189: Real world change with PHP and community: "The sky's the limit."

Michelle Sanver–developer at Liip–and I sat down and talked at SymfonyCon 2014 in Madrid. Michelle and I have a number of interests in common (community, FTW!) and I really enjoyed getting to know her better in a conversation in front of my microphone and camera. We covered her long history in PHP, her SymfonyCon presentation (Life After Assetic: State of Art Symfony2 Frontend Dev) the PHP Renaissance bringing communities together, Michelle's "open source addiction", building PHP applications that touch the lives of almost everyone in Switzerland, and more.

Who is Michelle Sanver?

Michelle has one of the better personal biographies I've seen, so I'll let her speak for herself here:

I'm a president of PHPWomen, an inclusive & global network providing support within the PHP community and I work as a software developer at this awesome company called Liip, based in Zürich, Switzerland.

I love *anything* community related and I'm a big advocate of Open Source. I'm a code-passionate, colourful geek with more than 10 years of PHP and web experience. I am eager to share my extensive knowledge, and I do this all over the Internet!

On being an open source developer

"Open source enables other people to come in and have their ideas. Before when I was programming, I had pet projects on my own, on my computer, no one else came with their ideas and it never really evolved in the same way. Open source opens all these possibilities to grow together as a community, which is really cool."

This is how geeks are made

"I had a computer since forever. My parents always supported me. I made my first website when I was 11-12 years old. And then I just kept on going from there." I am always interested in first moments, when I asked Michelle about the first moment she wanted to take control of the computer, she explained, "I always used computers and played computer games and I grew up with them. In the end, I wanted to do more with the computer. I wanted to make small scripts, like in a chat channel so it could show what I was listening to. And I started, 'Okay, how do I do this? How do I change things in the computer?' And then I just got naturally interested."

Reusability, aka The PHP Renaissance

"I think it's pretty amazing that you can actually now finally take a part of some other framework and put it in your own code. I was at PHP World [November, 2014], and there we had all these different frameworks and CMSs all working together solving the same problems ... Especially the Drupal/Symfony thing is really exciting."

I proposed that Drupal 8 is an example of a new kind of project (now, I would say it is the product of the PSR or PHP-FIG Era ... when I mention "namespacing" in this context in the interview recording, that is what I am referring to), a sort of umbrella, outsourcing basic functionality to other projects and specializing in being a great CMS. I asked if that is a positive example of what one can do with PHP nowadays. "I think so. Before, you would just pull in functions.php, functions2.php, and have a big mess. You would pull in functions from other projects, of course, but that was in PHP 4 days. After that, people didn't really make modules. I think Composer with Packagist was one of the things that really pushed people to make packages you could separately use."

"I think we're moving more towards just pulling in everything you need and making everything work nicely together and that's the application. And we're also separating the front end and the backend a lot more because it's possible now to do it. You can have your API and then your front end applications and you can have a million applications on one API and that's something I'm really excited about."

More on the PHP Renaissance: Here's a podcast I did with Composer Lead Developer Jordi Boggiano, in which we talk about all this: Acquia Podcast 192: PHP Reset, PHP Renaissance.

PHP: the power of community

Michelle has been working with PHP almost as long as she's been using computers. I wanted to know why she has stuck with it all these years. "I dabbled a bit in other languages. I tried Python. In university, I had to try Java. I learned C. And for a big while I was an iOS developer and I was thinking for a while of switching to iOS but then ... They didn't really have a community. So for me, community is what kept everything ... I just can't leave the community, ever. And now that PHP is maturing, I see no reason to not use it."

Guest dossier & references

Interview video