Ideas Of March

Posted by Stuart Herbert on March 15th, 2011 in Community, Opinion.

Chris has made a timely call for everyone (especially the Twitterati) to start blogging about PHP once more. Much of our community’s interaction has moved to Twitter and conferences, and we’re simply not leaving enough longform content out there any more.

There’s a key reason why I blog less about PHP these days, though, and it has nothing to do with Twitter. Our wider community simply doesn’t read blogs any more (if they ever did). They’ve already moved on to StackOverflow, and other similar places.

This is just my experience, and we can all put it to the test:

  • Go along to your next PHP User Group, and ask for a quick show of hands for how many people there are subscribers to Planet PHP, where we’ve aggregated blogs about PHP for many years now.
  • Then, the next time you’re at a large conference, ask everyone you meet the same question.

Over the years, I’ve found that our wider community doesn’t have the time to keep up with the blogs; but when they get stuck and the excellent PHP Manual can’t help them, they hit Google (and latterly StackOverflow) for quick answers. I’m always stunned by how few people have ever heard of Planet PHP.

This is also reflected in pageview and feed analytic stats, where nearly all the traffic comes from search engine queries. Planet PHP sadly ranks at #10 in my stats; I get more views from an ajax development site, even though I’m assuredly a backend engineer.

These are just my experiences. I would welcome you sharing yours!

What does this all mean to me?

  • We all need to do much more to promote Planet PHP (offline!) as the hub for proactive developers to stay up to date with what’s going on in the world of PHP. Why Planet PHP? My apologies to those who put a lot of fantastic work into other community sites, but they don’t seem to generate any measurable traffic at all.
  • Our community values hands-on, targeted articles that describe and solve specific problems that they encounter. They go looking for such content every day, and when that fails, they resort to StackOverflow et al.
  • We need to encourage our fellow developers to make time to develop their own skills, so that they don’t have to be hitting Google to react to an avoidable problem in the first place. Encourage your friends and colleagues to create and share reading lists, or to give a talk or demonstration at their local PHP user group. Get involved with community education projects like PHP Fundamentals, so that we can create a self-educating profession.

And, above all (irony intended …) use Twitter for the opinion pieces, where the world can forget them after 4 days :)

4 Comments

  1. BooBoo says:
    March 15th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I read planet-php through rss reader, how do you distinguish in your stats whether I came to your blog through planet-php or your blog’s rss – they both will show in referer google’s rss reader (not entirely sure about it in google’s case cause I see that the hash displays rss url – btw is the hash sent in referer?)

  2. Community News: “Ideas of March” Kicks off a “Blogging Revival” « Test SmartFtp Blog says:
    March 16th, 2011 at 9:04 am

    [...] Stuart Herbert [...]

  3. KMB says:
    March 16th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I like the concept of the Planet and I also used it to selectively fill up my PHP-folder in Google Reader but I think that’s one its biggest flaws. To me and probably some more people, the Planet worked as some kind of giant blogroll to get further blogs/feeds from and to put those in our preferred feed-readers, because the Planet can not really compete with the advantages provided by those. To be able to select what one want to read is another one.

    So instead of the Planet I propose a reintroduction of the idea of the blogroll, which can be easily integrated into the “Ideas of March”-idea.

  4. preet says:
    March 16th, 2011 at 11:19 am

    nice post and thanks for this useful information:-)