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PHP and Community

Dear Reader,

Recently, I wrote a blog post for the Ibuildings blog titled “PHP Rated Top Scripting Language by Evans Data Corp“. In it, I discuss the various aspects of a report published about Dynamic Languages. Overall, PHP came out the top rated language, however, in community, PHP ranked second. By their own admission, this was a subjective and not objective measurement.

Community is a bit more subjective. For example, the Ruby community is quite small but also very dedicated and vocal.

The quote is dead on, the PHP community is not as impassioned about converting every developer to PHP, we don’t feel the need to. PHP is a tool. Those of us that use it daily think it’s the best tool for the job that we are working on, but it is only a tool.

The PHP community has matured to the point where we don’t feel the need to be Zealots. We can respect other languages as good at what they do, even if the developers in other communities don’t offer the same respect back. You needn’t look farther than this week’s post by Joe Stagner, purporting to prove that ASP.NET is faster than PHP in most operations. The PHP community took this in stride because we understand that ASP.NET has its uses and there are situations where it is the better choice. I am proud of the PHP community because no one (as Joe supposed we would) raised the battle flag and flamed him, calling him a Microsoft shill.

Yes, the PHP community is maturing, that is not to say we have lost our passion for our favorite tool though. We still get up in arms when we feel that we are being maligned. In the not too distant past, CIO Magazine felt our collective wrath for an obviously biased article. Even then though, for the most part, the PHP community’s response as a whole was levelheaded. To CIO Magazine’s credit, they responded by allowing a member of the PHP community to write a rebuttal and published it as well.

So if the criterion for being the language with the number 1 community is having to resort to juvenile language, I’m glad we weren’t number 1. I’ll gladly sit and have a drink with the rest of the 4.6 million PHP developers worldwide and have a civil conversation. It’s enough for me to be a part of the biggest, the coolest and the friendliest community.

The question then becomes “Why is the PHP community so strong?” Other languages, commercial and open source, have come and gone but few, if any, have ever built a community as wide and as deep as PHP. I think the answer is simple. The PHP community has a healthy mix of core developers and evangelists as its core leadership.

Some languages only recognize their core developers as community leaders. In other language communities, the core developers set themselves apart from the community and do not actively participate in it. PHP is blessed with both core developers that want to be a part of the community as well as a vocal group of volunteer evangelists. Each group recognizes the importance of the other and instead of a struggle for the heart of the community, they work together to form the heart of the community. I would list names for each group but invariably I would leave someone out and that would be a shame. Each of you active in the community, core or evangelist, know who you are and in case I haven’t said so lately, thank you for your efforts.

There is, however, always room for more. Until all 4.6 million PHP developers are active in the community, there is always a seat at the table. If you are a PHP developer – junior level, architect level or just a weekend warrior – I urge you to get involved.

  • Start a blog and write about what you have learned. Trust me, if you put up something that isn’t accurate, someone will some along and correct you. That’s a win for everyone.
  • Hang out on irc and help answer questions. Even junior level developers know something. You don’t have to know everything, just the answer to one person’s question. Showing you are willing to help buys you a lot of good will when you are the one that needs the help.
  • Start submitting patches. PHPArchitect has a great T-Shirt for sale that says it all “Less Bitching, More Fixing”. Roll your sleeves up, pick a bug and submit a patch.
  • Submit to speak at a conference. Every developer I’ve ever met has been passionate about an idea. Next time you see a call for papers, submit a talk on your passion. Don’t submit for or five different ideas that you “could” talk on but aren’t really excited about, submit one really good one that you are passionate about.

The most important thing though is get involved. If you use PHP on a regular basis then you are working off the volunteer effort of thousands of developers worldwide. If you learned PHP by reading blogs and tutorials online then you learned PHP thanks to the volunteer effort of hundreds of thousands of developers worldwide. Now that you are one of us, it’s time to do your part. Give back, so that the next person in line has one more voice to learn from.

Until next time,
I <3 |< =C=

7 thoughts on “PHP and Community

  1. I enjoyed this. I love PHP and it’s community. There are always people that will help you with your problems – Stackoverflow, IRC (#zftalk,#php) and mailing lists.

    Sometimes, I don’t get people laughing/bitching at PHP. I am not able to put myself in their mindset. For about 3 years of serious usage with PHP, it always manages to impress me.

    And for Zend Framework, I would marry it if it was human :P

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I’ve programmed in other languages but the community is something that drew me to PHP, helped me grow into the programmer I am today, and will keep me here sharing all that I know for a long time to come.

  3. Cal,

    I must admit to being very impressed. Very few weenies and not all of them from the PHP camp (there are ASP.NETer weenies out there too.)

    Thaks for the mention – hopefully I’ll have the next set opf perf tests (with caching) up in a week or so.


  4. Cal,

    I’d suggest one other way to get involved: seek out your local PHP User Group and participate! We’re also on the front lines and have to operate with little (if any) budget or sponsorship.

  5. @C. Jacobson

    D’OH! An excellent suggestion. I totally forgot about that one. Thanks for bringing it getting involved with your local PHP User Group.


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