How to increase my "advanced" knowledge of PHP further? (quickly)

04/29/2020 03:30:01

I have been working with PHP for years and gotten a very good grasp of the language, created many advanced and not-so-advanced systems that are working very well.

The problem I'm running into is that I only learn when I find a need for something that I haven't learned before. This causes me to look up solutions and other code that handles the problem, and so I will learn about a new function or structure that I hadn't seen before. It is in this way that I have learned many of my better techniques (such as studying classes put out by Amazon, Google or other major companies).

The main problem with this is the concept of not being able to learn something if you don't know it exists. For instance, it took me several months of programming to learn about the empty() function, and I simply would check the string length using strlen() to check for empty values.

I'm now getting into building bigger and bigger systems, and I've started to read blogs like and been researching MySQL replication and server data for scaling. I know that structure of your code is very important to make full systems work.

After reading a recent blog about reddit's structure, it made me question if there is some standard or "accepted systems" out there.

I have looked into frameworks (I've used Kohana, which I regretted, but decided that PHP frameworks were not for me) and I prefer my own library of functions rather than having a framework.

My current structure is a mix between WordPress, Kohana and my own knowledge.

The ways I can see as being potentially beneficial are:

  • Read blogs
  • Read tutorials
  • Work with someone else
  • Read a book

What would be the best way(s) to "get to the next level" the level of being a very good system developer?

Verified Answer (115 Votes)

06/01/2010 13:54:25

Everyone who wants to be a PHP programmer, always takes only the first word and completely ignores the second.

While "programming" is WAY more important than "PHP", to be a PHP professional, one should be a programmer in the first place.

So, I'd vote for the last one - reading books. Not on PHP, but on the programming in general. Grady Booch's, Martin Fowler's and even the old Donald Knuth's ones.
It would be also be nice to take a look at some other languages, like Java or Python. Not to switch to them, but to learn from them.


Answer #2 (28 Votes)

06/08/2010 23:28:47

I prefer my own library of functions rather than having a framework

You refer to a 'library of functions' and 'a' framework' as distinct concepts (good!) so why not try and up the ante a bit and turn that library of functions into a framework? Mind you this is a great way to learn but not the best way to have marketable skills ;)

It's also a great way to learn wrong so before you start you have to do some research.

The "must have" features

There are certain features almost all frameworks have, and there's a reason for that. Research them; find out why they are present and what their variations are; choose which implementations you'd prefer to include in your framework.

  • Object Oriented (this is key to why you'd write a framework as opposed to just using your library of functions)
  • Use of Patterns (check out and start asking yourself why so many frameworks use Application Controller as opposed to Front Controller... and are there some platforms which use Page Controllers?
  • Basic MVC structure
  • Clean URLs

Features of non-PHP platforms you want to understand and emulate

I have no idea what interests you so I'll stop there.

Publish it!

This part is important, because Nathan is right: your work has to be seen, challenged, critiqued and corrected by other people. Don't leave that lamp under a bushel - it needs to be seen; put it on Google code or sourceforge or something, and if people are going to bother looking at it seriously you need to take it seriously; you need to maintain unit tests and regression tests; you need to use version control; you need to comment it well, with a big /* header comment */ at the top of each file and useful doc-generating comments for each class and member thereof.


If you do all this, you can learn (at a high level) about other platforms. You can definitely "ding 40" as a PHP developer. You can learn about unit testing; about regression testing. You can learn about documenting effectively.

Guaranteed your framework will come out "idiosyncratic and probably sucky", but you can learn a lot from writing it. Just keep in mind that the framework isn't a product; it's a journey... of sorts.


Answer #3 (18 Votes)

06/08/2010 20:34:28
  1. Look into hidden features of PHP and PHP's predefined interfaces
  2. Learn different languages. Learn languages that have a steeper learning curve than PHP. Any time I point out advantages of other languages over PHP, I am accused of PHP bashing, mostly be people who quite obviously never really mastered another high level language. But I'm gonna take the risk. I suggest Ruby, Python, Pearl and haXe (as a strictly typed counterpart). Once you did it, try applying your new knowledge to PHP. Or just move away from PHP, in case you don't wanna go back (which I think isn't unlikely to happen).
  3. Learn to deal with critisizm. Your reaction to Nathan's post showed quite clearly you can't deal with it yet. He is absolutely right.
    • Looking at my first PHP framework now, I have to say it was quite shitty. At the time I thought it was great (and it still is better than a lot of production code that I've already seen deployed). Still, it had many flaws. Unless you're a total genius, your first frameworks will just look awfully if you look back at them a few years later (assuming you evolve).
    • Actually, any framework you will create will look worse as time progresses (assuming you don't stop evolving). For this reason you might just as well use available frameworks and focus more on application development. If the framework you use has limitations, consider contributing rather than writing yet another PHP framework.
    • The point in time to choose writing your own frameworks (not just for fun/learning, but for production deployment) is when your requirements surpass what other frameworks out there offer and not when you just don't like the idea of working with one. It's a common mistake, which I have done myself. But now I can say, I've learnt from it. But if you ask for advice (which I unfortunately didn't do at the time) you will get answers like these.
    • You learn a lot from working with code you did not write yourself. Not only do you pick up concepts promoted by frameworks others put a lot of thought into, but you also learn to be productive, flexible, able to work in a team and to get the job done (while obtaining reasonably good results).
    • I suppose you can't really think you're better than every team of a PHP open source project out there, otherwise you would ask. Get over the stubborn instinctive need to reinvent the wheel any young developer has and grow up to tackle problems noone has tackled yet.
  4. Learn, what the difference is, between a component library and a framework. Since you think you can replace a framework with "your own library of functions", you probably haven't understood, what the point of frameworks is. Have a look at dependency inversion, inversion of control and dependency injection.
  5. Learn about software design. Look at OO principles like SOLID and GRASP.
  6. Try different paradigms. AOP, functional programming. Enhance your OO skills using languages with stronger object orientation, such as Ruby, Objective-C or Smalltalk.
  7. Look at PHP frameworks such as Flow3, Symfony, PHP igniter and CakePHP. I've already pointed out why I think you should do so.
  8. As pointed out in another comment of mine, you should consider other storages than RDBMs. SQL and OOP really don't go well together. Have a look at OODBMS, different database abstraction layers, key-value-stores, document stores such as CouchDB and MongoDB, distributes caching servers as memcache etc.
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