Before starting this conversation (I really hope it becomes a conversation) I would like to concede a few points. This may also give insight as to where my observations are coming from.

  • I am a PHP Developer. Professionally since 2005, Hobbyist since 1998/1999.
  • I am an active member in the PHP Community.
  • I am an active member in the Laravel Community.
  • I love Laravel and have been using it since shortly before version 4 went beta.
  • I love to talk about Laravel and help others learn (in general, not just Laravel)
  • I have contributed to a few Laravel repos.
  • I actively give input on Homestead Pull Requests.
  • The contestants where 6 out of 460 attendees out of everyone in the world who could have possibly attended Laracon US.

Laracon US 2015 picked a beautiful venue, The Kentucky Center in downtown Louisville. The auditorium / hall the talks were held in was really large and perfect for a conference event.

Before the lunch break on the first day we were treated to a round of JeoPHPardy from the always great Jeremy Mikola. If you have never seen JeoPHPardy I highly recommend it. As you can likely imagine JeoPHPardy is the traditional Jeopardy game show but with PHP related categories and questions. Jeremy randomly selected names from the attendees list and the first six that came forward were contestants. The categories for this round: PHP-FIG Newtons (related to PHP FIG, Head of the class (PHP Classes), Alls well that Otwell (related to Laravel), a PHP Podcast category, and a category related to the city of Louisville.

The game played out and was a really great time for all involved. The audience really seemed to like it and the contestants seemed to really enjoy it as well.

When the game was over I was thinking about a lot of the questions that the contestants couldn’t answer and how that relates to this being a Laravel conference. (As opposed to a PHP conference). I will freely admit that I couldn’t answer many of the questions although I feel like I could have made reasonable assertions where the contestants were drawing blanks. In the sake of transparency it is important to mention the contestants were penalized if they answered incorrectly. This could have led to some of the questions not being answered.

The point I’d like to make is that a random sampling of Laravel conference attendees were unable to answer medium to high difficulty PHP related questions. They were unable to answer questions about PSRs. They were unable to recognize portraits of fourth fifths the podcasts used. The podcasts used: Cal & Kathy Evans for Voices of the Elephant/It’s the booze talking, Phil Sturgeon and Ben Edmunds for PHP Town Hall, Ed Finkler and Chris Hartjes for the /dev/hell podcast. The contestants were able to get Matt Stauffer’s 5 minute geek show after some stumbling and they were able to get Sammy Powers PHP Roundtable easily. This random sampling of attendees did quite well answering Laravel questions and Louisville questions.

I find it frustrating that a random sampling of Laracon attendees seem to be out of touch with not only notable PHP podcast hosts, the Framework Interoperability Group that is guiding the way they write code, and inner workings of the PHP language itself.

I feel like Laravel users have isolated themselves off into their own silo and not enough are making it outside of this silo and into the larger PHP community. This is not exclusive to Laravel, in fact most frameworks are in their smaller community silos. Why do I care? I care because I self recognize as a Laravel user and I want them to have the same awesome community experience as I have had.

I am not trying to pick on Laravel. Laravel is what I am talking about because it is one of the many tools I use. I don’t care if you don’t like Laravel for whatever reason. I don’t want you to focus on why you don’t like it. I want you to focus on bringing people out of these silos. I don’t believe these silos will go away, instead I would like to see more crossover. I want all of these Laravel developers to realize that there is this larger PHP community out there and they are apart of it.

Laravel is easy to use. It allows a developer to write better code than they may be able to outside of a full stack framework. Veterans may look down on Laravel (or other frameworks) as being too easy or for allowing developers to bypass the hard knocks learning process they had to go through. I went through a lot of those same hard knocks and I don’t think it’s fair to force users to pay their dues. Laravel is a tool. If your use case fits why not use it?

What can we do about this? Get involved! Attend a conference, attend a PHP user group. Offer to start a user group. Not sure if there is a user group near you? check out http://php.ug and find out! If there isn’t a group near you, start one! Do you live in a city that has a Laravel and a PHP meetup? If you frequent the Laravel meetup I challenge you to attend the PHP meetup if you don’t usually. Offer to give a Laravel talk, share your passion for Laravel and find others who share a love for PHP.