ramblings on PHP, SQL, the web, politics, ultimate frisbee and what else is on in my life
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As I was sitting for hours on the bus somewhere between Maceio and Receife on my trip to Brazil, waiting for the the bus to reach the other side of the road blockade that was setup in protest by local sugar cane farmers, a thought began to materialize in my head: We really should have an advocacy group around PHP! The first code name was found in that very first traint of thought: emPHPower!

My initial idea was to empower people in emerging markets around the world by giving them access to an easy to learn, yet powerful enough language that could scale according to their needs. However as I began thinking I realized that for such an organization to make sense, it needs to be more than just a charity event. As I started talking to people on IRC, emails, conferences and user group meetings over the following months since then, the vision became clearer and clearer to me: emPHPower should be a bridge between various (potential) participants in the PHP world. As such emPHPower could serve as a mediator between the PHP.net developers and its user base, between corporations and PHP.net, between corporations and grass roots organizers etc. Of course these would be bi-directional discussions. Just as end users might leverage emPHPower to bundle and focus their wishes to PHP.net, so could PHP.net leverage emPHPower to get in contact with its user base. Say for something like the current TestFest idea!

There are is fundamental concept that I see in this vision:
emPHPower is a mediator and catalyst that empowers members of the community to follow their own ideas

From this follows that emPHPower will try to spur discussion and serve as a discussion platform, but will try to delegate the actual doing as much as possible. By not getting too involved in the doing emPHPower does not get between the lines. It will not be emPHPower that allocates developer ressources towards a specific goal. Instead it will be PHP.net members, corporations or grass roots movements. This way emPHPower does not need a big budget. Things get done because people are willing to invest directly on their own. The key word is direct. It is not some board that gets to vote on how to spend big bucks collected on behave of others.

That being said I do believe that emPHPower needs some budget. This will cover some of the basic infrastructure needs like domain and hosting. But it should also enable sending motivated people to grass roots conferences around the world, paying for a wish-list item for the PHP.net dev of the month or printing and sending out a flyer. In order to get a budget, I again want to stay away from direct company contributions. So I would rather have the members pay some fee. By having the members pay a fee, they can also show their commitment. This is important to ensure that emPHPower is seen as a much stronger voice in the commercial space than a general free for all would be viewed. I want emPHPower to be able to serve as a lobbying force for its members. However the fee should not be prohibitively high.

Therefore, the fee would be relative to some indicator that is based on average cost of living or something similar. The base amount would be somewhere in the 30-50 Euro per year region for someone living in a West European country, but much lower in other regions of the world. Companies that want to contribute can do so by either paying the membership fees of their employees or by sponsoring grass roots events if they want to have more direct control. Membership fees for people with a PHP.net account would be waived. I believe that 1000 members should be attainable within a few months and in the long run things could go in the direction of more than 10k easily. This would run up to give a lot of leverage if the focus is on doing just little things and keeping the big things to direct sponsors. Of course running an organization of 10k+ people will also require increasing attention, but lets worry about that when we get there.

So I would like to open up discussion to the general community. I want, and obviously need the community, to participate in working out this idea. That being said, I am sure that it will be impossible to please everyone. To me the key is to keep a clear vision instead of trying to do too much. Also as opinions will differ, in the end it will take the dedication of a small group of people to pull this thing through. Talking the idea to death is therefore not what I am looking for. If in the end I cannot find a group of people that come around a common vision, but another group finds itself, so be it. Anyways, do you guys think I am onto something here? Let me know how you feel in a comment, with a mail, with a blog post of your own, a discussion on IRC or a chat at a conference. One key area I have not fleshed out much yet is the actual structure of the organization. Like what kind of board there would be. How members can initiate and participate in the decision making etc.


Re: emPHPower

"This way emPHPower does need a big bugdet"

From the following sentence should this not be "does not need?"

Having said this reading further on €500k p.a. does not sound like a small budget.

It sounds like an interesting idea though I think even €50k p.a. would be vastly more than is necessary for your list of suggestions. Conferences would probably be where the majority of the money goes. They're incredibly useful (in my extremely limited experience) but often beyond what many people can afford? As such I think it is a worthy aim but I think there would need to be more to it than just supporting conference attendance.

I like the idea about giving PHP devs free membership. Perhaps also expand it, or discounted membership, to contributors to other PHP projects. PEAR, PECL, Zend Framework, CakePHP etc.

Re: emPHPower

p.s. I'm glad to see you decided to grab the URL before blogging about this.

Re: emPHPower

Well it would be 500k Euro p.a. if there would be 10k members from a West European country. I expect people from South America, East Europe and Africa etc. to pay much lower membership fees. Also if we have 10k members, I expect that there would be at least 10-100 opportunities per month that need some sort of financial attention. And then there is the need to maintain the infrastructure. By the time we are at 10k, we might even need to have some partially employed people on the board.

So let go with a more short term realistic number of 1000 paying members (plus all PHP.net developers - actually what I would be looking for is a @php.net email addi, so this would include PECL, PEAR, Docs etc). Even if we do go with the 50 Euro p.a. base fee, lets see in practice it averages out to 30 Euros p.a. We would have a 30k Euro budget. Thats going to help print flyers, run servers/domains, buy a few wishlist items and fly some people to conference. Not much more, but again more is not really the goal. By the time we hit 10k members, we will hopefully have better processes and visions in place to spend the money. Or we just might lower the membership fees a bit more. Or at least partially compensate people on the board (though I presume they would not be paid even close to the money they could make else where).

Thanks for the feedback, I am not surprised that you focused on the financial aspects. This is the trickiest part to get right.

Re: emPHPower

I like the idea but to be honest I'm not gone on the name: it's a little too clever and I can easily imagine people trying to pronounce it and confusing others in the process.

Re: emPHPower

Given the professional scope of the work, I'm with Ken on the name... it's a clever play on "PHP" wording, which works well for code projects but does not generally lend credibility to "organizations"... I'm reminded of the "Oneders" from the movie "That Thing You Do".

Something like the "PHP Mediators Corps" might work better... that's not likely the best suggestion, but something along those lines would give it a more professional face while still conveying the organization's intent... maybe "PHP Empowerment Team"... still thinking out loud...

You might notice I'm not even questioning the overall idea... it sounds good and I don't know that I'd alter anything about the implementation of the idea away from what you are seeing at the moment.

Re: emPHPower

"The PHP Software Foundation" would allow for growth and certainly seems a professional/serious tone.

Re: emPHPower

Fair point on the subscription revenues. I had overlooked that aspect of the proposal.

I am easily distracted by the financials. Resisting the urge to pursue that further for the time being . . . How do you see emphpower (let's use it as a working title for the moment) fitting in with existing projects in the sphere? I'm thinking in terms of php forums, phpcommunity.org, php|arch, zend etc?

In terms of recruitment why will emphpower be any more successful than phpcommunity.org?
In terms of advocacy will emphpower be any more successful than Zend?

Re: emPHPower

I think there are a two key differentiators:

  1. There is no commercial company behind this effort. So there is less concern by the community.
  2. The clear mission statement, which makes it a point that this is an effort that intends to span across the entire community.

That being said all these other efforts are great and one of the goals of emPHPower is to foster these kinds of efforts.

I do see the point with the name. PHP Software Foundation to me sounds too closely related to the product. It makes it sound like this organization manages and owns PHP itself, which is not part of the scope.

Re: emPHPower

Thanks for clarifying that Lukas ;-)

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