conferences and get out there. Sure, the talks are great, but being able to sit down with other developers that understand where you’re coming from and might know where you’re headed is something to treasure.

Oh! And don’t forget – if you can’t make it to a conference, there’s an excellent alternative….your local user group! There’s a whole group of people right in your backyard that have all of this and more.

Comment » | Community, PHP

Why Community Matters… (Updated)

March 18th, 2011 — 9:31pm

It’s easy for us to look around at the technology we work with every day and think that we can solve all of the worlds problems with a few lines of elegant code. We think that just because we have a mastery of our language of choice, that we can conquer any challenge we might face. The only problem is that we’re forgetting one thing. No matter how much code you write or how much time you spend pouring over that shiny new architecture you’ve dreamed up, there’s one thing that can never be replaced – the human element.

Most of the developers I know have started off with a language the same way – they heard about it from a friend. They casually heard the name “PHP” dropped in a conversation and either (depending on how outgoing they are) jumped in to the conversation or made a dash home to look up what everyone else seemed to be talking about. Without this word of mouth, I dare say quite a bit of the technology that we have today wouldn’t be around. Think about it – how many times have you looked at a new language or bit of tech just because someone else you trust said it was cool. Sure, it might sound a little like siding with the popular kid, but what happens if that kid’s the one who’s right? That language may be the next big thing – if not for the online community as a whole, then just for you and your development.

Think back to when you first started programming PHP (that may be yesterday, that may be ten years ago) and think back to all of the influences you had along the way. Chances are you didn’t make it to where you are today without a little help. You found blog posts of others that solved the same problems, you hopped on IRC and talked with like-minded folks trying to overcome the same hurdles and you shared you own experiences for the future generations of web developers to learn from. You’ve come full circle, sharing what you know back with those who need it the most. You’re a contributing member of the community.

So, why am I writing this if it’s all so obvious to even the most casual observer? I wanted to reinforce the fact that, even if you’re new to the community or you’ve been writing PHP so long you dream about namespaces and PHP6, you can always be more involved. Technology is great, but really – people are better. I can’t recommend enough the effort that the PHP Community Conference is doing to bring this human aspect back into the conference scene. They’ve taken the traditional conference mentality, turned it on its side and put an extra helping of emphasis on the thoughts behind the technology and less on the syntax of the day-to-day. This approach provides an interesting perspective, different from the usual track-based methods (similar to the Brooklyn Beta event).

If you haven’t looked at the conference, time’s getting short – it’s happening about a month from now, April 21st and 22nd, in Nashville. I’ll be there as a speaker talking about my first PHP love – PHPDeveloper.org and doing what I can to give back as much to the community as possible. Because really, without each other to help us through, none of us would be where we are today.

UPDATE: I want to take a second to apologize for any poor choice of wording I’ve used in this post. My intent wasn’t to make conferences like php|tek or ZendCon seem less in comparison to the PHP Community Conference. It was more of a commentary on the different conference styles – the “why” PHPComCon offers rather than the “how” sessions that several of the others provide. The ironic thing is that I’m also in the process of planning my own conference and it follows the track-based ideas. It’s a difficult process and I have a growing respect for people like Keith Casey, Marco Tabini, Cal Evans and the scores of other folks behind the scenes of these excellent events. They work their hardest to keep people from “feeling like a number” during their events, and – especially tek – keeping the community as a large focus. My hats are off to them for planning not only quality content during the day but fun, engaging activities during the evenings that bring community members together from all over the world to laugh, enjoy a few beers and shoot the breeze about all things PHP.

Comment » | Community, PHP

Ideas of March

March 15th, 2011 — 7:06am

In an effort to spotlight what is slowly becoming a lost art (blogging), some of us in the PHP community have banded together today to talk about the active sharing of ideas and opinions that come with blog entries. Twitter (or Identi.ca!) ain’t got nothing on it. One-hundred and forty characters is nice, but there’s something to be said for a well-written or well-researched blog post. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve searched for a problem, usually the obtuse one that only seems to come up once in a blue moon, and find the answer on someone’s blog.

If you’re among those in the high business world, you’ve heard the cheesy term “knowledge transfer”. Yes, I cringe too even just to say it, but it gets the idea across. Blogging is so much more than vanity posts talking about funny things someone’s dog did. Writing up a blog post is an opportunity to take a small part of what’s in your head and share it with the rest of the world. It gives you an outlet, either creative or technical, to bring your message to the masses. This is the real key. When you blog, it’s not just about you anymore. You’ve taken a part of you, a sliver of your experience finding and fixing that bug or researching that old technology to write an API for it, and shared it with the world in a single click of a button.

It’s been done all through history – the passing down of knowledge from one generation (of programmers?) to another – and there’s no reason to stop now. I hope you’ll join me in making March a true month of ideas. Slow down and take the time to write a blog post or two. It doesn’t have to be a work of art. It doesn’t even have to be very long – just a few sentences will do. Write about something you care about, some project you’re working on that you’re proud of or just about the general state of the PHP community. It’s your blog, you write what means the most to you.

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candle in it.” – Margaret Fuller

3 comments » | Community, PHP

Speaking at Dallas TechFest 2010 – Building a Web Service API

July 27th, 2010 — 2:33pm

Just a heads up for all of those in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area – there’s a great one-day event coming up this Friday (July 31st) blending PHP, .NET, Java, new media, Joomla and WordPress into one packed day of sessions – Dallas TechFest 2010 at the University of Texas at Dallas.

I’ll be giving a session called “Building a Web Service API” from 10:30 – 11:45am in the PHP track. Here’s a summary of the session:

When is a web application more than just a web application? Hook up an API and you’ll see! I’ll walk you through the basics of what an API is and the concepts behind it as well as key pieces of technology you can use to create both the client and server. There’s a focus on PHP but other languages and tools will be touched on as well.

There’s still time to register for the event – tickets can be purchased for an early bird price (ending today) of $50 or $60 at the door. You can see the full list of sessions here.

Comment » | Community, Dallas, PHP, Presentation

An Interesting TEKX Promotion…

December 23rd, 2009 — 11:23pm

Thinking about attending a PHP conference anytime soon and looking for an offer that you can’t refuse? Check out this interesting move from the MTA folks (the group that puts on the “tek” conferences each year) for attending the TEK-X conference in the spring. The regular ticket price after the Early Bird pricing time has passed checks in at $1,000 USD per ticket. For this low, low price you get full access to the conference – tutorials and sessions for the full time of the conference. What? You don’t think that’s a good deal? Well, good – because that’s not the deal I’m talking about.

If you’re one of those folks that don’t really care about what the schedule might eventually hold and just want to reserve your spot for the conference, check out this (quite frankly, amazing) deal from the MTAers for next year’s TEK-X conference – sign up before January 6th, before the schedule is announced, and you’ll be rewarded with a 35% discount. That’s a full attendance pass for the whole week for a fraction of the cost – $650 USD. If you were planning on attending the conference anyway, it’s a win win.

There’s only one catch – there’s only 50 of these passes up for grabs so you’ll have to get in quick if you want to snag one, you’ll need to sign up quick. It’s an interesting idea from a group that’s always been keenly aware the pulse in the PHP community. Personally, I think it’s an excellent idea and only reinforces the fact that they know their target audience…PHP community members that are out there to support the community, regardless of the event. It’s nice to see a company putting so much stock in the community itself and not just in the appeal of the discount (not that it’s a bad thing!)

2 comments » | Community, PHP

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