I ran into an interesting podcast just yesterday. A new series in the PHP Abstract podcast, hosted by Elizabeth Marie Smith called Pecl Picks where she introduces the basics of Pecl and it's history and suggests anyone interested in developing pecl packages. A similar call was put out by Wez Furlong in an open e-mail letter that can be found in the php news site.
It is titled PHP Extension authors - please join the PECL community.
I find the idea itself interesting. In fact I have toyed with the idea of writing an extension several times during my time as a php developer. Usually I have come to the conclusion not to write or take the time to get to know the art of php extensions. The reasons have been two fold.
First of all I have usually struggled with trying to find a worthy project to devote myself to. Where as I could pick up an dead extension or write a smaller trivial one, I would prefer to write something useful. I am all for experimenting and writing small code packages often it does not seem worth it to write an extension when you can write what you need in php. I know extensions are obviously faster and more reliable but the stretch to take it up has always seemed too high.
The reason why it is so high is also my second reason, which is the embarrassing lack of documentation and resources. The pecl web site hosts some tutorials, documents, and mailing lists but they are all but useless to new developers. Mailing lists are not the places to go to learn from step one and the tutorials and documents linked on the site either predate the inception of the light bulb or they are outright broken. If Wez is serious about wanting recruit more developers to pecl I would suggest he starts from producing more meaningful and helpful resources to the new developers.
Elizabeth did mention a good source to start from in the podcast, which leads me to think I should probably reconsider my disposition. Extending and embedding PHP is a book authored by Sara Golemon. It is a fairly recent book, last revision is from 2006 so it is probably up-to-date enough to be a good source. A quick glance at reader reviews in amazon.com support that the book is worth a read to anyone who wants to pick up writing php extensions. In fact, according to Elizabeth, it is a must-have.
I will see if I can find it in a bookstore and return to the subject at that time.
All and all, I found the podcast interesting and enlightening. I will be looking forward for the next episode, while I go browse for Extending and Embedding PHP.