With the recent massive flood of frameworks, libraries and toolkits on the market these days it is easy to forget that underneath it all is the good old, plain and simple, PHP with all its kinks, quirks, and huuge set of builtin functionality.
PHP has vast amount of extensions which solve all sort of problems. And if PHP doesn’t have it built-in, we have an impressive amount of additional extensions both on pecl and now recently more and more on github.
There is a high chance that someone else has been in your shoes already and solved the problem, so it is worth looking around over the horizon and see if the problem has been solved already.
For some reason the current practice seems to be the “RoR” idiocy where “RoR developers” barely even know that there is this Ruby some miles down the stack. PHP has hit this “stepping stone” already with WordPress, Drupal and even Symfony and that is a weird and scary thought. Remembering “where you came from” is an important fact to remember, even for those who specialize in specific products. Looking at how other projects work, comparing notes, work ethics, features and functionality is also very important. Getting different perspective and knowledge is how we can improve our solutions and work more efficiently. If your specific product doesn’t have native support for something, why not look at a different framework/library/cms/toolkit/.. even PHP extensions?
As June mentioned earlier, going ‘back home’ and checkout the PHP manual pages is generally a good idea. Things change, manual pages are updated, improved, added, and you have different perspective, other problems to solve and so on. Even though you believe you know all the basics, you still need to practice them, and that includes browsing the manual from time to time, again and again – no matter which project it is.
So what is the best way to stay in touch? Kept up2date with new ways and offerings? New solutions to the same problem? Get involved!
By far the best way is to get involved with the project you are using. Even just silently idling on the mailinglists and read the subjects. Subscribing to the commit lists is a fantastic way to see precisly what is going on and see which direction the project is taking. Who knows, after a while you may spot something the others didn’t. Get an idea for a killer feature. Shed a light on different perspective the others didn’t think of. After a while hanging on the lists you’ll get a feeling for how the project works, and hopefully start chiming in. Give your 2cents, and who knows – even cook up a patch or two.