How much is listening to your customers worth?

I normally don’t write about work. The reason is that I feel that the slight chance that someone might feel I’m being biased towards a product that comes from the company I work for and dismiss my thoughts as “guerilla marketing” is not worth it.

However, I’m going to make an exception – and that’s because I prefer selling Zend here rather than doing it on Lukas Smith’s blog :)

Lukas raises the question of what commercial PHP distribution should be used as an alternative to RHEL outdated packages. My answer on that would be, surprisingly – use Zend Server! (well, …once it’s out of beta, of course).

Lets put the features and SLA you get from Zend Server aside for a moment.

The real reason I think you should use Zend Server is because the Zend Server product manager (hey, that’s me!) reads your blog. I’m serious about this.

I’m not sure I can quantify this, but I think that a vendor that listens so closely to what potential users (and the community) has to say is worth quite a lot in the long run. And yes, Zend has not been perfect in listening to the community – but I can honestly and whole-heartedly say that we are trying harder. The recent feedback on Zend Server gives me the feeling that we are doing ok too.

Seven Things – Tagged by Ivo Jansch

“I was hopping along, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, up he comes…Cures me! One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone!”

So apparently I was tagged by non other than the mighty Ivo Jansch, thus forced into some silly chain-blogging game. After managing to teach everyone in my life including the tech-clueless to never forward any chain mail to me (except for my grandma – I did get her to stop but then she sometimes forgets not to do it), I get bitten by the most tech-savvy people I might know :P

Well, I can’t say no – especially after being titled “Product Manager and Smart Guy at Zend” (for a short period of time that was almost my official title BTW). Of course I’ll play along! It’s also interesting to see how far this goes :)

So here are seven things about me you might or might not know:

  • I never went to university – I’ve noticed some people state what their major was etc. – so, I never went to university. I never got the chance. While everyone else was in university, I was busy doing other things like learning to write PHP :) I always tell myself I’ll go in a year or to – but now that I’ve gotten into a position everyone assume I have at least a BSc, I don’t want to spoil that :) .
  • I never took any official CS training – I’ve frequently found it boring the way it was taught in school. Don’t get me wrong – I love CS and I sometimes find it exciting – but I enjoy it much more when I get to teach myself. I also tend to believe CS is nice but it’s a tool – not really a “wisdom” I’d like to learn in university. I consider other fields like philosophy, history, biology or even mathematics to be far more worth studying. BTW I did take a couple of CS university courses during high-school – I flunked one of them ;)
  • I started programming when I was 7 or 8 – in BASIC. Well, it was nothing impressive but this is how I started. I then went through some Pascal and some C but never got to any level worth talking about. Then in high-school there was the web, and I started playing with it, first with HTML and then with Perl writing CGI stuff. Pretty much at the same time I started experimenting with Linux.
  • I did that while majoring in Cinematography. Yes – the only thing I did learn professionally was making movies, and I still have a lot of passion for it. I especially enjoyed directing, filming and editing. I did try working for some time on several junior technical positions in the local film industry (2nd assistant camera operator etc.) and did get my name in the credits of some movies (who were major in Israel – so there you have it Ivo ;) ) but working for the “industry” so to speak was not so great, and I decided to drop it.
  • Just like most male citizens of Israel I did my military service after highschool – and didn’t get to touch a programmable computer for 3 years (I did get to touch some computers but they were not the kind you want to mess around with). I even almost became an officer (which means I could have spend more than those 3 years in the army) but I didn’t run fast enough. I still spend a few days every year in reserve training, but sometimes they let me off the hook when I have to go to some PHP conference :)
  • When I got out of the army and back into the real world, Perl was gone and all of a sudden there was PHP everywhere. I found out I could write the same app I wrote in Perl in a month in about a week in PHP, and the rest is history. Back at the time I wrote my first PHP app – a web site which is still running today. I looked at the code a few months ago and almost puked.
  • Before working for Zend, I worked for a local ISP which as managed by the biggest Linux geek I’ve met (no wonder it’s out of business by now) – that was a lot of fun. Before that, I did all sorts of things – I herded goats, I picked cherries and I grew long curly hair. I got to Zend by pure chance – I didn’t even knew they were an Israeli company until I met a cousin of mine who told me he was working there!

So… those are my seven things!

And now, who to tag? I have very few candidates left – I hardly have any blogging friends who haven’t already been tagged… So here are my people, hopefully they’ll forgive me:

  • Nir Yariv – friend, family member, and one of the smartest (infrequent) bloggers I know (he’s also the guy who got me into Zend).
  • Christer Edvartsen – fellow PHP coder, ZF contributor, and occasional (one a year or so) drinking buddy
  • John Coggeshall – Ex-Zender, Current CTO at ACS, PHP author, and well, another occasional drinking buddy
  • Stas Malyshev – PHP Internals Guru and Zend’s 1st employee
  • Boaz Rymland- Another ex-colleague, Drupal expert and a certified social worker
  • Andi Gutmans – Fellow Zender and, wel… you all know him don’t you?
  • Zeev Suraski – Well you know him too don’t you?

Well… that’s my list – let’s see how many of them step up to the plate!

Oh – and here are the rules for any bloggers who decide to follow up:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post – some random, some wierd.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.