The best developers hit “Refresh”? No. Well, yes, but that’s not what I was referring to. F5 is what you hit in Zend Studio/PDT to “Step Into” during a debug session. A LOT of developers just look at an API, or code completion, write to it, commit, deploy and they’re done. I have found that the best developers not only build to the API, whatever it is, but also watch the API at work. In PHP that is extremely easy to do since the source code is usually right in front of you. In short, no PHP developer has an excuse to be anything BUT a good developer since you can see how others have done their work.
And that’s really what it comes down to. I have never met, nor willing I ever meet, the smartest PHP developer. That’s because “smartest” depends on what their specialty is. How do you learn from the smartest people out there? One way would be to go to ZendCon and listen to them talk. Another is to watch their code in action and debugging is the easiest way to do that. You don’t even have to understand what’s happening. One time I did a debug compile of the Zend Engine for kicks and giggles just so I could watch it parse the PHP files. I didn’t have a clue about what was going on, but I still think that I benefited from it.
Having been asked what people can do to become better programmers, I would respond by saying that hitting F5 would be pretty high on my list.