Sunday, December 31, 2017

Series: Serious PHP

I've been a PHP developer professionally for many years and one of the great
joys of my life as a dev has been to see the recent PHP Renaissance.
PHP seemed moribund, but a couple of things happened that completely revitalized the ecosystem. Here are, in my estimation, the most important factors:

  1. Composer for package management revolutionized and drastically simplified dealing with dependencies.
  2. The emergence of the PHP FIG and the PSR standards have gone a very long way to standardizing and professionalizing the ecosystem.
  3. PHP 7 was released, and it was fast, making PHP a serious contender for enterprise development (again?)
  4. Laravel exploded in popularity and it showed an entire generation of coders that PHP can actually be a joy to work in. 

Given that PHP, far from dying a slow painful death, seems to have hit something of a second wind, I've been wondering if the increasing professionalism and seriousness of the ecosystem means that similarly "serious" training material has been, or is being, produced for PHP.
For the longest time there were only a handful of serious books about developing in PHP and some of them were of questionable quality.

So one of the things I'd like to do in 2018 is take a look at the training landscape for PHP and see what's out there.
Do we, for instance, have anything like Sandi Metz' "Practical Object Oriented Design in Ruby"? Books that are so good they transcend their language?
Which books would I suggest a junior read to get really deep into the language, but which will stand them in good stead long after they leave PHP behind?

I'm not suggesting that PHP devs should be parochial in their reading, but I would like -- rather than assuming the "good stuff" comes from other communities -- to identify our own "good stuff".

Friday, December 22, 2017

36 in review.

So I can't actually believe that I'm writing one of these posts again - it feels like just a moment ago that I wrote my first two entries (34, 35) in this review series.


So last year I said that I was aiming for just two things.

1 - Writing and submitting a story a month
2 - Push myself professionally.

So I didn't track point 1 very closely, but I probably made it close to that. I submitted 25 times this year only, with 4 acceptances (one of which was a reprint of an old story). Still, I'm surprised that it was that many, given the big changes in my little family's life this year. So let's call that a success, especially under the circumstances.

On point 2, I think I've made some nice progress. I joined Amazee Labs as a senior developer where I work with some mighty talented people, and I've also made a number of contributions to Open Source (mostly p5.js - at the time of writing, I'm number #22 on the contributors list)

So yeah. Win.

Favorite Fiction discovered

I read some great novels and comics this year. My favorite were probably Michael Cunningham's The Hours, which speaks really deeply to anyone who spends their time trying and failing to make great art.

The other major love from this year's reading was Charles Burns' "Black Hole", a graphic novel unlike anything I have ever read. Unsettling and brilliant, read it.


Favorite Technical Book discovered

I'm ashamed to say it, but last December was the first time I ever read Uncle Bob's "Clean Code". In my defense, it was the first year I could actually afford a copy (for some reason, until the end of 2016, all online stores in South Africa that sold the book were ridiculously priced). In some respects I'd expected more from the book, given its status, but even so, I believe it was one of the better books about code that I've ever read, and unreservedly recommend it to anyone who wants to write better code.


2017 was a great writing year.

First, my short story Ndakusuwa was nominated for a Nommo award - a massive honor, even though I didn't win.

Second, my short story "Remains of an Old World" won the 2016 Bloody Parchment short story competition. A serious honor. It'll appear in an anthology next year (I think).

My short story "Sulky" came out in the Parsec Ink "Appetites" anthology, and -- so cool -- was discussed on an SFF podcast (side note: Alan and Jeremy Vs SF is an excellent resource - listen to it).

I also had a short story ("Practical applications of machine learning") published in the South African literary journal Type/Cast.


As I said in an earlier post, my family packed up and moved country this year. So things from around May have been difficult. Moving countries, leaving family, getting resettled all takes up a bunch of head space, so my output -- especially on the fiction side -- has taken a dramatic plunge (hence my not even mentioning philosophy).

Plans for 2018

I think that I've managed to get myself settled I can get back to the good work.

I have three things I want to do next year.

  1. I need to focus on my health and fitness. Its something that always comes third or fourth on my list of things to do, and so it simply falls off. I'm not sure what making this a priority looks like just yet, but I'll update during the year.
  2. Writing. I want to write more longer fiction this year than I've ever written before. I also need to get rid of parallelism in my writing, since it just means I don't actually get things done.
  3. Code: I want to focus on doing more projects this year than previous years.