Last week I was at ZendCon, the largest yearly event of the PHP community. One thing that I've been thinking about lately, and something that many other people have talked about, is how unique the PHP community is. People are generally friendly and welcoming. Rarely do you run into someone who thinks he or she is somehow better than anyone else. Sure, you'll get the occasional RTFM on a mailing list but ask anyone who's interacted with the PHP community and they'll probably have something nice to say.
I'm relatively new to the PHP community myself. Sure, I've been a PHP developer for about eight years but I hadn't really been involved in the community until I started our local PHP users group two years ago. There I met many talented local PHP developers including Matthew Weier O'Phinney, now project lead for Zend Framework. I had actually started using Zend Framework a little while before I met Matthew not realizing that one of the developers lived here in Vermont. I then went to ZendCon '08 which was my introduction to the international PHP community.
I think one of the things that makes the PHP community so strong is that we've had to build the community ourselves (my part in building the PHP community has been relatively tiny). Having had some involvement in other technology communities, I've seen the kind of support that companies like Microsoft can provide to strengthen their respective communities. During the "Meet the Zend Team" session at this year's ZendCon, Keith Casey asked what Zend was going to do to further support user groups. I was very happy to hear this question asked.
I'd like to see Zend do more to support user groups — although I don't have any room to talk with Matthew being a regular attendee and presenter at our local user group. In fact, as a response to Keith's question Matthew reiterated his offer to present at other user groups if he was in the area (which, frankly, was a much better answer than the rest of the Zend team gave). Chris Cornutt published a blog post today asking what role should companies take in the developer community ecosystem. I don't think it's any one company or organization's job to support the PHP community. Help is most certainly welcome but I think our strength is in doing it ourselves.