I find it incredibly easy to learn great things when it comes to client-side technologies: the client-side floks have blogs, tweeter accounts, contribute to magazines, contests, events, whatnot. It's quite easy to get an idea of who's who, what are the current challenges, the buzzwords etc.
I wish I could say the same of the PHP (and server-side as a whole) community. But, I'm not saying that it doesn't exist, I'm just saying I haven't yet found the entry point. Who are the Jeremy Keith, Lea Verou, Ethan Marcotte, Jeffrey Zeldman of the server-side world? What is the "A List Apart" of OOP?
Where should I start to know what's on, what's hot, who's hot PHP-wise?
I'm worried that this thread could be moved to the GC forum. Please SPF staffers note that my point is to learn about PHP Application Design through the answers that will provided to my question, not chatting about techy stuff / people from the industry. I feel the PHP AD forum is the best place to collect the info that will help me become a better programmer.
If there was a 'php pulse' you'll find evidence of it on Planet PHP or on IRC. Follow it for more than a few months and you will see, and hear mention of, the main influential characters as they move between companies/projects.
Chris Shiffeltt is known as a security expert (Chris Shiflett ▪ Blog)
Then there are forums like here and devnetwork.net - which if you frequent enough you begin to figure out who are the experts and worth listening to.
Marcus Baker the author of SimpleTest is also a recognized figure head in PHP.
Salanthe is on the PHP team itself. Me, I'm a loud mouthed nobody who hates smarty.
I've found the Symfony and Zend Framework communities leading the pack. Follow #zf/#zf2 and #symfony2 on Twitter and you should get an idea pretty quickly. I've been involved with ZF for a few years now, but I'm extremely impressed with the Symfony community lately.
Feel free to disagree though!
IMHO, The best way to get to know the thought leaders in the PHP community is to attend a conference. The php|tek conference in Chicago by php|architect is probably the best one. I've been to it two years in a row now and have met, dined with, and hung out with most of the "known names" in the PHP community like Matthew Weier O'Phinney (creator of Zend Framework), Fabien Potencier (creator of Symfony), Nate Abele (creator of CakePHP and Lithium), Paul Jones (creator of SolarPHP and Savant), Sebastian Bergmann (creator of PHPUnit), Chris Cornutt (runs phpdeveloper.org), etc. among many, many others.
Salanthe was recruited by Kalle Sommer Nielson to the php team as i was once offered the same... but i do not have the dedication to php as they do. but for a comprehensive list of high end php developers check contributes sections of systems such as the zend framework with close or over 100 people....