PHP Interview With Ivo Jansch Founder & CEO of Mobile Technology Egeniq.com – Use A PHP Framework So You Don’t Re-Invent The Wheel

Contents At Glance

Purpose Of This Interview

This is the #5th set of PHP Interview to help aspiring PHP developers and PHP fans alike to get inspired by listening from those PHP guys who are already highly involved into the PHP Ocean and being ‘there’ taming the waves and surfing better than ever to make themselves an Awesome PHP Expert both in their own eyes (for self-accomplishment) and for the PHP Community. On the other side, this is an opportunity for new PHPers to get to know their “PHP Elders.  I hope you will derive as much fun to read my interviews as I’m having by interviewing those A-List PHP guys.

A Small Intro..

Ivo Jansch Founder of Mobile Technology Egeniq.com

Photograph by Jelmer de Haas

In this edition I talked with Ivo Jansch (@ijansch) ex-CTO of Ibuildings which is one of the biggest PHP service companies in Europe. Ivo is known for his involvement in evangelising the use of PHP technology in enterprise environments. He is also the PHP 5.x Certification Advisory Board Member at Zend Technologies. You can read more about Jansch on his blog. At the time of this writing, as per wefollow.com, he is ranked as the 19th (out of 2,549) most influential person on Twitter for #php. You can find his presentations on slideshare – some of his talks include:

  • Mobile for PHP developers
  • PHP Development In The Cloud
  • Apps, apis, third party services

And Now The Interview…

1) Please tell us a bit about yourself

I’m one of the founders of Egeniq.com, where we build mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android etc. You may think what that has to do with PHP, but most of our apps are powered by APIs that are written in PHP. Furthermore, I’ve been working with PHP since the end of 1999, so quite a while. I’ve written 2 books on the subject of PHP. One is called ‘php|architect’s Guide to Enterprise PHP Development‘ and the more recent one is called PHP Development In The Cloud. The latter was written together with Vito Chin (@vitoc).

2) How you started with PHP

In January 2000 I started working at Ibuildings, back then a 5 person web development company (when I left in 2010 I had helped them become the biggest international PHP company with over 120 developers). Because Ibuildings used PHP, I started learning PHP late 1999. It struck me as a language that did everything I needed for web development, but it was way easier than any language I had used before.

3) How do you find PHP now as compared to when you first started

That’s a tough question. I used to regard PHP as an easy, lean and mean, getting-things-done type of language that allowed you to do virtually anything web related. Lately the language has seen an increase of features many of which I find overcomplicated. Namespaces are not easy to grasp for newcomers, as are concepts such as ‘Late Static Binding‘, still after powering the web for over 10 years, some people think the language needs to have features like this. This has to do with the arrival of more ‘enterprise grade’ development, the advent of OO frameworks and as such it makes sense – Still I think with PHP5 the language has reached a level of maturity sufficient for 99% of the development; do we need big new features that just overcomplicate things?

Another trend that I see is that Python and Ruby are gaining ground. In the past, PHP was often the choice for web (HTML) developers that needed a way to make their sites more dynamic. PHP is excellent for that. Lately, with the move from browser to native applications, there are developers that come from a different background. For iPhone or Android app developers that need a way to develop a server side backend tend to lean more towards Python and Ruby, as these languages are closer to the native languages they’re used to than PHP.

4) What would be the Top advice to a PHP beginner

  1. Read PHP resources such as this site, http://phpdeveloper.org, http://techportal.ibuildings.com, http://planet-php.net – There’s so much info out there; somebody has undoubtedly found a solution to any problem you may run into.
  2. Read code; download any of the numerous PHP applications and see how they do things.
  3. Use a framework; the days when we needed to start from scratch with every application are gone; use a framework so you don’t reinvent the wheel.

5) To someone who wants to become a better PHP developer, what is your advice?

Visit conferences and pick the sessions about topics you know the least about. Visit user group meetings to talk to fellow developers. You can learn from others, others can learn from you.

6) A PHP blog or resource you highly recommend

http://phpdeveloper.org (@phpdeveloper) – for years this has been and still is the best online resource for PHP developers. It’s a manually curated list of everything that’s interesting in the world of PHP. Chris (@enygma), the maintainer of phpdeveloper.org does a great job finding and selecting the best articles about PHP – If you read phpdeveloper.org, you hardly have to read anything else.

7) The IDE that you use

Eclipse PDT. I used to use Zend Studio but these days I find that Eclipse PDT basically offers everything I need as a PHP developer.

8) How do you debug your PHP code, do you use something like xdebug or krumo..etc?

Most definitely Xdebug.

9) A CMS that you think is worthwhile

WordPress. I looked at Drupal, Joomla, but from a user’s perspective there’s nothing as practical as WordPress. From a developer’s perspective WordPress isn’t the most brilliant codebase on earth, but it gets the job done, so when I need a CMS and I know up front that customizations will be limited, I tend to choose features and simplicity over code quality.

10) A PHP framework you use and would recommend

I’ve long been a Zend Framework user. Lately I’ve dabbled a bit with Symfony. Zend Framework remains my preferred choice for now because of the larger development community; however given the fact that ZF 2.0 was announced almost 2 years ago and they still haven’t managed to get it into release state, I believe that Symfony might eventually take over. Things move so fast, 2 years is a century in web development terms, so if you ask, me, it’s just been too long. I don’t want to offend anyone in the ZF community though; Zend Framework’s project manager Matthew Weier O’Phinney is also still the best PHP developer I’ve ever met – It’s probably not technical but political reasons that it’s taking so long.

11) One PHP person that you admire and what strikes you about him/her

I already mentioned him in the previous question. Matthew Weier O’Phinney (@weierophinney) is a great guy that I admire; he’s not only a great PHP developer and Software Architect, he combines it with being a really nice guy.

12) One PHP project you really appreciate

That’s a tough question because there are so many. Let me say PHPUnit; as it’s such an important tool for PHP developers.

13) One function that you like (or which you tend to use frequently)

var_dump. Or maybe php_logo_guid because so few people know what it does that it’s almost an easter egg. No, I’ll stick to var_dump; It has saved my live too many times.

14) One PHP Community that you recommend

I recommend ‘the’ php community. The PHP community consists of so many nice people that it’s hard to single out one user group; it’s really the global php community that makes it all so great. If you’re not participating in any php user group yet, I can really recommend it; find your local php user group and attend their meetings. Go to a conference some time and meet other developers; If you’ve never done it I’m pretty sure you will enjoy it.

15) The never ending debates on PHP would be.. ?

The biggest debate I’ve always had is the ‘is PHP fit for the enterprise‘ discussion. Yes it is, but it’s more about HOW you use PHP than PHP itself. (This is what my Enterprise PHP book is all about, if you forgive me the shameless plug).

16) In the next 5 years, how do you foresee the PHP ecosystem

PHP 5.4 will probably be released, maybe PHP 6 even. Zend will probably have just released ZF 2 beta 12 ;-) – but all jokes aside; I don’t know, 5 years is such a long time, it’s really hard to predict what will happen. Languages come and go; PHP’s been around for 15 years now. My opinion: any language that manages to survive the first 10 years will stick around forever. But I do think we’ve reached a state where PHP itself is mostly ‘done’, in the sense that it has all the features it needs; most of the changes we’ll see are not in PHP as a language, but in the frameworks built on top of it.

17) Recently Microsoft has also started actively to concentrate on PHP, any comments on that?

I welcome it; they finally realized that the PHP community is so big that it’s better to join it than to fight it. PHP and dotNET can coexist happily, so it’s great that Microsoft is supporting PHP as well.

18) If you had to go back in time, would you still choose PHP?

Depends on how far back you take me ;-)

19) How many hours you spend coding on average per day?

Since I am also in a management position, I don’t get to code as much as I used to any more, but I’d say I still get around 1-2 days of coding done each week.

20) How do you time manage your projects and all – how do you coordinate everything and balancing all that with your personal life?

Time management: I tend to use agile development methodologies. Works great for any sofware project.

Balancing it with personal life: I have a great girlfriend who understands that my job will never be a 9-17 job; that being said, I do think it’s important to do other things besides development. I enjoy movies and music a lot for example; I visit more concerts than conferences.

21) The day you realised “You’ve made it to the A-List PHP arena” ?

Am I A-list PHP arena? I’m not sure. I didn’t do anything that anybody else couldn’t also do; anybody can become a conference speaker or a book author or a great developer. It’s all about passion; Having a passion for my job has always allowed me to grow.

22) Why you are successful and why others are not?

I don’t know, I can only speak for myself; I think the passion I mentioned above is the single most important factor that helped me to grow and become successful. Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy. And plan ahead. Set yourself goals. I have this list of things that I want to achieve in life; it’s a dynamic list but it deliberately contains items that take effort to achieve and that help me to grow. The original list was: Play guitar, drive a motor cycle, write a book, run a company and appear in the credits of a major motion picture title. When I made that list, any but the first 2 seemed far fetched. Yet I’ve written two books by now and run a very successful company. So you see, don’t worry about setting high bars for yourself. Just have a goal and find ways to reach that goal. I still don’t play guitar by the way; even though that seemed to be the easiest one back then. :)

23) You are the founder and CEO at Egeniq.com, Please tell us how you got this idea and build upon it

I saw that the web is changing. In fact the Internet is changing. We’re moving from the desktop to all sorts of devices. We also move from browsers to native applications. Both trends combined lead me to believe that there’s a huge opportunity for building a company that focuses on mobile technology. So that’s what we did 15 months ago, and the only thing I regret now is not having done it sooner!

24) Any other things you would like to add and which you feel will be helpful to my readers?

No, the list of questions is pretty extensive :-)

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Comments

  1. I have learned so many things here as a passionate and aspiring developer. I am learning PHP right now and by reading this article, I am now sure that the mobile technology will be the next big thing and I will also try and learn PYTHON not to solely depends on PHP.
    Thank you

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    Use A PHP Framework So You Don’t Re-Invent The Wheel…

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