It's just a tool

Previously: [Part 1][programming1], [Part 2][programming2], [Part 3][programming3], and [Part 4][programming4].

I received an interesting question the other day from a recruiter:

> Would you be open to moving away from PHP?

My answer:

First, by analogy. I’m a photographer, most of the cameras I own are manufactured by Nikon. This is like asking if I’m open to using a Canon.

I happen to be very adept with using a Nikon. However, I don’t think [the photons bouncing around care much what logo sits on front of the camera][camera purchasing] they are in. I’d be a poor photographer if what I did was care about the brand of camera I carry instead of the picture I am taking.

PHP is designed to solve one problem: the web problem. It solves it very well—as evidenced by marketshare and its continuing durability. At nearly all other stuff, PHP happens to suck at.

However it (the web problem) [isn’t that difficult] of a problem (having been solved repeatedly by languages such as Ruby, Python, C, C++, Java, Javascript, etc.). The real difficult parts are invariably outside the “web problem.” (Example: Twitter’s web problem was solved in Ruby using Rails, but their real problems were not web problems and of those problems, the most prominent was solved in Scala.)

I happen to be very adept at PHP. That pretty much means knowing that there is a better tool than to use PHP to solve the problem at hand at hand, and using that instead of PHP: MySQL, Apache, memcached, MongoDB, CouchDB, Scala, Erlang, Puppet, CruiseControl, AWS, etc.—none of which, to my knowledge anyway, written in PHP.

I’d be a poor programmer indeed if I thought that the problems I solved cared much the language I was adept in.

I’m not a poor programmer.

The Short answer: “Yes. Depends on the problem and the existing environment.”

(Recruiter was amused by my answer because he was owns a Canon. I suggested we “get on either side of the street and start making threatening dance moves at each other like [the Jets and the Sharks][west side story].”)

Another question I got:

> Which do you think is better [some programming language] or [another programming language]?

My answer:

They’re just tools. That’s like asking a handyman which they think is better: a hammer or a screwdriver.

(That elicited a laugh.)

Using a programming language is simply [a choice][making choices]. There are many things that go into making a correct choice that are far beyond what language one prefers for a problem that happens to be not that hard to solve in the first place.

[programming1]: “Learning Programming Part 1: 5 million”
[programming2]: “Learning Programming Part 2: Programming Frameworks”
[programming3]: “Learning Programming Part 3: C/C++ superiority”
[programming4]: “Learning Programming Part 4: “Programming is Hard””
[camera purchasing]: “Camera purchasing advice”
: “Is Ruby the dog and PHP the dogfood?”
[making choices]: “Simple prescriptions and making choices”
[west side story]: “West Side Story—Wikipedia”

One thought on “It's just a tool

  1. PHP solves the web PAGE problem better than any of the other languages–but pages as we know them are going away–I was going to choose nodejs, or eventmachine, because I figured no way PHP could survive the future websockets era, wrong I was:

    I’d rather fiddle with phpdaemon than any of the others, might actually learn something…

    (or you’ve got nginx with the lua plugin to replace apache, using core PHP FPM on the back end). Or if phpdaemon had some rewriterule capability it could do everything…

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