In the 1996 movie Mars Attacks, the president of the United States, played by Jack Nicholson, makes an impassioned plea to the Martian invaders.
The outcome is often how I feel when discussing what I do for a living with some members of my local PHP community.
I joined the WordPress community (out of choice) after attending my first WordCamp in 2015. In the 15 years since I started my programming career, the closest I’d gotten to an open source community was following the blogs of folks who had written articles I found useful. To me, the people involved in open source were mostly programmers like myself, who spent their spare time only in submitting features and patches to the specific project they were involved in. Thus attending my first open source conference was a huge eye opener.
Here were a bunch of folks who not only contribute to their chosen open source project, but also met regularly to share knowledge and discuss all things around this project. Not only that, but the usual ‘brogrammer’ attitude I’d encountered for much of my journey, did not seem to exist here. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and above all, positive. For someone who’d reached a point of feeling like an outsider in his own community, WordCamp was an experience I will never forget. It was at that event that I chose to learn WordPress as a foundation for my future development journey.
As time went by I started looking for other open source communities, specifically related to PHP. Having read the many online (usually negative) opinions of PHP and having had many, many conversations with opinionated programmers in other languages, who ALWAYS expressed how poor my preferred language of choice was, I was looking forward to meeting and having conversations with other developers who used the same languages, frameworks and CMS’s I did, and would share my love of our often misunderstood language.
What I found surprised me. When folks asked me what I did/worked on for a living, and I mentioned WordPress, the general response was the same as when I used to tell Python developers I code in PHP. The general disdain and almost hatred for a CMS that powers a large majority of the online space amazed and astounded me. Just by being associated with WordPress, I felt as if other PHP developers looked down on me and whatever skills I had.
The irony is that WordPress has enabled me, in the last 4 years, to scale up in skill and knowledge at an astronomical amount. This is because, as those WordPress developers who’ve been active in the space since almost day one started delving into more advanced concepts like modern object orientated programming, automated testing and continuous integration, they share this knowledge with others. And because there are so many more of them, the amount of knowledge out there is abundant. I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve reached out to members of the WordPress community who I look up to, and how they’ve always taken the time to help me understand a difficult concept I was struggling with.
At the end of the day, by choosing PHP we are already taking flak from the so-called ‘real’ programmers of the world. Sure, PHP has come a long way, but it still has the stigma of being something that only ‘noobs’ and ‘kids’ use, even though it’s still one of the top 10 most popular languages on the web. Do we really need to shame each other for the choice we’ve made to use this ‘legacy’ framework, or that popular CMS, or procedural instead of object orientated, or whatever, because we ‘have seen the light’ and ‘know better’?
Why can’t we all just get along?
So the next time someone is using something you deem ‘less worthy’, maybe instead of deriding them, reach out to them. Find out why they are using what they are using, and if they are experiencing any hurdles (they probably are) and share your own knowledge and experiences with them. If we can put aside our differences, focus on our similarities and work towards sharing our knowledge and experience with each other, regardless of what we work with every day, all of us will be in a better place.