Of Community

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The PHP Community is a fairly large, rules-free community of people who share a common interest in programming. Many of us hang out on Twitter, our own blogs, or on IRC (usually on Freenode #phpc). So some events of the day certainly caught me by surprise.

This afternoon, while hanging out in a lesser known channel, I was kicked out for no reason besides the whim of the operator, Derick Rethans. No warning, no rude comment on my part, just a joke followed by a kick. Alison Lunde was also kicked for a seemingly bogus reason. Another person was banned.

How could this be, two weeks after the “community conference,” which Derick himself attended?

I was furious. I felt betrayed, violated, attacked personally for something that shouldn’t have happened. I hadn’t been kicked out of an IRC channel since before I was a teenager; this was a personal insult and by God, I was ready to fight. I talked to a number of my friends in the PHP community and told them that this slight was beyond insulting; I was going to tear Derick a new one on my blog and wash my hands of the community forever. After all, everyone in the channel seemed to support this decision, right? They were all still there, hanging out, perhaps hoping they wouldn’t be next.

But a few hours went by, and a few things started to happen. First, a number of people in the community told me that leaving the community would hurt the community overall. Others told me they were beside themselves at Derick’s action, and wouldn’t be participating in any “elite” channels. I got a number of supportive emails. A number of people said “well if we can’t be a part of that channel, we’ll start our own” and did just that. Not to be exclusive – just to reduce the noise level.

As time went on I realized that the community really is larger than any one person. Even when one person does something inconsiderate or rude, that doesn’t and shouldn’t define the community. I was really ready to let Derick have it, to walk away, and to never be a part of the community ever again. But no one person defines the community, and no one person can shape it, no matter who they are. That’s the point of the PHP community.

Instead I’ll practice some forgiveness. Derick, you’re welcome in any channel I’m in, any time. Xdebug is fantastic and your book on dates and times is perhaps the preeminent work on the topic. Your contributions to the core of PHP and its documentation are unmatched by anyone, and with 130 presentations to your name, you certainly are accomplished. You’re a part of the community, and I welcome you.

For those wondering how to join the community, it’s easy. Show up in IRC, or come to a conference. Find your users group in your area, or join one of PHP’s many project mailing lists. If you need direction, Elizabeth Smith (@auroraeosrose) always has direction on work that needs to be done in the community. Dive in, get involved, don’t be a jerk and meet people. Put on a thick skin, watch out for toes, put on your work clothes and get involved.

Tell them I sent you.

Brandon Savage is the author of Mastering Object Oriented PHP and Practical Design Patterns in PHP

Posted on 6/3/2009 at 8:19 pm
Categories: Community
Tags: , ,

Vid Luther (@vidluther) wrote at 6/3/2009 10:17 pm:

Welcome back to the community, and thanks for your patience with us losers :).

Pierre (@pierrejoye) wrote at 6/4/2009 2:34 am:

The main reason I love freenode is because there are no operator (there is but differently). The philosophy is also different than what we can find on EFNet or IRCNet, there is no such thing as random kicking session only because some of the ops do not like you. The only place on Freenode where I see people kicked out are in php channels… go figure.

Elizabeth M Smith wrote at 6/4/2009 7:20 am:

Except that you don’t mention you weren’t summarily kicked out of #phpc but rather a “backchannel” created by others – to reduce the noise level – not an “official PHP community channel” – it’s kind of like getting upset that you got kicked out of #ponies or #aol10yearoldgirls

that’s IRC – there are “backchannels”, channels where friends just want to hang out… and people do get offended if you start throwing out their channel name to everyone and have the perfect right to kick you out – just as you have the right to go start your own little hang out and invite your friends in

Because at the end the “official” community channel there is #phpc specifically for the PHP community – and getting upset over being kicked out of there summarily would be something to have a fit about – but not this


Brandon Savage (@brandonsavage) wrote at 6/4/2009 8:00 am:

Elizabeth, some additional facts: I was invited, and the people who remained were quite upset about the whole thing.

Private is fine. But in a group that large it’s not possible to keep a secret, and we saw the results. I think in the end people do get upset when they think they’re joining a group of friends and suddenly find out that those “friends” don’t think them good enough.

Pierre (@pierrejoye) wrote at 6/4/2009 8:02 am:

A “backchannel” to reduce the noise level? That’s yet another stupid thing where PHP is so good at…

All these community “leaders” creating backchannels/meetings/groups, positioning themselves as whatever they dream about is either ridiculous or somehow pathetic.

Anonymous Coward wrote at 6/4/2009 8:16 am:

I am confused, am I reading a re-cap of a The Hills episode or a blog post from a software developer.

With this blog post you just come off as a spoiled child who’s used to getting his way. It smells a bit of an attempted reputation attack on Derick – I’m sure it’s not intentional, but it comes off as that.

Dynom (@dynom) wrote at 6/4/2009 8:39 am:

I understand why you feel, the way you feel. I too wasn’t welcome enough to stay, even though I met quite a few people in real life and I know some others for a long time on IRC / Skype. There are a few who desperate want to keep it a ‘friends’ channel even though that is not the correct term for the channel in question.

Which saddens me in some parts since not everybody in that channel is on the community channel, so there is no way to get to know them better (To name an example: Elizabeth M Smith, since she replied here also)

You do however have some facts mixed up. Like Elizabeth said, you did not got kicked out of a official community channel. Even though all the ‘big names’ are in that channel (looks can be deceiving).

I hope to see you, and others, around on #phpc :-)

Elizabeth M Smith wrote at 6/4/2009 8:42 am:

Perhaps you need to learn the difference between “Social Channel” (let’s talk about our dogs, kids, latest fun side project and occasionally PHP) and “Project Channels” where the goal is support, working on a project, etc.

Pierre (@pierrejoye) wrote at 6/4/2009 8:48 am:

I think you perfectly know what I mean. I was not referring to noisy social channels (which are fine if you like it) but the endless list of private channels with almost always the same usual suspect. So excuse me Liz, nice shot but off base.

Keith Casey (@CaseySoftware) wrote at 6/4/2009 8:55 am:


When I found backchannel last year, I was told it was like a bunch of people sitting around at the bar. From being at tek a few weeks back, I understood this to mean that anyone can drift in or out and the only reason someone gets kicked out is if they’re a total ass.

Last week, I found out it was completely different… when someone started listing off the people they didn’t invite and proposed password protecting the channel and changing the password regularly.

I left at that point as opposed to be a part of that.

Elizabeth Naramore (@ElizabethN) wrote at 6/4/2009 9:17 am:

If I may be so bold as to interject. Derick does not deserve to feel your wrath and the wrath of the PHP community because of this. Apparently his years of contributing freely to open source, many hours of helping others with questions, and the many hours of free time he has given up to make PHP a better project mean nothing. No, it’s much better to blow something way out of proportion and openly bash someone’s character, thus causing a big drama over something stupid. *THAT* is what the PHP community is really good at. DRAMA.

Brandon, I’m sorry that you got your feelings hurt. I really am. I’m glad you’re in the community, and I value you as a member. But honestly, I also value Derick as a member, and I think we should all get over ourselves and move on. Shit happens every day that I don’t like or agree with. It would be ludicrous of me to assume that everything should happen the way I want it to and people should do what I want them to do.

@Pierre: Why is creating a backchannel to reduce noise stupid? There are approximately 150 people in #phpc at any given moment. So every topic I want to talk about with people I’m close to should be open for everyone to see? And why would I presume the members of #phpc would be interested in hearing about my kids or my dog or any other trivial thing I feel like bringing up?

Also, for example, we create channels for conferences all the time… so the rest of the world doesn’t have to listen to what’s going on there if they don’t want to. Hence, noise reduction.

Brandon Savage (@brandonsavage) wrote at 6/4/2009 9:17 am:

Hey, let’s cool it just a little bit. Everyone back to their corners.

People are entitled to their opinions. No matter how incorrect you may think they are they have a right to think that way and you have a right to disagree. There’s absolutely no need to beat each other to death.

I’m with Keith, and I was invited under essentially the same premise. I was never told of the “rules” and my first inclination that I wasn’t welcome or invited was when I got tossed.

Let’s all step back and breathe a bit, ok?

Pierre (@pierrejoye) wrote at 6/4/2009 9:30 am:

oh, I may be not clear on one point. I do not blame Derick at all, but the way things are done by a certain group of people (as a group).

Jakefolio (@jakefolio) wrote at 6/4/2009 11:27 am:

Wow, when does the next episode start….I’m going to put this on my TIVO and pop some popcorn!

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