What are the pros and cons of being an open source developer?
Interviews Fabio Migliorini
Enrico Zimuel is an Italian open source developer working on the Zend Framework and Apigility projects. He is a TEDx speaker, an author, a blogger and a big fan of PHP 7. We chat to him about life as an open-source developer and his feelings on the future of PHP.
Hi Enrico! To start, can you tell us the reason why you chose PHP as your main programming language? Did you ever consider moving to any other languages?
I started to use PHP because I was interested in web development in 1998. Before I used Perl but PHP was more web-oriented. In fact it was invented for that. Since then PHP has grown a lot. PHP 7 shows the huge performance improvements that are possible, especially through new features like scalar type declarations. Even if there are good alternatives in the industry, PHP is still the main programming languages for the web, used by more than 80% of websites worldwide.
How did you become an open source contributor?
Since I was a young developer I have been sharing my code with friends, later I shared it on BBS, and finally on the internet. So I can say I was an open source developer from the beginning, even before the open source movement started. I think that being an open source developer is a cultural attitude rather than a license agreement. Sharing code to improve knowledge is still my biggest motivation.
You work for Zend, what are the pros of being an open source developer?
The pros are huge! As developer you can share your ideas and code with millions of great developers worldwide and I think this is the best satisfaction for any developer; I feel very honored and privileged for this opportunity. We have about 700 contributors to the Zend Framework alone. Because your code is used by such a big audience you can impact and guide the development of technologies. For example, we started in 2006 with OOP best practices and we were one of the first PHP frameworks to offer the MVC architectural pattern.
What are the biggest cons of being an open source developer?
I would say that we also have big responsibilities. We need to be careful when you release something, especially for backward compatibility. As uncle Ben said in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility!”
How do you handle remote work?
Working remotely is absolutely awesome! I have worked remotely from Italy for a company based in Cupertino (California) since 2008. I can manage my time better, balancing between company and family needs. I can only do this because Zend Technologies has a good remote working culture. Many of my colleagues are remote workers and the company gives us all that we need to work remotely.
What are the challenges of working remotely?
The only thing that I’ve recognized is that remote working is not an easy process, you need to practice and have a good mentor. For instance, the best advice that I received was to have a dedicated computer only for work with a little space to manage the difference between personal life and job. If you have a dedicated room use it as your office, and remember close the door when you finish to work!
I’ve had the privileges to give many talks at various international conferences, almost 80 so far. TEDx is a great channel to present ideas and inspiring talks; I gave a presentation about creative coding and it was an awesome experience. Also writing a blog post or a book is a great way to talk about technology. I really like self-publishing e-books because they give the author the possibility to easily update the book and give previews of some chapters. Moreover, self-publishing offers a more equal sharing of the profit.
What do you think of the history of PHP and how do you think it will evolve in the future?
PHP was born in 1995 as language for the web and it’s incredible to think that after 21 years it’s the first language, by usage, on the web. Today, we can definitely bet that this technology will continue for many years thanks to the incredible performance improvement and the new features of PHP 7. For instance, recently badoo.com, the largest dating network in the world, saved more than $1 million moving to PHP 7.
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