I've blogged about getting started with ZF2 modules, as well as about ZF2 modules you can already use. But after fielding some questions recently, I realized I should talk about why modules are important for the ZF2 ecosystem.
This post tells a story.
A long time ago, I set out to write my own blog platform. Yes, WordPress is a fine blogging platform, as is Serendipity (aka "s9y", and my previous platform). And yes, I know about Habari. And, for those of you skimming ahead, yes, I'm quite aware of Jekyll, thank you anyways.
Why write something of my own? Well, of course, there's the fact that I'm a developer, and have control issues. Then there's also the fact that a blog is both a simple enough domain to allow easily experimenting with new technology and paradigms, while simultaneously providing a complex enough domain to expose non-trivial issues.
Not long after I started, I also realized it was a great playground for me to prototype ideas for ZF2; in fact, the original DI and MVC prototypes lived as branches of my blog. (My repository is still named "zf2sandbox" to this day, though it technically houses just my site.)
Over time, I had a few realizations. First, my actual blog was suffering. I wasn't taking the time to perform security updates, nor even normal upgrades, and was so far behind as to make the process non-trivial, particularly as I had a custom theme, and because I was proxying to my blog via a ZF app in order to facilitate a cohesive site look-and-feel. I needed to either sink time into upgrading, or finish my blog.
My second realization, however, was the more important one: I wanted a platform where I could write how I want to write. I am a keyboard-centric developer and computer user, and while I love the web, I hate typing in its forms. Additionally, my posts often take longer than a typical browser session — which leaves me either losing my work in a GUI admin, or having to write first in my editor of choice, and then cut-and-paste it to the web forms. Finally, I want versions I can easily browse with standard diffing tools.
Add these thoughts to the rise of static blogging platforms such as the aforementioned Jekyll, and I had a kernel of an idea: take the work I'd done already, and create a static blog generator.
Late last week, the Zend Framework community released 2.0.0beta3, the latest iteration of the v2 framework. What have we been busy doing the last couple months? In a nutshell, getting dirty with view layers, database abstraction, and configuration.
When I started teaching myself scripting languages, I started with Perl. One Perl motto is "TMTOWTDI" — "There's More Than One Way To Do It," and pronounced "tim-toady." The idea is that there's likely multiple ways to accomplish the very same thing, and the culture of the language encourages finding novel ways to do things.
I've seen this principle used everywhere and in just about every programming situation possible, applied to logical operations, naming conventions, formatting, and even project structure. Everyone has an opinion on these topics, and given free rein to implement as they see fit, it's rare that two developers will come up with the same conventions.
TMTOWTDI is an incredibly freeing and egalitarian principle.
Over the years, however, my love for TMTOWTDI has diminished some. Freeing as it is, is also a driving force behind having coding standards and conventions — because when everyone does it their own way, projects become quickly hard to maintain. Each person finds themselves reformatting code to their own standards, simply so they can read it and follow its flow.
Additionally, TMTOWTDI can actually be a foe of simple, elegant solutions.
Why do I claim this?
During ZendCon this year, we released 2.0.0beta1 of Zend Framework. The key story in the release is the creation of a new MVC layer, and to sweeten the story, the addition of a modular application architecture.
"Modular? What's that mean?" For ZF2, "modular" means that your application is built of one or more "modules". In a lexicon agreed upon during our IRC meetings, a module is a collection of code and other files that solves a specific atomic problem of the application or website.
As an example, consider a typical corporate website in a technical arena. You might have:
These can be divided into discrete modules:
Furthermore, if these are developed well and discretely, they can be re-used between different applications!
So, let's dive into ZF2 modules!
Earlier this year, I wrote about Aspects, Intercepting Filters, Signal Slots, and Events, in order to compare these similar approaches to handling both asychronous programming as well as handling cross-cutting application concerns in a cohesive way.
I took the research I did for that article, and applied it to what was then a "SignalSlot" implementation within Zend Framework 2, and refactored that work into a new "EventManager" component. This article is intended to get you up and running with it.
In the past six weeks, I've delivered both a webinar and a tutorial on Zend Framework 2 development patterns. The first pattern I've explored is our new suite of autoloaders, which are aimed at both performance and rapid application development — the latter has always been true, as we've followed PEAR standards, but the former has been elusive within the 1.X series.
Interestingly, I've had quite some number of folks ask if they can use the new autoloaders in their Zend Framework 1 development. The short answer is "yes," assuming you're running PHP 5.3 already. If not, however, until today, the answer has been "no."
In Zend Framework 2.0, we're refactoring in a number of areas in order to increase the consistency of the framework. One area we identified early is how plugins are loaded.
The word "plugins" in Zend Framework applies to a number of items:
In practically every case, we use a "short name" to name the plugin, in order to allow loading it dynamically. This allows more concise code, as well as the ability to configure the code in order to allow specifying alternate implementations.