Posts tagged irishisms
Disclaimer: The following is obviously a spur of the moment tirade of sarcastic commentary and lots of (probably bad) humour. A lot of it refers to events from two years ago (that’s around ZF 0.8!). Ancient history . Mostly. In any case, I have to rant about something once a year related to the Zend Framework. It’s traditional. Park any attempt to take this too seriously at the door. I get a bit dramatic at times…
In certain places, I do sometimes get a reputation of being a crazy person. Usually it happens shortly after I find myself going down a road that leads somewhere truly undesireable (or when I throw in a weird blog post like this one). I had one of those moments today that served as a flashback to such a point in time from 2007. It’s not the first time, but it will be the last since I’ll ignore it completely from now on. Believe it or not, I do get a bit upset at myself when I let these times get to me. They are completely unimportant and silly – but when I have to relive them I will react in a pretty irritated fashion (ed: that should be kneejerk incendiary fashion).
This one started in 2007, right about the time I was first starting to write proposals for the Zend Framework. I felt pretty great at the time. I had lots of ideas, plenty of motivation, and then it all seemed to go downhill from there. The turning point was in June 2007, when after three months of work I felt I had enough done to propose OpenID support for the framework. Obviously a worthy cause, and also one which shouldn’t cause much grief since the ZF keeps advertising its wicked web service support. Before long, that boat was scuttled with news that Zend itself had been working on just such a proposal. Okay, that was disappointing. Zend had somehow managed to completely miss a three month effort on OpenID. Just another day on the farm. Next step? Collaborate? So I waited a few days and Zend’s code for what would become Zend_OpenId appeared in my inbox. Let the review commence! Okay, that ended a bit abruptly…it’s a bit short. Almost like it’s missing stuff and was written in a handful of days as a prototype. Talking went on and off for a while, and eventually my interest in collaborating petered out. Like any open source contributor, I participate to scratch an itch. My OpenID itch was well and truly scratched by now with my own source code, and continuing to throw time at another OpenID solution based on a different paradigm with a different ideology, little of which I agreed with, when I already had one functional was pretty pointless compared to something that still needed scratching like the Zend_View Enhanced proposal (and I really needed that shepherded through). So Zend_OpenId continued without my assistance, with something for Yadis persisting in the Incubator as an orphaned proposal. It still persists waiting that one final patch and call to the trunk… One day…
This all sounds reasonable and a bit dry, but in reality I found it all intolerable. A self-professed OpenID expert who is a member of an OpenID Foundation decides to add OpenID support to the Zend Framework after working on it for three months and who has actual code to prove it, is then told about the other proposal which just happens to be coming at the same time, and has code…of course. Well, a bit of code. If I were a real nut…I’d have a field day. Collaborate? I’d already finished this twice. I’m supposed to go for round three? Yeah, I admit, I was getting pissed off very quickly back then. I was close to constructing an elaborate conspiracy between Zend, George W. Bush and the Illuminati (how could you NOT have the Illuminati ). What was nagging me from the start was the obvious – I should have told someone to stuff that proposal somewhere and forged ahead with my own. Of course I didn’t. I was new, and had green stuff growing out of my ears, and it was Zend. The Zend. Silly me…
The summer of 2007 left me wishing the Zend Framework Proposal Process would shrivel, die and get gobbled down by Orcses (I was hoping for Gollum but he’s a hotshot movie star now). It remains the single worst open source experience I have had since I joined the open source gig in 1995. Not only was it discouraging, it was demoralising. There were points when I was driven to contemplate whether my input was even wanted. Which is probably why I remain so overly sensitive about it – I can understand the new guy is immediately suspect. But not like this. In September 2007 I finally wrote the blog post “How a proposal process could work – if retaining contributors is a goal” out of frustration. As the title suggested, and others guessed, I was borderline on taking a hike from contributing. Some months later I gave some ground, and deleted Zend_Yaml as a proposal. Waiting for a review, or challenging non-existent reviews, or noticing the distinct lack of communication between people gets tiresome eventually. I have a spectacular tendency to vanish for months on projects, but not a whole year. Also, using it as a condition when reviewing another proposal was just fucking stupid. After a few bouts of initial enthusiasm, Zend_Service_Yadis joined it for any worthwhile purpose. That is my fault of course – my motivation to finish a library already released on PEAR had simply evaporated. That scratch your itch thing again – it was scratched on PEAR already. By now Yadis had been in use for over a year in production in other forms, and Zend_OpenId wasn’t going anywhere.
Thankfully, since mid-2008, that horrible system seems to have mostly vanished for good. The change in topics may have helped too. Not many people have considered reimplementing Zend_Feed, and for a change, nobody had been busy on any secret OAuth components. It’s taken roughly a year, but these are finding themselves in the trunk and Incubator respectively and should see ZF 1.9 and ZF 1.10 in turn. Hurrah, I committed actual finished code for once…;). I’ve also dropped any pretense at applying Agile methods to proposals. When I propose something, it will have backing code, class skeletons and use cases (basically the entire integration test suite). It won’t be complete, but it will be sufficiently functional. Overall, I haven’t been irritated in months (well, before today).
But why, why does the whole Zend_OpenId episode still carry weight? It hit me today, when I was scanning my email and I spotted a note about some Zend Framework libraries showing their age and lack of maintenance. Perfectly normal for something the size of Zend Framework – code rot is persistent anywhere. It can be difficult to diagnose though unless you are a regular user or the maintainer, so I shot off a reply adding that the same applies to Zend_OpenId. It was only intended as a supportive example, something I’m personally familiar with since I’m the guy with “Zend Framework” and “OpenID Europe Foundation Representative” written all over their email signatures, so apparently this makes me an expert on the topic. I field a lot of questions about Zend_OpenId at times. As anyone using it knows, Zend_OpenId just doesn’t work at the moment depending on the Provider. It’s woefully outdated.
However, it appears that…I am the Zend_OpenId maintainer! Really? Huh? Wait a minute… WTF?
Que 2007 flashback… Que obligatory irritated kneejerk response disavowing all alleged responsibility for afore mentioned proposal I have never contributed any code to…
I know where this started. At some point in 2008 I did agree to look into OpenID 2.0 support. It was one of those goodwill moments, where you know you’ll get around to it…eventually…after A, B, C and probably D. And you really mean it too, until you’re dragged into someone’s office and told about E. Then the mysterious Z pops by for a few months with a couple of mates. Anyway…it never went further. No proposals, no code, no discussions, no nothing. I only vaguely remember the email even. I imagine I forgot about it within a week until I was reminded about it today, and am apparently being held to it by superglue and ISP records of the email (just joking about the ISP records). God help me. Why are you laughing? This is fucking serious!
Now, being the apparent Zend_OpenId maintainer and therefore responsible for all issues filed since Spring/Summer 2008…I resign, effective immediately. It’s bad for my heart, and my irritation levels. More so now that I know about it. Now that I have resigned, I can see something of the funny side. If I complain about Zend_OpenId – it really is all my fault. Even if I was unaware of it. Allegedly.
Seeing a funny side, and having the benefit of hindsight, I can recognise where it all went off the rails back in 2007. Back in 2007 I should have been more of an ass. Yessir, I should done a Hugh Laurie on someone! Instead I retreated into politeness, followed by disinterest. I should have done exactly what I did with Zend_View Enhanced – write the bloody thing to death in a multi-part monologue that would have directed my legion of rag wearing subjects (er…readers) to assault the edifice of Zend Technologies Inc. until they caved and decided proper OpenID support was popular enough to warrant some real attention, i.e. raise bloody murder. If nobody listens in private, then shout it from the rooftops. But I didn’t. And Zend_OpenId is broken. And the OpenID Community is all the poorer for it. So it really truly is all my fault. I wasn’t a big enough ass. I will try to endeavour to be a bigger asshole in the future. May god have mercy on all your souls.
Now that we’ve established blame, and didn’t even need svn to do it (since I’m not listed there…aha), can we update a few records? In the maintainer field, right on the table called Zend_OpenId, can we change that to NULL or “Zend” since they actually wrote it so presumably are responsible also for its maintenance? While we’re at it, can we make it a new rule that the ex-proposer of features later proposed by a completely different party, not be held responsible for the completely different party’s screwups? Thanks.
This years “Paddy Rants About Something In The Zend Framework You Couldn’t Care Less About” was brought to you by…well…me.
I am such a torment. Cancelled negotiations with a publisher over disagreements on a book format? Check. Said no to taking down a free book startup and enter a publishing contract? Check. Lambasted multiple publishers for releasing PHP 6 books which do not teach anything PHP 6 specific? Check. Next month I expose which publishing companies are secretly building weapons of mass destruction in their basements. Reverse that, I can’t afford a libel suit…
In “The Art Of Deception Or Publishing PHP6 Books” I aired my unflattering opinions about publishers who have been selling “PHP 6″ books. PHP 6, last I checked, was a bit like Leprechauns (Hey, I’m Irish! The use is legal!). You love them, you have lots of ideas about what to expect from them – but has anyone every really seen one (other than my great uncle)? PHP 6 exists in CVS – it’s never had a release other than the usual CVS snapshots. It’s certainly not complete and stable, and its future feature list remains a bit flexible. You could see PHP 5.4 in 2011 before PHP 6 is finished…guessing here. As its developers would say – it’ll be ready when it’s ready. One day. Maybe.
In response to the blog post, Wrox Press picked up on the problem on Twitter via Davey Shafik (@dshafik). Everyone knows Davey. If you don’t, you must have been living under a rock, or a ruby, for a really long time. I have to say, Wrox responded in a wholly unpredicted way I have to admire. It’s not everyday you find yourself hiding in a cave in Antrim (it’s nice…a little damp though) after seeing something you wrote persuade a publisher to pull back a book destined for the printers, and work on fixing it so it deserves its title.
Here’s the full text of the comment posted to “The Art Of Deception…” earlier today by Jim Minatel (Associate Publisher – Wrox). Jim is mostly the person sitting behind @wrox over on Twitter where he’s been quite proactive in getting to the bottom of my PHP 6 Book complaints.
Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me on Twitter last night. I’m the Associate Publisher for Wrox, I’m the person usually behind @wrox on twitter.
After meeting with the editor who ran the PHP list for us, you’re right. The titles of these PHP6 books, some of the references to PHP6 in the books, what isn’t covered in the books, all prove we made a mistake, something went wrong. But how, why?
Elizabeth (and thanks for her measured response) is correct in part of her assessment that books take a long time to write and publish. I’m sure that when the editor and authors started these books in Spring 2008, they’re thinking was that 6.0 would indeed be a stable release by early 2009 (if not sooner) and they were aiming for that. But clearly along the way we dropped the ball on checking references to things like the non-existent “6.0.0 stable.”
In the Beginning PHP6, MySQL, Apache book, I can actually understand the rationale not to cover Unicode there. Given that Unicode is primarily valuable to someone internationalizing a site or localizing it for multiple languages – topics that I wouldn’t consider “Beginning” level – I can see why it wasn’t covered. (Before becoming associate publisher, I was actually our ASP.NET editor for most of the last 5 years and we don’t for example cover internationalization/localization in our Beginning ASP.NET 3.5.) So we want to have a book that Beginning level customers understand will work with PHP6 if that’s the version they’re using, but we didn’t communicate right what that meant in this context where there weren’t major new v6 features at the level we thought a beginner would need.
The professional book stumps me more. It’s hard for me to understand how that book doesn’t have a chapter on Unicode. It looks like an oversight by everyone involved in the book.
So where do we go from here and get better than this to eventually prove we’re worthy of better than when @bicatu says “That reminds me why I’ve never bought a Wrox book?”
First, I’ve asked the team involved with Beginning PHP6 scheduled to ship to the printer this week to pull that book back, to read your post and the subsequent twitter discussion and to make sure we aren’t making the same mistake a third time. I want the author and editors to provide a level of confidence that the PHP6 features that should be covered are, that the discussion of the current state of PHP6 is accurate, and the that the title, subtitle, and marketing copy on the book and online accurately reflects what is and isn’t covered.
Second, publishing the right books depends on having the right team, including a large number of well placed community experts on the topics who serve as authors, freelance/contract technical editors. There’s always room for a team to improve, through learning and through recruiting. I hope this discussion helps our current team in PHP (and MySQL and LAMP in general) and I hope it helps us attract people like you who have ideas on what we can do better. I’d like to invite you and everyone who’s commented on this post so far (and I’ll post the invite on twitter too) to get involved. We’ve got a PHP Design Patterns book scheduled to publish in August (not specific to any version) I’d like to start by offering you all a preview of that. If you see any red flags, tell us. If you like it, if you see issues and help us make it better, at a minimum we’ll send you a free copy. If you get involved more extensively, you can discuss with the editor contract work. DM me in twitter with your email addresses if you want to get involved. Or email me at the address below.
Thanks for caring enough to get our attention. I promise, we’re listening.
Associate Publisher – Wrox
jminatel at w I l e y d o t c o m
On a side note, Jim spelled my name correctly. Class. I called Jim, “John”, on Twitter. Fail.
Rather impressed with Wrox right now.
If I have a remaining concern it would be that with PHP 6 unreleased and in flux, it still seems dangerous to title books using that version number. The most current updated PHP version from next Tuesday will be PHP 5.3 which is itself a pretty giant leap over PHP 5.2. PHP 6 is conceivably years away – its release date isn’t set in stone (I don’t know if anyone has even estimated it recently).