PHP Interview With Adam Culp The Organizer Of The South Florida PHP User Group & The Sunshine PHP Conference – Don’t Be Afraid To Break Anything

Contents At Glance

Purpose Of This Interview

This is the #24th 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..

Adam Culp - SoFloPHP Organizer

Adam Culp – SoFloPHP Organizer

In this edition I talked with Geeky Boy, [Adam Culp @adamculp], who is The Leader and Organizer of The South Florida PHP User Group (aka @SoFloPHP) and the organizer of the hot and buzz-ling SunShinePHP Conference for developers. @SunShinePHP will be held in Miami / Florida in feb 2013 and is promising a ‘dedication to putting together the best Community led conference of the year‘.

When I read about the life of Adam Culp, the following pops in my mind: “The man who forges ahead!“. You might recently have read about Culp at VoicesOfTheElePHPant herded by Mr Cal Evans (The PHP Icon) or even at the december 2012 / issue 9 of webandphp magazine, but what you might not have read or realized, is that this man, Adam Culp did not have the perfect start in his life. BUT YET he has marched into a man with a purpose in life, an energy to always drive forward, maintains consistency and productivity to reach his current successful life and which he is relentlessly moulding to perfection. “Just give me time and I’ll do it” – that’s one of his driving force in life. He has been doing so many stuffs, been through so many stuffs in life but yet he IS in it (PHP) and rocking it better and awesome-er as ever! I will end this intro on one of his personal quotes: “If you don’t have a plan to succeed, you will work for someone who does“.

And Now The Interview…

>> Please tell us a bit about yourself

To put it simply, I’m a PHP developer and consultant working for myself, husband, father of 3 (14, 23, 24), grandfather (6 times over), judo instructor, and ultra marathon and long distance runner.

I have always had a passion for technology, which started during high school in the early 80′s. The high school I attended started a new program to teach Basic on brand new RadioShack TSR-80 computers and I jumped on it. Then later while I was in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany I made friends with many programmers and hardware gurus in my missile unit. I learned a great deal about PC hardware and built my first PC from spare IBM compatible parts laying around, though I also enjoyed tinkering with my Commodore 64 as well.

After getting out of the military I built my first web page, which was pretty basic. The technology was the bottleneck at the time, so it was really just a page with links and maybe even a single graphic as I used my 1,200 baud modem on QLink. I remember running up a $500 phone bill and a $500 QLInk bill my first month out of the Army connecting to the Internet. (I didn’t do that again.)

These days I consult for many companies, and help organize development teams as they strive to develop a workflow and get back on track.

>> How you started with PHP

In the late 90′s I was making websites for friends with small businesses to make a few extra bucks. My employer at the time moved me to Florida to help develop an OLAP reporting portal so the entire company could see reports online. I gained an interest in scuba diving while in Florida and built some websites for the area dive shop and many of the local dive boats. A couple of them asked for more dynamic content on their sites, so I started investigating how to do it.

I was a Dreamweaver user at the time so looked at Cold Fusion and ASP, which had functionality built into Dreamweaver. However, I quickly realized how expensive it would be for license fees to use those technologies and continued to look. I stumbled across PHP and found some plugins for Dreamweaver that allowed it to edit PHP as well. So I started learning PHP through the WYSIWYG functionality of Dreamweaver.

A short time later I had a company call and ask if I could code in PHP and of course I said “yes”, since I was able to use Dreamweaver. But I quickly found out that I needed to learn more to fill my claims, and learned on the fly to do more robust PHP coding.

>> Your LAMP stack comprises.. ?

I use Ubuntu as the OS on my laptop, and have started using it on my servers as well. I use Apache and MySQL to go with PHP 5.3 on all of my systems.

>> The relationship between You and The PHP Community comprises..

I have been attending @php|tek conferences for years (since 2006), but did not really do much with the community and stayed on the sidelines. Then about 3 years ago I was contacted by [Keith Casey @CaseySoftware] at [php|architect @phparch] who wanted to reach out to the PHP community in South Florida for the first CodeWorks. At the time there was not really much down here in that area, so Keith said I should be “that” guy. I had the desire, but was reluctant and did nothing. A short while later I was attending another php|tek and the buzz was really around building community. I returned home to South Florida and after a strong search I found nothing. This was the final push for me to create the South Florida PHP Users Group (SoFloPHP). The group is now 2+ years old and has 320 members.

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

While PHP has seen changes in some areas like OOP, it is still the same in many others. Overall it steadily becomes more friendly to use with each version. (most development is still querying data from some source and displaying it after altering it in some way) I think the largest differences in PHP have been made in the community outreach and tools, such as frameworks, to help developers get up and running faster. Another area that has really changed is the amount of knowledge transfer that is free and open to developers who would like to get going with the language. The PHP community has always been great about sharing, but as the community grows there is more and more knowledge available.

>> Based on your experience, what are the good and bad parts of PHP

I love how quick and easy I can get something going. If I am rushed to get an idea to concept I can throw something quick and dirty together very fast.

A bad thing is how I can leave that code “quick and dirty” and not do anything further with it. There are still times when it’s hard to explain to a client that we should now re-write the code to be ready for production use. At times it’s hard to for me to justify doing something quick and dirty to start with, and can make it a negative.

>> What would be the Top advice to a PHP beginner

Just code. Start writing, and then add something, then add something else. Don’t be afraid to break anything. Often the best things come from fixing something I have broken. Also, get active with the PHP community in your area. Even if that simply means showing up and listening. Do a search on meetup.com or Google/Yahoo Groups to find something local.

>> To someone who wants to become a better PHP developer..?

Pick a good IDE or editor and learn/use it inside and out. And the same goes for a framework. Pick one, to start with, and learn it well.

If you want to learn something give a talk on it at your local user group, or if you don’t like to give talks then blog about it. I find that I learn a great deal when trying to help others.

Google is your friend when learning. Search, refine your search, and learn.

Practice, practice, practice.

>> The best PHP book you’ve read

I think the most helpful book was actually 2 of them. I read the PHP Anthology I & II by Sitepoint and it was a great help to get me up and running with OOP at a time when I was struggling with it. I think it is rewritten as one volume now.

For beginners I think the O’ReillyPHP: The Good Parts” is awesome. I recently did a review on it and found it very good.

>> A PHP blog or resource you highly recommend

Oh wow, there are so many. I think [sitepoint.com @sitepointdotcom] is a must follow, and then there is [devzone.zend.com @devzone]. Of course [phpdeveloper.org @phpdeveloper] is a one-stop resource for community news, so I stay tuned on that one also.

>> The IDE that you use

Started using PhpStorm earlier this year after using another leading PHP IDE for years. Glad I made the move.

>> How do you debug your PHP code?

While PhpStorm has excellent debug I have been using mostly good old fashioned print_r() and var_dump().

>> A PHP framework you use and would recommend

I have used Zend Framework as well as CakePHP, though I tend to lean toward CakePHP. I find it incredibly easy to get a project started, and very fast to code with. (And the new versions 1.3 and 2.+ are just as quick in terms of performance as other frameworks.)

I am a stickler for professional development. What I mean by that is if you are going to use a framework on a project, stick with it. Resist the temptation to roll your own and make it hard for your employer to find others to follow after you. Sticking to the framework you choose ensures your employer will be able to function after you are gone.

>> A unit test framework you recommend using?

I started unit testing with PHPUnit this past year, and lovin’ it. I find the writing unit tests has greatly improved the quality of how I write code.

>> A CMS that you think is worthwhile

WordPress is my go-to when I need a CMS, but only because it is what I have used most. Can’t give any real reason why, though I am usually doing non-CMS types of projects.

>> An E-Commerce cms you recommend

Not really any recommended ones at the moment. Been doing custom apps for a long time.

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

Michelangelo van Dam - President Of PHPBenelux PHP User Group

Michelangelo van Dam – President Of PHPBenelux PHP User Group

There are so many people in PHP I have come to appreciate and admire, it is hard to pick one. However, over the past few years I would have to say that [Michelangelo Van Dam @DragonBe] has been a big influence on me, though he may not realize it. He is always willing to stop and talk about PHP at conferences, his blog at dragonbe.com carries a wealth of knowledge, and his persistent push for getting Zend certified prompted me to finally get my Zend PHP 5.3 Certification.

{7PHP: You might want to read the PHP Interview With Michelangelo Van Dam (President Of The PHPBenelux PHP User Group)}

>> One PHP Community that you recommend

I think @phpc on twitter and Freenode IRC is worth being a part of.

>> Are you part of any PHP User group? Could you tell a bit about it if yes..

The South Florida PHP Users Group is all about helping developers and the community. I have received feedback from many new, as well as experienced, developers who say the topics and activities are a great help. With 320 members, the group has been going for 2 years and continues to grow each month.

>> A PHP Usergroup that you appreciate and would highly recommend

I am partial to my own group, South Florida PHP Users Group. Come join us.

>> The best conference you attended would be..

I make it a point to get to [php|tek @phptek] every year. I love this conference, and it has really helped me.

>> Can you share the good, and may be not so good moments, of being part of all the conferences you attended

It is sometimes hard to monitor how much I drank while talking “shop” with others at a conference. There have been times when I felt pretty bad the next morning.

>> What are the main aspects of conferences that can really help a PHP guy to get better in his progression

Don’t sit around people you already know…well, most of the time. I have found that approaching new groups I haven’t talked with before can lead to great learning experiences.

>> what it takes to create/organize a php user group

Time, patience, and persistence. It will take a couple of hours each week. You cannot take people coming and going as a personal thing. And sometimes you have to be a bit pushy to get others involved, but they usually thank you later.

>> One thing you think other user groups can learn from The South Florida PHP Users Group

Be consistent, it will happen.

>> One thing you think is lacking as compared to the other (world wide) PHP user-group

I would like to figure out how to get more people involved. I notice that some other groups have a very “hungry” membership. I continuously try to ignite that in South Florida.

>> Which was the worst programming mistake you did?

I think the largest/worst mistake I made as a developer was waiting so long to learn OOP.

>> Things that you’ve learned from being part of The PHP Community

Every developer is another human being. Nobody is unapproachable. In my early days I was a bit timid at times, and have come to learn that it is pretty easy to talk to anyone.

>> If you had to go back in time, would you still choose PHP? What would you do different?

Oh yes, I would definitely still choose PHP. Me and PHP have been good to each other over the years, and I am glad I found it. I think the only thing I would have done differently is to take advantage of more training instead of slugging it out on my own while learning. Perhaps it would have saved me some time, and headaches.

>> How do you time manage all the stuffs that you do, coupled with your personal life?

As a consultant working for myself it is very important to keep track of my time. It is too easy to get caught up in something that ultimate will not pay the bills. On the other hand there are times when I just bite the bullet and do something (programming) I enjoy whether it pays the bills or not. I use a time tracking app called “Hamster” to keep track of my time, and record every hour I am working, whether on the computer or not.

I am also an avid long distance runner, and have been known to put in 100 mile weeks while training. I find that running is a great time to write talks, and practice what I will say. I can often be found talking into my phone, recording, while running in the hot Florida sun. Then, once back in the office, I am able to finish up the presentation based on those dictated notes.

I have also been known to stop in mid-run and call another developer with a fix to a problem devised while in “the zone”.

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

I am still working to get there. :) However, I have high hopes of getting into some conferences this coming year to share some of my talk topics that others have raved about. My latest focus for helping others is in the area of “Clean Application Development“. It is a very broad topic, and I feel I have my finger on it.

>> Why you are successful and why others are not?

Hmm, I strive to become more successful each day, but I must say that the biggest reason would be my initiative. I have never been one to sit back and wait for others to do something, and rarely complain about anything. In my opinion, if it’s worth complaining about then it’s worth fixing rather than wasting time and breath discussing it.

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