Five Strokes with Ryan Weaver

By Maja Nebes -

With PHP & eZ Publish Summer Camp approaching, we decided to ask Ryan Weaver, voted the best speaker last year, a few questions.

Ryan Weaver is the documentation lead for the Symfony Framework, trainer and consultant at KnpLabs US, a writer for KnpUniversity, published author and speaker, and an avid supporter of open source as a tool to solve serious business problems. Ryan likes to present topics in a narrative way - building real applications and telling a story as you learn and develop. With PHP & eZ Publish Summer Camp approaching, we decided to ask him a few questions.

NG: Hi, Ryan! How have you been? Last year you held a few workshops at our PHP & eZ Summer Camp and immediately you were voted the best speaker. You also wrote a very flattering blog post about your experience there. What are your thoughts on and impressions of the Summer Camp almost a year after?

RW: Apart from being on a beautiful beach, here’s the secret: the Summer Camp created the best environment I’ve ever seen for attendees to learn and polish new skills. Last year I had to “raise my game” for the Camp - creating extra credit exercises for advanced people and specific plans in case anyone fell behind. Attendees are doing real coding - and that’s the best way to learn. But it’s also tricky. The Summer Camp really tries to perfect that. Oh, and did I mention the beach? Or the fresh fish?

NG: You are a Symfony expert. What do you think of eZ Platform getting closer to Symfony framework? Can you tell us something more about it from Symfony perspective?

RW: This is huge - in fact, it might be the single thing that we should all be most excited about. If eZ and Symfony are far apart, there’s no cross-over: I can’t really use my Symfony background to put up an eZ site and eZ people can’t easily use Symfony for some non-CMS project they may have. But as they get closer, that whole limitation falls apart: both sides basically get a new tool for free. And there’s a totally different advantage for eZ users: more (all) of the Symfony docs will apply to eZ, as will the tens-of-thousands of StackOverflow answers that already exist for solving Symfony problems.

NG: KnpLabs contributes to open source and that work is obviously important to you. What were your motives for open sourcing and contributing to the community in general?

RW: It’s fun :). And when you contribute back - even if it’s just adding some comments on someone else’s pull request (this is huge) - you create an online community for yourself. Today, the lead developer of some project may seem like a distant person. But tomorrow, you’ll be helping them move the project forward. And I’ll give one more reason. Tons of people (thousands or millions) use Symfony, eZ, Doctrine etc. Imagine you clarify some documentation, fix a bug or just make a small task slightly easier. If that saves each developer that uses the library a few minutes, how many hundreds (or thousands) of hours did you just save the world? Yes, it’s just programming - but you can do some real good.

NG: KnpUniversity is dedicated to teaching programming. Do you think a self-taught programmer could compete with the college-trained programmers? Related to that, how important, in your opinion, is college education vs. inner motivation for programmers?

RW: A few years ago at SymfonyCon, the speakers stood in front and someone asked who had a computer science degree. Out of the 12 people, only about 3 raised their hands. We don’t all have to love programming and want to do it 24 hours a day, but if you don’t like it, then maybe it’s not for you. So, that inner motivation, or at least inner curiosity, is huge. That curiosity is what drives people to KnpUniversity: they want to learn something they don’t know now or build something amazing they have in their mind. Attending university is just one of the tools that someone with this curiosity can use. And by the way, I did attend university and I recommend it, but I studied Math and Spanish because they were hard (Math) and interesting (Spanish). Computers were on the side.

NG: Lastly, is there anything you would want to see or experience this year at Summer Camp that you had not last year?

RW: I was so busy last year, I didn’t have time to actually attend any of the other workshops. I like learning too :).

NG: Thank you for your time, Ryan! Looking forward to seeing you in August! 

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