It’s March 15th and you know what that means….only a month left for the procrastinators to do their taxes in the US. Well, actually, that’s not what I’m really talking about here. Last year a whole host of people write up posts titled “Ideas of March” and this year’s no different. Several members of the PHP community are jumping in with there thoughts on blogging – here’s some of mine.
Blogging is great, don’t get me wrong…I love it when I can Google for something and find that someone, somewhere has done exactly what I need. This historical record of shared knowledge is one of the things that makes the web great. Of course, it can also sometimes do more harm than good. “But I thought you were going to write about how blogging is a good thing,” you ask. Well, I believe it inherently is, but with a few caveats:
Blogs are only as good as their authors:
Not everyone out there is a clear, excellent writer (I know I’m not) and, as a result, sometimes the message of a post can get lost in poor wording. What’s a solution to this? Blog more often! That’s right, it’s just like anything else – the more you do something, the better at it you get. You start getting into a certain frame of mind when you’re fingers to the keys and you learn little “mind tricks” (no Jedi here) on how to best get your message across. You don’t have to be an amazing writer to be a clear one.
Dates, Versions & Code:
This one’s a tough one, especially for us tech bloggers. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve found what I thought I needed in my Google results only to go over to a post and discover that I have no idea when it was written. The URL gives no clue and there’s not a date to be found. This drives me nuts and if your blog dosen’t have dates on the post, go change that. Right now. I’ll wait here.
Additionally, something that can make for a lot less frustration for people coming to your posts later are two things – somehow tagging or mentioning what version of a language the post relates to (“this post was written against PHP 5.2.5″) and trying to keep the code up to date. Yes, I know this second request requires a bit more commitment on your part, but people would sing your praises if you took the time to do it. Even if it’s just an update to a post that say, “I found a better way to do this…” in a more recent version of the language/tool.
More than just a “brain dump”:
I’ve seen several people use their blogs as a sort of “brain dump” – a place for them to post things that they just want to remember later on. This is all well and good, but don’t forget that blogs aren’t just about code snippets and tutorials. Sometimes you need to share a bit about you and what you’re passionate about too. Take some time to sit and reflect on what you do on a daily basis and think about how knowing that process could help others. I’d encourage you to write not only code-related posts, but also keep the rest of the world up to date on the interesting things you’re doing. Nothing builds communities like people sharing more than just code.
Finally, I’d like to end this post jammed full of suggestions with one final challenge – get out there and share. My recommendations aside, if all you do is write up one or two posts this month (and keep going) with a few paragraphs each, I think the web would be a better place. Sharing knowledge is what it’s all about and if you discover something, no matter how small, you could be sharing exactly what someone needs. Remember, just because you think it’s simple, doesn’t mean someone new to the tech does….get out there and share!
For those that know me, you know I’ve been working here at SoftLayer for about the last year and a half. I’ve definitely enjoyed my time here, it’s time to move on. My last day here will be a week from today. Following that I’ll be moving over to another local Dallas company called iSight Partners where I’ll be using some of the skills I’ve learned here at SoftLayer to help improve their current application set and create new, easier ways for their customers to consume the reports and data the company generates.
Here’s a description of the company from their website:
iSIGHT Partners specializes in physical, electronic and human intelligence services. We provide reliable and actionable threat intelligence to our clients’ security and fraud investigation teams, which helps them proactively counteract all phases of criminal electronic and physical attacks against digital assets.
Our suite of products complements our customers’ Risk Mitigation Teams by alerting them to emerging threats that require action and providing guidance during critical incidents. Our intelligence sources help IT teams prioritize their workflow and ensure that they are working on the most important threats and vulnerabilities first. (They can work hard on an issue all day, but if it’s not the right issue, their time is wasted and your company is put at risk.)
I’d also like to publicly thank a few folks at SoftLayer before I go:
- First off my team who’ve taught me a lot about not only the technology we use but how to be (and not be) a leader: Stephen Johnson, Dan Hudlow, Adam Shaw, Varrence Minor, Allan Siongco, Richard Morgan, Shahmir Noorani, Steve Bartnesky, Kevin Holland, Diana Harrelson, Theo Shu and our epic QA folks – David Borne, Jaime Barriga, Reynaldo Guzman and Janeth Paredes.
- Next comes Duke Skarda who has graciously allowed the Dallas PHP User Group to meet here at the SoftLayer offices (and provided us with food and drinks everytime!)
- To Logan Reese and Kelly Morphis for mentoring me when I started with the company and for being there as excellent sources with all the answers
If you’re looking around for a good PHP shop to work at in the Dallas area, you’d do well to take a look at the openings that SoftLayer currently has (personally I suggest the “Interface Development” option…that’s the group I’ve been working in and it’s been a fun one).
Well, I’ve been a little lazy around here and haven’t posted since the beginning of the year. I figured I’d fix that by posting an update about a few things going on around here.
First off, since the schedule was just released, I’ll mention that I’ll be presenting at this year’s Dutch PHP Conference with three different sessions (well, kind of just two):
- Agile Applications with ExtJS and Zend Framework
- The API Dilema
Creating a good, useful and functional API for your application can be one of the most difficult parts of a project. With more and more things becoming API-powered, it’s important to plan well and provide what the user expects. I’ll look at some principles you can follow to make sure the API you write is the right one, both from the developer perspective and what you, as a user, should expect of a quality web service API. (Session)
- Agile Applications with ExtJS and Zend Framework
No, I didn’t repeat myself – the first session and the last session are on the same topics – they’re just different lengths. The tutorial on the first day will get more into coding and examples of ExtJS+ZF and the second shorter session will just give a high level overview of each tool and how they hook together. If you’re interested in the “guts” of an Ext-based app, you’d do better in the Tutorial.
Also, for those that don’t know me, I’m a co-organizer of the Dallas PHP User Group. Last year we decided to put on a local PHP-centric event and it was a great success. So, we’re back this year with the Lone Star PHP Conference 2012. We’ve just wrapped up our Call for Papers and are in the process of selecting the best fits for our schedule.
We’ll be announcing the schedule and opening the registration soon, so keep an eye out on the Lone Star PHP conference site for more updates!
With a nod to this post from Cal Evans, I’m presenting my own “Top Three” posts from 2011, in order of descending popularity:
- I don’t understand the 9-to-5:
This one is easily the tops of the popularity list…thanks to another PHP community member, this one made the front page of Hacker News for a little while and received almost five thousand hits in a day. My poor little slice didn’t know what hit it. I scrambled to put up something – anything – to be able to keep the site alive. Ultimately I ended up rendering a static version of the page to a buffer and manually refreshing it as new comments came in and were approved (39 of them!)
The post was basically my views on developers who are genuinely interested in the work that they do and the ones that are more of the clock-in/clock-out coders that just “do the job”. There were tons of comments that both agreed and disagreed…and several that basically told me I needed to get a life or must not have kids (I have both, thankyouverymuch).
- Process Oriented versus Product Driven:
This post was actually a quote from an interesting book on architecture and some of the things the author had learned during his time in school. This particular nugget of wisdom shows the difference between letting your work drive you and, instead, learning how to drive and shape what you do into something even better.
- How long is too long (for unit test names)?:
This fun little post was a log of some tweets after I asked “how long is too long for a method name in a unit test”? It’s common to see things like “testValueIsValidInternalUrl” or “testUserCanExecuteTransaction” kinds of names so I wondered what other people’s experience with it was. One interesting point that came up was the use of “testdox” to translate out the name into something more readable.
These were just the most popular ones added in 2011…there’s a few others that were popular but were posted previously (like pdo+oracle and php+mq).
Hope your holidays were/are good and here’s to another great year of blogging and PHP community!
UPDATE: Besides Cal, other PHP community members are getting into the spirit – Matthew Turland, Joe Devon, Bradley Holt
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.
I recently set up a new Twitter account that shares links to some of the smaller stories I come across in my news reading for PHPDeveloper.org called @phpquickfix. I recently had started playing with Gimme Bar more and wondered how easy it’d be to set it up as a backend repository for some links. Thanks to some hints from other blog posts, it was super easy to set up a “one click syndication” system that combines Gimme Bar, Twitterfeed and a little bit of PHP.
Here’s how it’s set up:
- I have an account for the PHP Quick Fix over on Gimme Bar here. I use their Chrome extension (and sometimes the bookmarklet) to grab the pages that I want to add.
- There’s a little PHP script I put together that does a few things – first, if the cached json from the Gimme Bar feed is out of date, it grabs it and wgets the latest from their API. Then it parses this json and outputs it as a simple RSS feed. You can see the result here.
- Finally, we add Twitterfeed into the mix – it pulls from the RSS feed and posts it to Twitter automatically.
The end result is a system where I can click “Gimme the Page” to my public collection and let the services do the rest. There’s no automation in the link selection – it’s all chosen with my own “human aggregation system”. I think it’s a pretty simple solution to the problem – plus it has the added benefit of making a good collection of hand-picked PHP resources for anyone to pull from.
UPDATE: You can also directly access the PHP Quick Fix posts over on it’s feed: http://phpquickfix.me/feed.
Since my role has changed over the past few months away from being a pure developer to a lead of an agile (scrum) group here, I’ve started blogging some about my experiences over at The Accidental ScrumMaster:
Let me start off by saying this – I have been a developer for just about all of my professional career (with some syadmin and networking tossed in to spice things up). I’ve helped to lead other developers in projects where we were focused on just the software and didn’t have to worry too much about outside forces. At my current job, this has changed. Over the last few months, due to some changes in staffing (read that as “people moved on”) holes were left in the team for certain roles. Before those people transitioned out of their jobs, they started to approach me with some of the responsibilities they had and showed me the ropes.
Suddenly I wasn’t just another developer anymore – I was the person managing our Jira project, I was the one doing the code merges and releases and I was the one tracking the progress of the project on a day to day basis.
I hope what I post there can be beneficial to other developers out there who find themselves with extra the responsibilities of making agile happen in their jobs.