PHP Workshop | February 21, 2005
Saturdays PHP workshop in London was lots of fun. Getting there was a hassle as the trains were out part of the way, necessitating a long and uncomfortable replacement bus service. However I still managed to get there in enough time to grab breakfast at traditional Italian coffee shop just around the corner.
The workshop was held in Oyster Partners large–and somewhat college like–canteen area. Working for a “boutique” web design agency, it’s easy to assume that most companies are small. However despite the fact that 70% of web design companies in the UK have less than 10 staff members, a number of large agencies did survive the dot com era.
While I know the basics of PHP and understand many of the more advanced concepts, I’m no PHP expert. I liken myself to somebody learning a language in the sense that I can understand far more than I can actually say. I can look at a class and pretty much understand how it works. However ask me to build something similar from scratch and I’d be lost.
The main problem I have with PHP is how to actually string things together. I can build simple application, but they always end up being a little haphazard. The code is never as lean as I want it to be and my file structure is always a little random. So I’m constantly dissatisfied with my coding. Going back to the language analogy, I’m capable of ordering food and finding my way to the station, but if I tried to write a book it would be all over the place.
My dissatisfaction is down to a couple of things. Firstly I’m a perfectionist and want to do everything the best way possible. On it’s own this is laudable. However I’m also fairly impatient, so want to be getting everything right first time. I’m capable of figuring out most logical problems. However it’s the conceptual ones–like the most efficient way to architect your application– that can only be learnt over time. So one of the main things I wanted to get from this workshop was a better understanding of the more conceptual elements of PHP programming.
The workshop was essentially divided into two parts. The first part was lead by Chris Lea, who did an excellent job in walking through the basic concepts of PHP application development. I have to admit that I actually new most of this stuff–which came as a bit of a surprise–but it’s always good to have your beliefs validated by an expert.
The second part of the day was lead by Mike Buzzard, who created a simple PHP framework and tempting engine especially for the workshop. This part of the talk got a little bogged down in the framework specifics for my liking. However what really got me was the usefulness of having a framework in place– be it your own or one of many existing ones.
I realise that I’m never going to be a hard core PHP guru which is why I’ve recently been wondering if I’d be more productive using another language. This was prompted by seeing a demo of Ruby on Rails
However I now think the best approach (for me) would be to make use of various PHP projects such as PEAR and Smarty along with a simple framework. I understand the associated problems and restrictions, but in my defence I’m a front end designer/developer who needs to do the odd bit of coding, rather than somebody wanting to become a hard core programmer. I just don’t have the patience for that!
So on the whole I found the workshop useful from a conceptual level as it helped me solidify how I feel about PHP.
Afterwards everybody headed down the pub for drinks and a chat. Both Chris and Mike looked shattered from the day and the jet lag, and it was unfortunate that I didn’t get much of a chance to chat to them. However I did meet up with some cool people, including 2 people from Brighton and two people who read my blog. Apart from the learning angle, the other important part of these events is the social angle. so it was great to meet, chat and share war stories with other developers.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Posted at February 21, 2005 12:59 AM