Beware the Lone Wolf PHP Developer

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With all the posts on interviewing PHP candidates popping up lately, I thought I’d post this draft that I’ve been sitting on for awhile that’s related to new jobs and interviewing candidates.

I’ve run into the Lone Wolf PHP Developer at several places I have done work. Sometimes, I’ve had to work side-by-side with the Lone Wolf. Other times, I’ve replaced the Lone Wolf who had moved on to different hunting grounds. Still other times I’ve had to hire people and had to choose between a Lone Wolf and several other candidates.

Just who is this Lone Wolf and why should we fear them so much? Here are some telltale signs of the Lone Wolf PHP Developer:

  1. The Lone Wolf doesn’t understand how to work in a team of developers. They typically don’t even understand what benefits that would create. They do all development on their own, listening to very little input from qualified sources.
  2. The Lone Wolf got to page 141 on Enter-A-Beginner-PHP-Book-Title-Here and no further. Objects? They’ve never heard of them. They must not need them.
  3. The Lone Wolf re-invents the wheel for every project and doesn’t use standard tools and practices.
  4. The Lone Wolf eats their young. OK, I made that one up. Frankly, how could a Lone Wolf have young anyway?
  5. The Lone Wolf is perfectly satisfied with doing programming work on production servers and using FTP to deploy their code. It never occurs to them that they should strive to create development and test environments. It never occurs to them that deployment via FTP doesn’t scale higher then one developer.
  6. The Lone Wolf doesn’t know what the letters SCM, CVS, or SVN are, or how to use them in their daily work.
  7. The Lone Wolf never reads my blog or any other blogs on programming. The Lone Wolf may not know what a blog is.
  8. The Lone Wolf says crazy things like “MySQL can’t do transactions” and somehow gets management to believe them.
  9. The Lone Wolf was initially adored by management because they launched a lot of code live during their short stay. Too bad all that code is buggy and completely un-maintainable moving forward. Management doesn’t like that.
  10. The Lone Wolf whips up incredibly stupid and unnecessarily complex solutions like template systems in which the templates are stored in a database instead of the file system/memory/cache. They shun using tried and true templating methods like PHP files, XSLT, or at the very least, Smarty. (see also: reinventing the wheel)
  11. The Lone Wolf names variables after themselves that mean nothing to anyone else (ex, $lonewolfFlag )
  12. And worst of all… The Lone Wolf PHP Developer fails to realize that there are other developers out there in the business world, trying to earn a living just like they are. By failing to conform to development standards that have been proven and tested, they make everyone’s job more difficult.

Now, I personally have run into this Lone Wolf scenario with other programming languages as well. But I think because it is so simple to work with PHP without much formal training that it lends itself to this problem much more readily then other languages. The blessing and curse of PHP is that it is the new VB 6.

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