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SitePoint PHP in 2015: Future Plans

By Bruno Skvorc

The end of 2014 is in sight, and we’ve had a truly great year. Let’s do a yearly recap, see what we’ve done, and talk about the future – where we’re heading, how we’ll get there, and how you can help. But first, let’s welcome the new authors that have joined us these past couple of months.

New Authors

silhouettes of businesspeople

During November and December, despite the usual holiday-decreased publication frequency, we’ve had four new authors join the team.

Nicolas Scolari, France

Nicolas is a back-end developer from France specialized in PHP and currently actively experimenting with Symfony 2. He’s already produced two posts for us – one explaining Symfony’s route annotations and the other dealing with Traits in a Doctrine context – both of which were well received. We’re looking forward to seeing more of his work in 2015!


Adedayo Adeniyi, Nigeria

Dayo is a professional web developer from Nigeria with a love for PHP and Joomla. She wrote about Joomla and how the CMS changed over the years, touting its fearlessness in the face of software evolution, with little to no regard for backward compatibility. A brave trait for any project, you’ll agree. The post lured in many commenters and provided for lively discussion. Why don’t you join in and see what people are saying?


Damien Alexandre, France

I met Damien – a consultant for JoliCode – at ForumPHP in Paris. At JoliCode, Damien does development, audit, training and guidance for various companies around their web projects. He likes Symfony, Composer and Elasticsearch – and talked about the latter in particular in his post about indexing Chinese content for search. It’s a very specific problem, but one that is incredibly underrated in the western world – a must read for anyone looking to make their content truly global. We’re looking forward to getting more niche content from Damien – his writing strikes a note with the more professional parts of the community looking to get past the easily found basics and into specific problems that need solving.


Chirag Dodia, India

Chirag is a PHP developer and computer engineer from India who likes to make awesome web things. He has expertise in e-commerce and CMS platforms, while currently working on major projects involving Magento. His first post for SitePoint PHP was an attempt to explain the install and upgrade scripts one can find while developing for Magento. His article is a guide to high quality i/u scripts that don’t cause problems down the road. We’re definitely looking forward to getting more Magento content on SitePoint, so Chirag’s expertise is highly welcome.


The Future

So, what’s in store for SitePoint? What’s the game plan for the PHP section? In a large part, it’s up to you – the readers.

Fewer, better posts

Throughout 2014, we gradually increased the publication frequency from three posts per week to five, and sometimes more. This was due to the sheer amount of drafts we were getting, and we were hard pressed to publish them all, giving everyone a chance to shine and be approved by the community. This allowed us to widen distribution, take more risks and try out new ideas which in turn helped us grow – a lot.

Long shadow icon with a graph

It is this growth that now allows us to not only carefully hand-pick the work of our top writers, but also to enlist the help of our most prolific contributors in peer review (see Peer Review below) to push our quality to a level even higher than we had gotten it to in 2014. Quality will be the absolute priority, once again bringing down the average number of posts per week – averaging around three. While a “clickbaity” title may be necessary from time to time, the content behind it will undoubtedly be excellent – and if not, please tell us about it.

We’ll be rejecting more submissions, we’ll be much harder on language standards (authors will have to take care of their English, so we can take care of the content without too many linguistic distractions), and we’ll be focused on specific content much more – niche tutorials, specific problems, alternative solutions, interesting and/or unknown tools… and if we publish polls, we’ll make sure they’re the kind that matters. If we publish opinions and reviews, we’ll make sure it’s of the stuff you’re interested in, by the people whose opinions you care about, and that it’s content you can genuinely and confidently agree or disagree with. We want to foster good discussion (see The Forums, below).

Peer Review

Feedback Hand

Also starting in 2015, we’ll be gradually introducing an experimental peer review system. Every post that enters the system will be reviewable by other channel authors who will be able to voice their honest concerns with it, if any. This will help me, the editor, keep an objective eye on things. Perks for reviewers are not excluded. You’ll have to have been a previously published SitePoint author to review content, though, so if you’ve never written for us before, now’s the time to join!

Regular Authors

Based on authors’ review history, public profile and popularity, success score, and general ability to regularly produce good content, we’ll be promoting some authors to regular writers. These authors might get some additional perks like higher rates paid out for their content, automatic approval of new topics, no-review publishing, and more. We’re looking to make the channel a team effort.

Demos

I’ll personally do my best to make sure as many tutorials as possible have an online demo you can run. The hosting fees will be paid by SitePoint, and the demo pages will have links back to tutorials and the source code required to get them to run locally. We want the content our writers produce to become as easily consumable as possible – from customizing to taking everything apart and learning what makes each individual component tick.

The Forums

Büro Besprechungungen

Ever since we switched to Discourse for our commenting and forum system, the results have been mostly positive – increased engagement, creative discussion, and generally high quality feedback on both articles and the site in general – not to mention the community’s willingness to help others in need. Many a newbie question has already been answered – see for yourself. We’re looking to take this up a notch. SitePoint.com as a whole already has plans to implement on-page commenting for our posts – something the current implementation doesn’t support yet – but aside from that upgrade, we’re looking to get more people involved in the discussions that happen there.

We want you to join in, ask questions, respond to topics and generally get included. While StackOverflow might still be the go-to resource for specific programming problems, their rigidity regarding rules tends to be frustrating. On our forums, you’re guaranteed to be given a voice. Ask anything you want, as long as it’s related to the category you’re posting in, and we’ll all do our best to help you find an answer. Found a great new tool you’d like to discuss or ask people’s opinions about? Do it! Confused about design patterns? Ask forth! As an aside, I’d like to mention that the willingness to be active and helpful on the forums also contributes to one’s chances of becoming a Regular Author (see above).

Help us be better – join the cause

In addition to the improvements and new efforts I listed above, we’re looking for feedback from you on how to improve. We promise – we listen to every suggestion, even if we don’t immediately respond or implement it. For example, for a while there we had a popover when you landed on the site. While ours was significantly less aggressive than what you could encounter on other websites, people still hated it. You complained, we listened, and after some wrestling with the promo team – the popup is gone.

Tell us what we’re doing wrong, and what we’re doing right. Tell us what you’d like us to do better. Voice your opinion, request content, suggest alternatives and solutions to the aspects that bother you. We’re open to suggestions and promise to respond in one way or another. Join us as an author, as a reviewer, as a forum member – there’s not many contributions we don’t find invaluable.

Just comment on this post, and the feedback will appear in the forums where it can be discussed further. Let’s get into it!

Good night, 2014!

Silvester Feuerwerk

In 2014, we became the resource for PHP content. Our content is recognized in circles wider than ever before, and we get recommended as the source of solutions to people’s problems more often than not. In 2015, we’re looking to do better.

I’d like to thank each and every one of you – the readers, the authors, the mentors and colleagues on SitePoint staff – for an amazing 2014. It was a fun ride, and it’s about to get even better. Let’s step into 2015 the same way we made 2014 awesome – together.

Happy New Year, folks!

Comments
s_molinari

Hey Bruno!

This is very good news! Looking forward a lot to the better implementation of Discourse into the blog posts.

I've become a regular reader of the PHP section and enjoy the PHP related articles. Keep up the good work!

Scott

swader

Ok, so we have our first suggestion, by Alexander Koko.

He suggests implementing a way for authors to keep their posts up to date.
I thought about this before, but haven't yet managed to find an efficient way to make it happen.

Paying for minimal upgrades to posts would render us broke in very little time. Authors usually won't do it for free because in the months/years that have gone by, they've usually moved on and don't even remember what it is they were doing back when they wrote the post. Now, paying for full revisits is definitely an option - but a full revisit would be a completely new post, which is something that needs to be:

  1. sufficiently different from the old version to warrant a rewrite
  2. standalone - we can't really republish new versions of entire series.

It would be easier if WP had a decent markdown plugin, which would let me put the content of the posts into Github for everyone to take a look at and tweak at will - this would be the most productive approach because the people reading the topic at hand will most likely be the ones most into it at that moment, and will be able to tweak the content to make it work for them, easily sharing their knowledge with others. However, with a disparity between content formats (original articles are MD, then converted to HTML for WP, and images are inserted additionally through the Edit Posts interface, a whole lot of processing obviously going on), that's not really possible.

One ray of hope in the above matter is the WP REST API which, if done right, could be used to automate post updates from Github hosted article content, but that's a long, long way off.

Suggestions on how to tackle outdated posts are welcome.

zackw

What is the purpose of updating old content?
For updating errors, the editor should do that on his own based on feedback.

For an addendum, this requires no editing of the original article, but perhaps just a styled box at the top with a few sentences explaining the issue (i.e. this technique is outdated, click here instead for a better method....)
The necessity for an addendum like this would likely also come through comments sent to the editor. If the editor is unskilled to deal with the issue, he could contact the original author, or query the current authorship to write the addendum. I personally don't think this should cost anything, if a skilled author understands the issue, they could write a paragraph in no time. Perhaps this gives them some extra kudos in the publishing department? More points with the editors?

If an article needs a complete rewrite, like if some tool is drastically updated and Sitepoint wants a fresh look, this sounds like a full cost situation. The original article is little more than a template, as all facts, workflows, and details would have to be tested over again, new features explained, new screeshots taken, etc etc. The offer could go to the original author, then passed on to other authors if not accepted.

Using GIT on Markdown documents to accept pull requests for edits is a decent idea, but requires a lot of work vetting authors, controlling access, dealing with pull requests, setting up the final draft etc. I believe this should be in a private network instead, using a tool that allows for control of users, which documents they can edit, workflows with permission system and version control. Something more like document-based intranet service.

Trello is not without its problems, I don't believe it's the best for managing things. It's hard to deal with revisions, consistent format of documents, attachments, live previews, approval process, etc. It doesn't allow an easy way to have the peer review system you'd like, or dealing with future revisions and requests.

I would definitely look into an intranet system that allows for revisions, document management, approval/review process with comments, requests/task system, open discussion, user control and permissions system, and maybe even gamification to help analyze star players and engagement.
It would have an attachment system built-in with revisions even on files. A better idea board with discussions and system for accepting an article and moving into an author's own draft pile. Being able to tag and define and make certain editors the admins over certain topics.

All of this stuff is what an intranet is for. I don't think Trello is advanced enough, and most other tools cost for every seat. Think in the universe of Huddle, Yammer, Clinked, Basecamp, Podio, Mangoapps, and a dozen more.
However, Trello has its advantages too, that you can have different groups (PHP, Web, etc) but also have different sections within each group. Most intranets have groups and projects, but not an additional layers of sections within those groups for "In Progress" and "Ready for Editor" etc. These workflows and approval process would work different.

I'm sure Sitepoint will figure it out though!

swader

Fantastic feedback, thank you! I'll ponder on this - already got the ball rolling on a couple of ideas mentioned here, but still experimenting and gathering feedback so this is super valuable, cheers!

zackw

Thanks. I'll help any way I can, I've tested a lot of intranets and settled on Mango for our company.

Mango allows you to have unlimited guest users with unlimited groups and projects. Problem is, once inside a group, there is no further refinement of sections. So if there was a group for "PHP", there is no further grouping for Drafts, Final Edits, and Ready to Publish, etc.
On the flip side, the file system lets you "upload new version" of files, keeping track of all revisions. And group chat, discussion, posts, wikis, even calendar, are a click away.

I don't think Wordpress is up to the task of managing all this either. It puts a lot of extra workload on the server to run the front-end and backend intranet at the same time.

amitgupta

Not sure if you guys have given it a go but Jetpack by Automattic allows Markdown.

swader

There's other problems with Jetpack, we've looked at it.

swader

By your description, Mango seems fantastic. Testing it now.

Edit: It's awesome so far. Editing the calendar is a bit clumsy, and the task vs files interface tends to be confusing at first (until you realize they complement each other and sync updated), but all in all, very happy so far. One thing that confuses me, though, is "Admin Rights" in the second pricing tier - the free tier doesn't have it.

zackw

If you remain in the free tier, all your users are free, but you won't have admin features. As soon as you buy just ONE admin user, then every user with emails in the same domain will need to be paid too.

If you buy paid accounts for like sitepoint.com emails, then anybody NOT on a sitepoint email can still be a free user and only have access to groups/projects they are invited to.

I'm quite familiar with Mango but one of the issues it won't handle as well as Trello is with sub-groups. For example you have a group for the PHP Channel for example, but then you also need a sub-group for suggestions, available topics, in progress, ready for edit etc.
I was thinking about this the other day, browsing my own Mango account trying to figure out how to organize the workflow of article editing. Use files only? Use one Post per article with tags? Use Wiki?

I don't think Mango (or most other intranets) can do quite the same thing as Trello does by having multiple card topics within a general group. But then Trello doesn't have the user permissions and document versioning and social aspects like an intranet does.

swader

I see. I would actually only need it for the review part - comments by others and revisions of documents, so no need for sub groups like Ready for Edit etc. But this admin stuff when trial expires kind of throws a wrench into things. I wouldn't mind paying for myself only, but having to pay for everyone with a sitepoint address wouldn't be all that acceptable. I think I'll go with a private github repo - this post is quite inspiring.

zackw

I guess I'm not exactly sure what you were looking to do then. Are you looking for a complete replacement of Trello? Or just a method of revisions on final drafts before publishing? Or method to submit changes to already-published docs?

I think it's already difficult enough for you just getting authors to submit in Markdown, now they'd all have to have learn Git! That's a tall order!

Since Github doesn't have free private repositories, authors are likely to use BitBucket or something else to manage their articles, but again I think it's a lot to ask authors to have to learn git and manage repositories for articles now. I could be very wrong, due to the nature of Sitepoint material, maybe most authors already use Git? But the point is where you host I guess, as long as it's still free for authors and doesn't require us to use one service for our private repositories, then transfer to a different service to work on the Sitepoint version etc.

I'm trying to imagine the workflow from article ideas and discussion all the way through to publishing and future revising.
It would nice if all of it could work in a single tool with a single login/interface, ya know? Hoping between forums and Trello and Git and WP is not nice wink

s_molinari

So, Sitepoint is using Wordpress? OMG!

Scott

swader

No, I'm just looking to augment the Trello experience with some more structure and performance. With over 100 members and hundreds of cards, Trello regularly crashes and it's incredibly slow.

I think most authors use Git by default, since I demand they publish Github repos of all demo code with tutorials, so forcing them to learn it proper would be a good thing, and would guarantee consistent quality across posts, at least in that regard. Still thinking about it though, nothing's set in stone.

I'd pay for the private repo, and all the posts would just be forks or PRs, so no biggie. And it's still markdown... just spitballing here though.

A single interface would definitely be better, yeah, but there's not much that can be done about that until WP-API is implemented on SitePoint.

star001007

fewer and better , a great news !

Albert221

I suggest you write an article about using paysafecard API in PHP

swader

What exactly would you like to see? There are PHP examples on their site: https://www.paysafecard.com/en-global/business/downloads/

Anyone else interested in this? Indicate with a "like" please!

essteffan

You are doing a great job! I wish you many good articles for 2015

swader

Thank you, much appreciated!

Hall_of_Famer

Yeah Swader's articles have been very helpful, thank you so much for the excellent work and guidance.

swader

Thank you sir, much obliged!

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