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PHP Depends On You

Out Of Date Warning

Languages change. Perspectives are different. Ideas move on. This article was published on August 25, 2009 which is more than two years ago. It may be out of date. You should verify that technical information in this article is still current before relying upon it for your own purposes.

Anyone who reads my frequent pleas to involve yourself in the community knows that I’m a big fan of community development of open source projects. PHP is one of the world’s largest open source projects. And if I haven’t convinced you yet that you need to contribute, perhaps this will help encourage you.

Professionals (those who make their living from open source) owe it to the open source communities they utilize to give back. Anything less is akin to stealing – be it time, talent or treasure – from the community that keeps them in business.

That may sound harsh but consider: people who write open source software generally aren’t paid to do it. There are a few exceptions (some people are paid to write WordPress or the Zend Framework, for example). But the core of PHP is contributed by people who are solely interested in making PHP better for their professional endeavors. Not contributing to their efforts is like showing up at a potluck without bringing a dish. Not cool.

Contribution to the community doesn’t have to be in the form of writing a patch or a new extension for PHP, or releasing some massive open source project. No, it can be as simple as contributing to the documentation, or submitting a bug report. We all come across bugs – if we don’t report them, no one can fix them! Each of us has something to contribute, if only we choose to do so. And when we contribute, we owe it to the community to do so in a full, complete way – submitting usable bug reports or documentation, for example.

The community exists because people choose to contribute. Giving back isn’t a matter of charity, but a matter of the survival of the product or project you use every single day. It’s not really optional, but it is easy. I’m personally wary of those who opt not to give back, if only because it makes me question how genuinely they appreciate and understand the product they’re using.

So file a bug report or write some documentation today. You’ll feel good, the community will benefit, and the whole ecosystem gets healthier. Remember: PHP depends on people just like you.

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Sebs (@phptestfest) wrote at 8/25/2009 6:29 am:

As much as i agree with you i don’t with the tone and especially and i don’t agree with the part on “stealing”. I have never seen the part of the php license that says that we have to submit anything when we use it.
Writing in such a tone will not encourage anybody, it just makes it easier for you to argument. So if you want to encourage people to do something, and especially the millions of companies using php and earning money, you have to find good arguments and not rant them with “you steal”.

If you consider how hard it in fact is to contribute something or get enough karma to contribute easy, it makes the post even more questionable. How many people reading this post have seen the “bogus”-hammer before and stopped contributing bugreports?
I dont say it’s phps fault, no, there is a reason and its simply the effective managing of great numer of reports based on missunderstandings how php works. BUT: Enouraging people looks different than this post.

My Boss told me to prepare a paper how we interact good with open source project and how we can generate a win win situation on both sides by submitting (correct) bugreports. Maybe i can ask him to hand the paper out to the public when it’s done. When it comes to money or savings in spendings, companies always have a open ear. ;)

tobias382 (@elazar) wrote at 8/25/2009 7:52 am:

Can’t disagree entirely with Sebs. After all, look how well the stealing argument has worked for software companies or the music or film industries. ;) And I’d personally love to read his paper if the boss chooses to release it.

Another way people can contribute is to write tests, in order to ensure that issues they come across with PHP-based software they development are that much more likely to be an error on their own part rather than a bug in PHP itself. See this excellent blog post on the subject of contributing tests: http://www.rafaeldohms.com.br/2009/08/23/writing-tests-with-phpt/en/

Eli White (@EliW) wrote at 8/25/2009 8:50 am:

Agreeing with the two previous posters. While a ‘call to action’ is a good thing, and it’s great when people contribute. The tone of this post is, IMO, over the top. If everyone followed the idea of “If you don’t contribute you are stealing, stop using it”. Then no major Open Source project that has gotten broad appeal, and has become compelling arguments to closed source versions. EVER would have.

Brandon, have you contributed to Apache? To Linux? How about to the device driver project that happens to power the IO interface with the SCSI drive on your webhost?

It’s a great and wonderful thing when people do decide to give back. But the point of open source, is that people are contributing the code WITHOUT requiring, or even requesting, any recompense, they are doing it because they want to do it.

Sebs (@phptestfest) wrote at 8/25/2009 9:48 am:

Brandon, Tobias, Eli:
Look like we are interested, i gurss the “where can you help” page needs a polishment. At php nothing is done by someone else, needs to be done by us ;)

Neil wrote at 8/25/2009 10:35 am:

I find the idea that not contributing to FOSS that you use is akin to stealing to be a repugnant idea and the bane of certain members of the FOSS community that have lost their way.

Also, the idea that all FOSS projects are generally written by volunteers is somewhat a myth – at least for some projects, such as the Linux Kernel: http://tech.slashdot.org/story/09/08/20/1342223/The-Myth-of-the-Isolated-Kernel-Hacker

I don’t know the makeup of the core developers, documenters, and test writers of PHP, but I do know that some companies have specific interest in the advancement of the core language and are certainly devoting paid staff to write the language – Zend in particular comes to mind.

So bottom line – contributing is completely optional. If you want to, then awesome – welcome to the team and everyone who uses the FOSS project will be better for it. If not – welcome to the community and we hope you find it useful.

MonkeyT wrote at 8/25/2009 11:24 am:

There are many routes to take in supporting PHP. Donating man-hours to open source projects is only one of them. The vast majority of PHP developers will never directly contribute to any open source application, and that’s fine by me: We are already staking our careers on this language, pushing for it to be used within our companies and using it for our own purposes. Community leaders and open projects are great, but to most of the world, they are tiny, anonymous voices, mostly preaching to the choir. We, who simply use the language day-in and day-out are the front line. We are the ones who create the public profile for the language, more than any web article, application project or speech you give at conferences aimed at developers who are already convinced. We’re the ones literally forcing the doors open in person. We provide enough direct experience of PHP that employers can find the confidence to offer living wages using the language we prefer. We popularize the language within the business community, we evangelize it to other developers, we provide hands-on experience for the ones who actually make decisions in the business community, demonstrating PHP’s viability every single workday for 8 hours or more. I don’t care if a dev never donates a moment to a single open source application, so long as their work helps create enough awareness outside of the internet to keep PHP a viable option in the marketplace. Stop taking us for granted, and don’t ever call us thieves again. Please go on supporting the language itself – we’re the ones creating the market environment that will allow it to thrive in the wild.

Jules Bravo wrote at 8/25/2009 11:27 am:

Good bug reports are probably the best thing the average PHP user can do to help the project. I would not want 99% of PHP programmers working on the PHP core, it’s not an easy task and I’ve seen some very bad PHP code floating out there.

Les wrote at 8/25/2009 11:27 am:

PHP depends on me?

That is not the feeling I am left with. I did not ask for the Namespace backslash but we got it so (cough) when the hell has the community listen to anyone?

I’m still a big fan of PHP so I ain’t going anywhere but what this does mean is that I will most likely remain with PHP5 rather than move to PHP6 once it’s available.

So my opinion is, f*** PHP6 and roll on PHP7 maybe by then they will have actually learnt something and changed how ache that Namespaces now is.

Doubt it :(

Richard Lynch (@LynchRichard) wrote at 8/25/2009 2:10 pm:

I think the tone came off wrong, as well, but there is something to the idea that if you are using a ton of F/OSS, and making money off it, you should do *something* to contribute back to one of the communities.

Even if it’s just giving employees PTO to attend/lecture at conferences, or perhaps a few hours a week to work on whatever OS project they want to support, or…

Or, as he says, just contribute bug reports or an example in the docs or something.

Doesn’t sound like he’s asking for that much.

Sebs (@phptestfest) wrote at 8/25/2009 5:04 pm:

> Doesn’t sound like he’s asking for that much.
Yes, Sir. Ack

ozz (@alexandrusavin) wrote at 9/14/2009 4:24 am:

Of course there are guys who are just taking the code and don’t say even the mandatory “Thanks”…