PHP Meritocracy (PHP Advent 2008)

» 16 December 2008 » In Me, PHP »

I wrote a short article for PHP Advent site, which is run by my good friend Chris Shiflett. The article is a reworked version of my This is not “American Idol” blog post.

PHP Advent was born last year and its format echoes traditional advent calendars. Each day in December an article written by someone in the PHP community is posted to the site. The topics range from technical to philosophical, and the content is excellent. The second year of PHP Advent has brought us some great posts from the likes of Marco Tabini, Paul Jones, and Ed Finkler. I  didn’t have time to contibute one last year, but I’m glad I made myself sit down over the rainy weekend and write one for this December.

I only wish the site allowed comments. Go ahead and leave them on this post, if you’d like.

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  1. andrei
    Kelvin J
    17/12/2008 at 3:03 am Permalink

    I feel that PHP has a strange hybrid elitist meritocracy. Basically, if you’re a talented C developer, then you can work hard and get to the top.

    This of course is fine, only, if you do not know C then your comments, opinions and suggestions are usually disregarded by default, as you have no way of providing a solution, only in a userland kind of way.

    I’m not knocking your post in any way, but core developers must understand how frustrating it can be for PHP professionals who find it difficult to get involved in steering the direction the language is going in.

    Maybe it would be good idea to have some kind of Userland Steering Group, to give these people a voice.

  2. andrei
    Louis-Philippe Huberdeau
    17/12/2008 at 7:33 am Permalink


    I can understand your argument, but I see a similar phenomenon elsewhere and learned to respect Andrei’s point of view. I work on a CMS written in PHP. We’re not nearly as popular as PHP itself, but we did get over 300 contributors over the years and there are a few tens of thousands of installs out there. Every once in a while (almost every day actually), some end user jumps in our discussion channels and start telling us what we should do. It’s kind of frustrating to hear these things. We know what we have to do. We don’t need someone pushing their own priorities without providing any help. People involved in the project have a different perspective on the problems and see priorities that may be invisible to outsiders.

    All open source developers either do it on their own time or are getting paid to do it. The first group follow it’s own agenda and work on their own priorities. They often have the project’s best interest at heart, but they tend to work on what they feel is important. After all, they do it on their own time. The second group follow their employer’s priorities.

    Seriously, the priorities of the guy jumping in randomly on IRC or in mailing lists fit nowhere. If you can’t invest some yourself, either in time to thoroughly describe your goals and the expected impact and to convince these freelance that it’s important, to help the community significantly to gain karma, or to hire someone to do it for you, don’t really expect things to get done magically. Someone has to put time in it.

    In the world of commercial software, they do have people to listen to end users. These people can then aggregate the opinions and steer the development. Even there, the opinion of a single person making noise does not matter so much.

  3. andrei
    17/12/2008 at 10:31 am Permalink


    Being a C developer is definitely not the only way that you can get your voice heard. I can cite a number of counter-examples, but look at the RFCs on to start with.

    Something like a Userland Steering Group might not necessarily come about, but Lukas Smith put forward in his blog post some good ideas about an organization he called emPHPower. Maybe they could use your help.

  4. andrei
    Kelvin J
    18/12/2008 at 3:10 am Permalink


    Firstly, let me say that I absolutely do respect Andrei’s point of view, not only do I respect it, I understand where he’s coming from.

    On a fundamental level, I have to disagree with your opinion. When I see the amount of trolls who bitch, moan, complain and insult other developers, I can see how you have reached that point, but I think that you have to have an open 2-way relationship with your community, the task is to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    NB: Just to clarify, I think the bloke who randomly jumps in on IRC demanding to be heard is probably chaff.


    Thanks for the heads up. That looks interesting, similar to what the WHATWG setup to tackle HTML5.

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