Introducing JsQuickFix

Fans of (@phpdeveloper) or the PHPQuickFix (@phpquickfix) news feeds to keep up with some of the latest things in the PHP community, but looking for something a bit more on the Javascript side are in luck.

To compliment the PHPQuickFix site/twitter account, I’ve started up a Javascript-centric feed of hand-picked items I find in my reading that look useful/interesting/are more than just fluff – JsQuickFix (and @jsquickfix on Twitter).

This uses the same setup I have for the PHPQuickFix feed:

  • using GimmeBar as a data source
  • a simple PHP script to generate an RSS feed of the latest assets
  • Twitterfeed to pull the latest from this feed and post to Twitter

I use the Chrome extension that adds a GimmeBar icon to my toolbar and makes adding new links to these services a few simple clicks away.

To accomplish this, though, I had to shift over to using Collections instead of just pointing it at my main GimmeBar Public feed. Here’s the two collections that will grow in the future:

Enjoy! 🙂


Innovation’s Not The “Ah-Hah!”

After reading through his “Confessions of a Public Speaker” (as a beginning speaker, I learned some good things from this one – I’d suggest it if you do any kind of speaking) I was anxious to check out some of Scott Berkun’s other books. The topics of some of the others didn’t really appeal to me, but the one that’s caught my attention recently is his “Myths of Innovation” book. I’m maybe a third of the way through it right now, and there’s one thing that keeps resonating in my mind as I go through it. In a previous chapter, he makes the point that innovation, despite what the history books and popular culture would have us assume – it’s less of an “Ah-hah!” and more of a “Finally!”.

See, most of the common stories of innovators out there leave out something that’s very important – the reference frame of their lives. They don’t provide a larger picture of who someone is (like Einstein or Newton) and how all of their work, everything they’ve done in their career led up to the discoveries that they’re known for.

I think this is important to remember as software developers, too. All of us start projects and never finish them, it’s just a fact of life in the world of a coder. We find something that we either think is the “Next Big Idea” or something that we’ll find amazingly useful and latch onto it, giving it our all for a week, maybe a month. Nine times out of ten, though, that project falls by the wayside. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some folks out there that do a great job with anything they touch, but for the average developer, it’s all about hacking away at the latest “shiny”.

Sometimes it’s about the technology (“everyone’s learning Backbone.js, why shouldn’t I?”) and other times there’s a bit of pride that kicks in (“I could do this so much better if…”) but there’s always one thing to remember. It doesn’t matter if the project you’re working on goes anywhere. Remember this. Just like some of the great innovators of the past, it takes a lot of dedication and work to get to be the “Ah-hah Guy” that wows the world with something new and amazing. Don’t forget that the code of the Next Great App isn’t just going to fly from your fingertips.

Work hard at your craft and it will pay off. Maybe not in fame and glory, maybe in making real, useful contributions to the culture and technology around you. Don’t stop trying to innovate, don’t focus on the failures and, above all, keep learning and keep doing.

Ideas of March

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!

Speaking at DPC12 & a Lone Star PHP Update

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
    ExtJS is an enterprise-level Javascript framework, the Zend Framework is one of the most powerful and flexible PHP frameworks to date – its a match made in heaven. I’ll introduce you to these two technologies and how to combine them into an easy to maintain, agile application that can move as fast as your project needs. I’ll show you how to build a sample application including a frontend MVC, REST backend and unit testing the result. (Tutorial)
  • 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
    ExtJS is an enterprise-level Javascript framework, the Zend Framework is one of the most powerful and flexible PHP frameworks to date – its a match made in heaven. I’ll introduce you to these two technologies and how to combine them into an easy to maintain, agile application that can move as fast as your project needs. I’ll show you how to build a sample application including a frontend MVC, REST backend and unit testing the result. (Session)

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!

Top three posts of 2011

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

The Future of (PHP) Progress

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.

The & I

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, 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, 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 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.

“It’s Not Just About the News”

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 for the last 11 years.

In its very first form, 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 “”. I started gathering links on that page to some of my favorite PHP resources of the time – things like and, of course, the 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.

A Few Thanks

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 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 as an integral part. In fact, she has a talk coming up at Dutch PHP Conference that’s about the new version of the 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
    ( on and in the bug tracker, both in providing suggestions and in closing out issues. Joshua is also the creator of the Android 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. 🙂

The Lone Star PHP Conference

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:
On Facebook:
On Twitter: @lonestarphp