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Ideas of March

Dear Reader,

As part of Chris Shiflett’s “Ideas of March” project, I have spent a good deal of time today thinking about why I read blogs. Sadly, I came to the conclusion that I don’t actually read many blogs; I skim blogs. I skim a lot of them. It’s not that the writer did something wrong, it is just that because a strong “content strategy” is so important these days that I find most blog posts mechanical and uninteresting. There are exceptions, most of my technical friends write about things they have discovered. I read those because I want to know what they discovered and want to understand what they are working on.

So how does that bode for my blog? Well, in thinking this through I began thinking that if I don’t blog as a “content strategy” – and so help me God, I try not to – why do I blog and why do people read my blog. When I blog – I mean the blog posts I really love – it’s because I’m working through something. It’s more for me than anyone else. Those blog posts are my favorite but are rarely ever read by anyone else. Posts like:

Those are some of my favorites and I am guessing none of you have ever read any of them. (Don’t bother now; unless you are me, they aren’t very interesting.)

On the other hand, when I blog as part of a “content strategy” I end up with things post like this.

Those posts – and a lot of the stuff I see written these days – should be tagged as “stating the obvious” so that Google can filter them out of their index.

The most interesting blog posts I read – the reason I keep skimming blogs – are the ones where I learn something about someone. Those posts I read and sometimes re-read. Those post help me understand the writer, help me experience their journey, and help me glimpse life – even if for a moment – from their point of view. That’s insight I can’t get on twitter or Facebook. That’s as close to getting to know someone as I can get without sitting and sharing a coffee with them.

Those posts are worth my time to read.

I will do my best, dear reader, to write more. I can’t promise that it will be interesting but I do promise not to write just for the sake of creating content.

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

Top three posts of 2011

Dear Reader,

Assuming this post does not take off like wildfire and get more than 10 views, here are the top 3 most viewed posts on this blog in 2011 as reported by Google Analytics.

#3: 5 Tools Every PHP Developer Should Master

If you know me, you know that PHP is my passion. Talking about PHP is fun, working with PHP is fun, helping others work with PHP is fun. Heck, I love PHP so much that I’ve worked it so that my day job for the last 3 years has been working with PHP and developers.

Over the past nine years of having fun with PHP, began to see that there are five categories of tools that I rely on more than any others. Sure, I’ve got a code beautifier, a standards checker, and a hand full of hand-written scripts I use for various things to make life easier. However when it comes down to it, there are five that I rely on every day.

So here they are in acceding order of importance. Let me know, what are your five? (let’s not start a meme or anything though, ok?)

#2:Four reasons why Drupal should fork PHP

I attended my first DrupalCon earlier this year and was amazed by the fact that I was surrounded by people who were using a project built on top of PHP – a project I dearly love – and many had no idea. In fact, out of 3,000 people in attendance, I ran into 2 members of what most of us consider “the PHP community”. Granted, I didn’t meet everyone but I did expect to run into more PHP developers. What I discovered throughout the ‘Con was that there are many developers there that are intimately familiar with PHP but identify with Drupal; they are Drupal developers, not PHP developers.

With that thought in mind, I began to think back to MSWDC’09. A discussion “erupted” there during one of the sessions that was quite telling. A core PHP developer challenged a core Drupal developer with the statement “What would happen if development stopped on PHP tomorrow?” The Drupal developer retorted “Then we would move Drupal to another language.” The room got quiet for a second as what he said sunk in. The Drupal core is interested in Drupal, if PHP becomes a pain-point for them, they feel they can switch to something less painful.

That conversation (which went on for a while longer) has stuck with me. Drupal is obviously an important project. The United States Government has begun adopting it at the highest levels, major sports leagues are adopting it, and yet it is still available for local businesses to use. Obviously moving the functionality – not to mention the existing userbase – to a new language would be a herculean task; but what if the new language was just a version of the old. What if Drupal forked PHP and began working on its own version?

With that thought in mind, I began to think hard about reasons they would want to do this. Here are the four best I came up with.

#1:Dynamically loading images from the web in Flex 3

This weekend’s Flex project was more successful that last weeks. At least the code has survived this far without me declaring it a bust and moving on to the next project.

This week’s project involves (among other things) calling an API that returns a graphic and then displaying it on-screen. Being the Flex neophyte I am, I assumed that this was a simple call to HTTPService. Unfortunately, as I found out, that won’t work. HTTPService is designed specifically to work with APIs that return specific types of data.

There you go, a little bit for everyone. Some PHP, some controversy, and some Flex. Honestly, it does surprise me that an almost 2 year old Flex article is still #1. I think I need to start blogging more. :)

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

No Shortage of Opinions

Dear Reader,

I’m a Guest Blogger

If you know me personally, follow me on twitter, read my blog or attend conferences I’m at, you know that I am never at a loss for an opinion. A couple of weeks ago, “Don” Marco Tabini pinged me on IM and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He asked me if I wanted to be a guest blogger for phparch.com. I’m not sure he knew what he was getting into because I wrote one a day for 5 days. Obviously though, he liked at least some of what I had to say because he has posted three of them already.
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Three Lists I Never Want to See Again

Dear Reader,

Lists are all the rave these days for bloggers. The reason is obvious, they require very little thought or research to create. So, in keeping with the current trend, here is my list of three lists never want to see again.

3: 5,000 PHP classes and tutorials

Please, write about either classes or tutorials, doing both together means that all you did was put PHP into google, scraped the first 5,000 links and published. Seriously, classes and tutorials are not related, they are separate categories. Why would you feel the need to combine these? Even if you did, it’s already been done to death. I think we can safely say that until after the Mayan calendar ends and he sun explodes, we don’t need another list of PHP classes or tutorials. If you really want to keep up with the latest good tutorials in PHP, check out sites like phpdeveloper.org. Those guys do a great job of finding the best and they never feel the need to give me a list of the Top X.

2: 50 new PHP tricks you didn’t know, didn’t want to know, and will get you fired if you ever use them on the job

Yes there are a lot of ways to do things in PHP, some of them are good, some of them are bad. Some of them are so incredibly bad that recommending them should automatically trigger an Internet worm that formats your hard drive. My favorite tip in bad category is people “discovering” that IF statements don’t have to have curly braces. People, there is a reason we don’t tell new programmers this, it’s a bad idea!

1: Top PHP Frameworks

Look, I know a new PHP framework is born every 12.3 seconds but seriously, there are only a handful of them that will gain enough of a community to become viable. Of those, most change less than once a quarter, even though it feels like they tag a new release nightly. It’s great that you have discovered that PHP has frameworks and googled to find all of them. However, since google has 15,000,000 hits on the search term php frameworks it is safe to assume that you aren’t the first to discover them.

Conclusion

I love the blogosphere. I can find opinions from people I respect and new ideas from friends I’ve not yet met. Whenever I see a list though, I think “someone needed a post and didn’t know what to write”.

If you are using a new PHP class, CMS, framework, or have a new technique you want to share, share it. Write a blog post and tell me how or why it solved your problem; bonus points if you describe the problem that it solved. You are not adding to the conversation is you are just recapping what others have said.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

Seven Things – Tagged by Matthew Weier O’Phinney

Dear Reader,

I’m really curious about the origins of the Seven Things Meme. Anybody know where it started? Anyhow, I’ve been tagged by my friend Matthew Weier O’Phinney so I’ll play along. (It forces me to blog, something I’ve not done a lot of in the past 6 months)

  • My super power is thinking up titles for things
    Everybody has a super power, some of us just have to look harder than others to find them. Luckily for me, mine manifested itself early in life, I am good at making up titles. It doesn’t matter what needs a title, I can look at something or hear an idea and come up with a title for it. (examples would be this blog you are reading, or this one, or this one) Unfortunately for me, it’s not a power I can control. They either come to me, or they don’t. So if you are ever stuck coming up with a title for something, ping me.
  • I wrote my own PHP framework.
    Ok, so who hasn’t? The only difference is that I wrote a PHP framework back in 2001. Apparently, SourceForge doesn’t clean out it’s closets often because it’s still there. The name of the project is a good example of how my super power doesn’t always work. (Matthew, you are not allowed to laugh at my code, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel)
  • I didn’t have to take English 101 because I wrote a perfect paper
    This one will come as a surprise to anyone who followed DevZone closely. I can’t spell and I regularly butcher the English language. Names are my specialty. Give me a name and I’ll show you at least 3 alternate spellings. However, when I started college at the University of South Alabama, my first class was English 101. The first day, the assignment was to write a paper on what you did that summer. I turned mine in and the next day I was informed that I had passed the class because there were no grammatical or spelling errors in the paper. No one was more surprised than my mother, an English teacher. :)
  • I want a tattoo
    I’ve wanted a tattoo for some time to complete my mid-life crisis. Kathy even designed me one but she won’t finish it up. Her design centers around “Property of Kathy” written in Tengwar.) (Do me a favor, drop @kateva a note on twitter and encourage her to finish it.)
  • I used to produce live concert videos
    I wore a lot of hats before I donned the battered Fedora and started writing about PHP. A few years ago, that hat was a beret because I was in “the biz”. I produced over 40 live concert videos. Most of them were for Southern Gospel groups but I did a couple of contemporary Christian groups and even two comedy videos. I’ve moved on now and while I love programming computers, I can honestly say that producing videos are some of the most fun and yet the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.
  • I met The Lovely and Talented Kathy while we were both working at Walt Disney World
    The year I graduated high school, Walt Disney World opened EPCOT Center. That summer, they went on a hiring spree to staff up for the fall opening. It was during this spree that I sneaked in, with the help of a couple of nice ladies who went to church with my grandparents. I was hired into “Cash Control”, basically, the bank for all of the stores in the park. (For those that care, it’s in “the tunnel” directly beneath the Carousel.) On my first day in Cash Control, I met The Lovely and Talented Kathy and knew I was going to marry her. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite see it that way. (I was a mere child of 18 at the time and she was…well a year or two older than me) One night, after we closed the park and then closed Bennigin’s, her car wouldn’t start. With a straight face and more than one Banana Banshee in her, she looked at me and said “Hey, my car won’t start, will you ride home under the hood and hold the distributor cap on?” The sad thing is that I was so smitten with her that I would have done it. That’s ok, she eventually came around…or I wore her down, I’m not sure.
  • I got my job at Zend quite by accident
    Back when I was at Jupiter Hosting, I actually had time to write some code. I didn’t get to write a lot, but between meetings and other management crap, my team would take pity on me and give me a small project to chew on. One of the projects I wrote (I forget which one) I thought was pretty good. There was this company named Zend that had a code repository (it’s gone now) and I wanted to submit the project to it. I submitted the project and waited…and waited…and waited. After about 2 days of hearing nothing, I started emailing people asking what was up. I ended up talking to Jayons Minard who told me no one was managing the repository anymore, so I volunteered. I ended up managing it for about 4 months while I was working at a small start-up back in Nashville.

    When the start-up went tits-up, I started doing contract work until I found something I liked. One of the contracts I started working on was this new site that Zend was building and Jayson was in charge of, DevZone. One thing led to another and after about 3 months of working on contract for Zend, and constantly asking Jayson if there were any positions open at Zend, I got an email from him. He said that Mark de Visser, his boss, would be in Nashville the next week for a Red Hat conference and wanted to interview me. I had a great interview with him and had an offer letter in my email in box when I got back home.

    It was probably the weirdest journey to a job that I’ve ever traveled, but it was worth it. :)

Ok, there are my Seven Things. Now for my Seven People. I think this part may be harder than the seven things.

  • The Lovely and Talented Kathy – She will have to post her entry here because she’s yet to join the blogger nation.
  • Mark de Visser – The best boss I ever had and the man who taught me the value of a community to an open source project.
  • Louis Davidson – My long time friend whom I talk to maybe once a year but think about every day.
  • Joe Stagner – Because if more people at Microsoft were like him, it would be a much cooler place.
  • Allen Fuller – Who if he doesn’t already know Keith Casey, probably should.
  • Sebastian Bergman – the official photographer of the PHP community.
  • Christian Flickinger – Spooooooooooooon!

And now, the rules:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=