Working on Wednesday #2 : Why I want to quit PHP

Here it is : my first Wednesday off. Well, not completely off because I had a technical meeting this whole morning, and my cousin dropped by in the evening so... I finally didn't have as much time reading and learning as I wanted to.

Anyway, those past weeks I started thinking about what I intended to learn, and why. The main reason is that I want to be able to build website and apps faster, with less hassle and better overall quality. And the more I thought about that, the more it became obvious that PHP was the main bottleneck.

My journey accross PHP land

I've been writing PHP for the last 12 years. I started as a script kiddy, putting things together, hacking strings, saving stuff in databases, building my own toolbox and finally making websites out of it.

Then, as I started my first job in a web development company, I started to organize stuff to be able to use and reuse code accross projects.

Later, when I started as a freelancer, I learned cakePHP, and it let me much more time to focus on each project while still reusing the common code of previous projects easily.

PHP is just so easy

I can be considered a PHP coder. I have some years of experience to consolidate that. Nevertheless, I don't consider myself "good" at PHP. I just write PHP, and that's all.

I think there isn't any flavour in writing PHP : it is so easy anyone can do it. I don't feel like I know those special stuff that can make one an "expert". PHP just feels so easy, you just write code and it works.

The only area where I can think that my years of experience can be used is in tracking PHP bug or weird error messages (If you haven't read this website, go now).

It just does not feel right to be able to say "Yeah, you should work with me. Why ? Because my strength is that I'm very good at understanding PHP bugs".

There is no "PHP Philosophy", no good practices that were kept in mind by PHP lead developers when they wrote the language and they wanted us to follow. Instead, we just have a bunch of functions, and play with it as in a sandbox.

Adding some pattern in this mess

Over the years you learn (the hard way) how to organise your code. PHP5 gives a little hope by adding more OO features. No need to get back on the namespace delimiter choice, this is one more example of the PHP weirdness we'll have to work with.

The best thing that happened to me in PHP world over those years is cakePHP. It took me quite some time to get it, having to learn the whole MVC pattern (and deal with some of cake internal inconsistencies/limitations) but the result was worth it.

A clear separation of model structure, controller logic and view rendering gave me my sanity back. I does abstract a lot of things, and makes things cleaner on the outside, you can just concentrate on writing your app code.

But even with cakePHP, you still have to write PHP.

Summing up

So, to sum up, here are my feelings about PHP

  • No peculiar love for the PHP syntax and (non-)patterns
  • Growing list of bugs/inconsistencies you have to work with
  • Don't feel like I'm any better than any new PHP coder, no skill required
  • Best thing in PHP is cakePHP, an external framework

That's why PHP is the first language I'll drop in my new learning, and I'll replace it with Ruby.

Ruby seems to fit more in my vision of a language that tells its developers what are the good and bad way of writing code. And as cakePHP is largely based upon Rails, I think catching up won't be too difficult.

Also, Rails just realease it's version 3, so now the best time to learn it from scratch.

Next week

This first day off was much shorter than I expected it to be. I wanted to start coding some Rails code, following the Rails for Zombies tutorial. I also had plans for using vim a little more.

Next week I might write about vim, or maybe how to organize javascript code, depending on the time I had.

Tags : #php #cakephp #ruby-on-rails #wednesday

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