When i first started looking for a PHP framework i was lost in the many options you were given, from Cakephp to CI, all of them supposedly were the best thing at the time. I tried all of them and felt lost in all of them. For some reason it didn't feel like i could find quick support for my questions and i had a lot of them back then.
After giving up on frameworks for a while i stumbled on Laravel, a really small and upcoming framework. And lo and behold, they had an IRC script on their actual website. And just like that i could ask my questions directly to the creators, people who had been using the framework for a longer period of time and people that had an overall knowledge off php.
Within days i felt that i was part of a community, a group of people that were there to help each other out, have random talks, share the same view on things and just having a good time. Being part of this community meant that i could develop my skills as a developer at a far greater speed then when I was trying to do everything solo.
My advice to anyone starting a new programming language, or anything new for that matter is to join the community that exists for it, and if it doesn't exists create one. And here's why:
1. You share a common interest
Talking with people that share the same interest as you but have different opinions about how things should be done makes you rethink your way of working. This could sound as a negative point at first because you probably like the way you're doing things. But opening up your mind for other people and their way of doing things expands your knowledge and makes your rethink the way you work.
2. You are not alone anymore
We've all been there, being the only developer at company or having your own company and doing everything solo. This works on smaller projects but the bigger they get the bigger the wall get you have to climb, and you will eventually find yourself facing a wall that you wont be able to climb on your own. The moment you join a community you have a group of people willing to help you climb that wall and to help your progress along.
3. You learn about new technologies and techniques
one person cant read all of the internet, having 300 people reading the internet increases your chances of finding out about new technologies. Having a community of people that share a common love for programming means that they are interested in more than just PHP. This breaks down in you learning more and increasing your skills.
4. You make new friends
Since i joined the laravel community i have made a lot of new friends and we go out for food and drinks on a regular basis were we talk about anything coding related and just have a good laugh.
These are just a few things you get in return of joining a community. Since i joined #laravel 2 years ago my skill level in multiple languages has gone up, learned new techniques and technologies and i made a lot of new friends.
So if you're interested in Laravel, please come and join us in #laravel on irc.freenode.net