Monday, January 16, 2012

Will the PHP Community Ever Drop the "Silly n00b" Presumption?

A long, long time ago, I learned my first scripting language: Perl. Admittedly, I wasn't doing any database interactions and to be honest the code wasn't entirely complex (it was a basic user management system with access to different data sets depending on account information).

I wouldn't say that I asked a lot of questions, but I definitely *read* a lot of them and not once can I remember anyone basically answering a question by just pointing out an insecurity in the original posters' question.

Cut now to my current web language of choice: PHP. It seems as though more often than not, one of the first answers to a question online is pointing out the security issues with the question, and a lot of the time, the original question isn't even being answered!

Time and time again, "SQL injection!" or some such stuff is the answer, even when the question had nothing to do with it. It's repetitive and to be completely honest, a little boring now. I almost feel as though Person A got hit with one of these replies once and so now they feel as though they have to pass on the 'love' to Person B.

I don't know what it is that's causing this... there's just too many variables. Is it just a sign of the times? I don't know: I don't spend much time in other language support fields. Is it just because I wasn't aware of these types of replies before? Again, I don't know. Maybe it's just me being a cranky old man looking back on the good old days. Maybe, too, Perl went through these growing pains and I was just fortunate enough to be on the other side of them.

I will go out on a limb, though, and guess it's a combination of two things: 1) the gamification of questions and answers; and 2) the increase in people teaching themselves to code.

Not that either of these things are a problem in and of themselves. Having said that, sites like have really made it worthwhile to try and get in and get some upvotes and I hate to say it, but the PHP section of that site is looking less and less usable to me every day. At the same time, more and more people are learning to code in a 'non-professional' environment. Again, this isn't a bad thing, however I get the feeling that these basic security issues seem to have been missed the first time over when people teach themselves so to them, it's amazingly impressive to be able to find these issues with someone elses code, to the point where the answer to the actual question doesn't matter as much as this.

Maybe I'm just tired, but I just feel as though at some point, the PHP community as a whole needs to get over this whole thing about "commenting on security problems is my number one concern, even if I can't answer the original question"... it just isn't helping anyone.

Don't get me wrong: a good, correct answer is fantastic, even if there's an aside of "BTW, SQL injection!" but please, that's not always the answer!

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