About the Author

Chris Shiflett

Hi, I’m Chris: entrepreneur, community leader, husband, and father. I live and work in Boulder, CO.

All posts for Oct 2007

PHP Comes to DC

The DC PHP Conference is right around the corner, and it looks like it's going to be great. (It's not too late to register.) Not only is this conference inexpensive ($450 for both days, $250 for one, and $150 for students), it boasts an impressive lineup of speakers.

Among the scheduled talks, I see Facebook, Digg, and Ning represented:

There are also a couple of talks by Ed Finkler. He's speaking about his security projects, PHPSecInfo and Inspekt. (I suspect Ed is more well known as the developer of Spaz.)

Not to be outdone, we are going to have a booth (our first booth!), Paul is giving a talk on framework and application benchmarking, Nate is giving a tutorial on CakePHP, and I'm giving the opening keynote. (Scary stuff!)

If you're into Twitter, you can follow me. I plan to update frequently during the conference.

Hope to see you there!

The Internet is the New Unix

Tim O'Reilly has described the Internet as the new OS. Recent observations lead me to believe it's new the new Unix. Consider the following philosophy:

Write programs that do one thing and do it well.

Write programs to work together.

Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface.

This is the Unix philosophy, but it applies equally well to successful web sites. For example, I love del.icio.us, but it sure isn't for its clever domain name. It solves a simple problem well and doesn't get distracted by anything else. By also providing a useful API, it lets me manage my bookmarks in a number of different ways.

Recently, I've been using Twitter, and I'm honestly turned off by the user interface. However, because I can use my phone or IM client, it's still a useful service.

Although I haven't written about it yet, I've been using Dopplr for a while now, and I like it. It's a simple application that lets me keep up with my upcoming trips as well as the trips of my friends. It does one thing, and it does it well.

Mashups are of course a valuable byproduct of open data, but I can't think of many mashups that I use daily. If someone wants to combine Dopplr with upcoming shows, so that I don't miss a chance to see my favorite musical artists, that might change.

Delicious PHP

Much ado was made of Derek Sivers's choice to migrate CDBaby from Ruby to PHP. Although I think CDBaby itself is noteworthy, this particular decision isn't. A similar decision was made when Friendster migrated from Java to PHP. Derek's motivation seems to be more about maintainability than performance, but both represent a shift from heavyweight frameworks to a lean, mean, fat-grilling web machine. Language devotion and hype are the only things that make such decisions seem surprising or even noteworthy.

I was interested to learn recently (via James McGlinn) that del.icio.us is switching to PHP (and the Symfony framework). It represents yet another migration to PHP, but this time it's from a mature, lightweight solution to a framework. Perhaps the fact that Yahoo Bookmarks uses the same framework has a lot to do with the decision, but regardless, a migration to a framework seems more noteworthy than a migration from a framework.

With this migration, PHP now powers most of the darlings of Web 2.0:

At The Future of Web Apps, I gave a workshop on web application security. I was pleased to learn that the vast majority of attendees were using PHP. Not because I cared whether the future belonged to PHP, but because all of my examples were written in it. :-)

I Almost Get Twitter

For the past few weeks, I've been trying Twitter. (If you use Twitter yourself, you can follow me.) I'm only following a few people at the moment, because I'm primarily using the mobile interface (particularly nice on the iPhone), and I don't want to get a bad impression just because I'm overwhelmed with text messages.

While using Twitter, I am often reminded of IRC. For example, while attending ZendCon, it was as if I had #phpc on my phone. (One obvious difference is that you only receive updates from those you follow, so sometimes you only hear one side of a conversation.) Nat Torkington seems to agree with the IRC analogy:

Twitter is low-obligation, low-expectation, low-bandwidth IRC. Community without commitment.

It's true that most Twitter updates aren't important, and this is a natural criticism, but from a social connectivity perspective, Twitter is good. At a conference, if I'm planning to listen to a particular talk or attend a particular social event, I can let others know, in case someone wants to find me. Rather than a declaration of self-importance, Twitter updates are passive, non-intrusive, and humble. It's similar to saying, "If anyone cares, I'll be in Terry Chay's talk at 10." Those who care can follow you. No one else is bothered.

Another thing I've noticed about Twitter is that it's similar to blogging, but the barrier is small enough that many people who rarely blog are very active on Twitter. I realize this is the most obvious and common comparison, but it's worth acknowledging the value in motivating people to share their thoughts frequently.

For example, I know Ed Finkler is frustrated by OWASP's poor communication regarding his project Inspekt, Tim O'Reilly is preparing for interviews with some prominent people like Meg Whitman, and Matt Biddulph is "calculating coincidensity." From these few updates, I might try to put Ed in touch with someone from OWASP who can address his concerns, I might send Tim some suggestions for things to ask Meg, and I might look up what coincidensity means. :-) Whether I do any of these things is irrelevant; what's interesting is that this is all information I would not otherwise have received. And, this is just from the past few hours from the few people I'm following.

I suspect some people are taking advantage of Twitter's simple mobile interface to broadcast messages to a small group, much like a mailing list that uses SMS instead of email. During Midnight Madness this year (we won!), one person volunteered to be responsible for logistics. He used a web application to broadcast text messages to our entire team to keep us updated, because the team gets pretty fragmented while solving puzzles and racing around the city. This worked pretty well, but it would have been nice to use Twitter, where each of us could update the entire team directly, instead of having to contact one particular person who then sends the update. (Twitter supports private updates.)

I still find it difficult to truly appreciate Twitter, because it's such a simple application. This is compounded by the fact that it's slow and breaks a lot. But, for whatever reason, a lot of people are using it, and it has a lot of interesting uses. I'm sure I'll continue to try it out, and if I ever truly get it, I'll blog about it again.

Please feel free to share your own thoughts. I'd love to hear what you think.