I spoke Tuesday morning at the Zend/PHP Conference & Expo in San Jose. I was kind of overloaded and only had four hours among the PHP gang, but it was instructive, particularly in the context of my recent RubyConf experience.
The conference was exhaustively blogged by John Bafford; judging by his report of the panel I was on, I’d say this is good accurate stuff. I’d report that panel, but I don’t need to because Paul Krill did, very nicely.
PHP Culture in Bullets · Let’s assume that this conference is representative of PHP culture. I don’t use bullet points in my conference talks any more, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything intrinsically wrong with them:
Everyone in the leadership has an accent falling somewhere in the MittelEuropa-to-Israel spectrum.
They worry about performance a lot, all the time. Every speaker without exception stressed the performance angle of whatever they’re doing.
There are more women, maybe around 20%.
There was a guy in the plenary carrying a skateboard over his shoulder.
They had 550 attendees.
There was good old fashioned conference schwag in the conference bag; a cool flashing yo-yo and a deck of playing cards. My seven-year-old has both.
Andi Gutmans said “the right way to think about PHP is as Visual Basic for the Web.”
They had no trouble putting together a plenary panel with representatives from Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, MySQL, and IBM.
Unicode support is shaky, but they take the problem seriously and plan to fix it in PHP6, in what looks to me like a smart way.
PHP and Microsoft · Right now, a lot of PHP developers develop but don’t deploy on Windows; apparently there are real performance and reliability issues. Microsoft has noticed this; they sent the excellent Bill Hilf to the conference, and are spending money and resources to fix the problem. For example, IIS is getting a PHP-friendly FastCGI add-on.
PHP and Ruby · In the plenary Q&A, one question was “ActiveRecord for PHP?” and another was “What do you think of Rails?” The answer to the first was more or less, “We’re not convinced that’s an appropriate direction” and to the second was frankly snotty: “Ruby is appropriate for computer-science-loving people who have a puristic [sic] attitude”.
On Stacks · My impression is that most LAMP apps are deployed on a catch-as-catch-can stack, the integrator putting together an OS/database infrastructure depending on local standards and conditions. I get the feeling that quite a few vendors would like to be in the business of selling integrated stacks and are trying to build a case that that’s what people should be deploying. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
I’m not sure; one of LAMP’s big strengths is that it offers excellent freedom to leave. To the extent that you commit to someone’s integrated stack, you may compromise that. On the other hand, removing integration friction has to be a good thing.
My Opinion · PHP has had a lot of successes and has a vigorous, aggressive culture. I don’t think Sun is doing enough to support it.