Advice for aspiring PHP developers

As a fledgling PHP developer, I aspired to be in the same league as legendary figures like Cal Evans, Chris Hartjes, Larry Garfield, Anthony Ferrara, Paul Jones, Sebastian Bergmann, Taylor Otwell, et al. I consider these folks members of PHP's inner sanctum, so to speak. They are decision makers, tool builders, and opinion shapers. I wanted to become good enough to sit at the same table as these lofty idols and contribute to a common good. In many ways I succeeded. Through good fortune and chance, I wrote a book for O'Reilly Media. I started a project that blossomed into a worldwide community initiative to distribute good information to PHP developers around the globe. I've sat at the same table as my heroes.

My advice to aspiring PHP developers: there is no great Wizard of OZ. There are only opinionated men and women behind a veil of authority who bicker of politics and standards. It's not magical. It's messy. It's a minefield of polarizing politics, sensitivities, and opinions.

At a certain point, you cannot share an opinion without someone, somewhere, taking what you say the wrong way. I often times forget the power and responsibility that comes with having many Twitter followers. It's still new to me in many ways. I treat Twitter as if it's a small group of folks to whom I can speak freely and off-the-cuff about whatever pops into my head. Twitter is my stream of consciousness, for better and for worse.

The other day I commented on a tweet from Paul Jones. Paul linked to a repository's contributor guidelines document. This document stated that it did not want pull requests that used type hints or the PSR-2 code style. These contributor guidelines were, in fact, an antithesis of all that I knew to be true and good.

So I tweeted this:

"Ultimately, go forth and code how you want to code. However, IMHO the guidelines in this doc are awful."

My tweet commented only on the contributor guidelines. I did not look at the repository code, and I did not know who created the repository. I saw something with which I fundamentally disagreed, and I tweeted as much. I made sure to clarify that one is free to code how she sees fit, but the guidelines being applied in this circumstance were indeed quite awful in my mind.

Had I known that my words would inflame tender sensitivities, I would have selected my words more carefully. Instead of "awful", perhaps I would have chosen "not good" or "definitely not what I would do". In hindsight, "awful" carried a stronger connotation than I intended. Remember, aspiring PHP developers, words matter.

I stand by my words, though. My opinion is unchanged. Those guidelines are certainly not what I would do. As a leader in the PHP community, I believe it is my duty to help aspiring PHP developers recognize information I believe to be good. It is also my duty to point out information that I believe to be not good.

Aspiring PHP developers, ask many of my fellow PHP colleagues and they'll tell you I try to stay above the fray of inner sanctum squabbling. It's petty. It's nonsensical. Apparently my tweet inflamed fresh wounds from another war, and the repository owner and his cohorts reacted with zeal. I kicked the Laravel beehive, unbeknownst to me, and I was swarmed with bile, hatred, and threats. Taylor Otwell even called me an asshole (I need to get t-shirts made). Aspiring PHP developers, words matter.

I didn't respond in kind. It's beneath me. It's not worth my time. It's not worth the stress. I immediately deactivated my Twitter account to focus my energy elsewhere.

Aspiring PHP developers, stay above the fray. Don't seek out a Wizard of OZ. He does not exist. PHP's inner sanctum isn't worth your time. Instead, do your research, recognize and avoid propaganda, and trailblaze your own path.