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:

Mark de Visser, Andi Gutmans, Zeev Suraski

Mark de Visser, Andi Gutmans, and Zeev Suraski of Zend. The name “Zend” is derived from Andi and Zeev.

  • 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.

Bill Hilf

Bill Hilf of Microsoft.

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”.

Andi Gutmans and Andrei Zmievski

Andi Gutmans with Andrei Zmievski, who’s leading the charge on adding Unicode to PHP6.

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.



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From: PatrickQG (Nov 02 2006, at 00:15)

...and to the second was frankly snotty: “Ruby is appropriate for computer-science-loving people who have a puristic [sic] attitude”..

Snotty is right. From someone who earns his living coding PHP, I know which of the two I'd much rather be using (hint: this comment brought to you by the letter R). PHP could learn a lot from ruby, and I wish it would. A decent ActiveRecord implementation for PHP would be excellent - I use the one from rails in all sorts of places (in a number of ruby "shell" scripts for example), and while I've tried the implementation in Cake it didn't feel as natural as it does in RoR.

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From: Pierre Phaneuf (Nov 02 2006, at 06:04)

PHP has a definitive, hmm, immature feel to it, I'd say. Language design by poking around, for example, that makes Perl look like a "puristic" language for computer-science-loving people. A Visual Basic for the web, yeah, that's just what I needed, just like shooting myself in the head. ;-)

http://www.advogato.org/person/pphaneuf/diary.html?start=233

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From: Gunnar Howdy Tim, You forgot one bullet point, I submit "PHP and Security" errr...."PHP Insecurity". Last time I checked PHP is a web technology, and as Dan Geer pointed out on the Internets "every sociopath is your next door neighbor" Anyhow, I would direct you to none other than OWASP's director Andrew van der Stock's experiences with PHP Insecurity entitled "Failure of Leadership", choices excerpts below: "After writing PHP forum software for three years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is basically impossible for normal programmers to write secure PHP code. It takes far too much effort. PHP needs a proper security architecture, and support for newbie programmers. PHP’s raison d’etre is that it is simple to pick up and make it do something useful. There needs to be a major push by the PHP Development team to take this advantage, and make it safe for the likely level of programmers - newbies. Newbies have zero chance of writing secure software unless their language is safe." http://www.greebo.net/?p=320 & http://www.greebo.net/?cat=18 That was last January, want to guess how many issues have been resolved? It is super fun to bash on the WS-* guys, after all it is so much *harder* to get that stuff running supposedly, nad I guess it is harder to build houses whose doors have locks on them, but you know what? Those suckers spent some time building security mechanisms into their framework. How web technologies don't have security as a first principle IN FREAKING 2006 is way beyond me. I will leave you with the words of Brian Snow (former NSA ADET) "We will be in a truly dangerous stance, we will think we are secure (and act accordingly) when in fact we are not." Time for PHP to grow up and get on the road to assurance. http://1raindrop.typepad.com/1_raindrop/2005/12/the_road_to_ass.html (Nov 02 2006, at 06:49)

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From: Anne (Nov 02 2006, at 08:22)

Interesting writeup, lots to think about/investigate.

More women than at rubyconf you mean? Wonder why that might be. Probably easier for women to get into PHP usage because you run into it more outside the context of being a diehard coder. I've never used Ruby but have used PHP quite a bit, because of WordPress and because a free chat I installed once relied on it.

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