Why is it that every few years someone in the Perl community has to stand up and explain that things are, once again, screwed up an in need of repair?

This time around it's Nat Torkington suggesting an enema. A few years back it was Jon Orwant throwing mugs at the wall and ultimately arguing for the creation of Perl 6.

Do the Python and PHP communities have this sort of stuff going on? Or is it something that's uniquely Perl? I don't really get involved in the Perl world the way I used to, so this is genuinely puzzling to me.

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Posted by jzawodn at June 21, 2004 08:02 AM

Reader Comments
# Simon said:

"Do the Python and PHP communities have this sort of stuff going on? ".

No. Perhaps they should. :)

on June 21, 2004 08:05 AM
# Nat said:

PHP: I've seen people asking why so few people attend PHP conferences, and start things like phpcommunity.org to build a PHP community. I think there are public voicings of doubt about the status quo there.

I've seen it in Java as well. There's a lot of debate about whether Sun's the right guardian, whether it's too open or too closed, etc. Few people suggest Java's boned because of it. I don't know too much about the Python community, to be honest, but I'm sure there are healthy debates about possible changes.

One sign of maturity, I think, is the ability to look inward and say "you know, we have problems". When you're young and hot-headed, it's too easy to say "we're perfect, let's conquer the world!" When you get a little older, you start to focus less on world domination and have the time to say "we could do better by ..."

Think of it like a democracy. People have said "this guy's an idiot" about every President since America started having them. Some years they're more correct than others, but they've never been entirely wrong in their criticism. Perl is a human enterprise, built by people who are fallible and flawed. It's always true to say "XXX is mostly good" and "XXX has some bad" where XXX is anything about Perl, whether you're talking CPAN, the pumpking system, or the context system.

Think of it like a ship, a paradise of a cruise where all the staff are gorgeous, the food and wine is of the highest quality and flows continually, and none of us have to worry about paying for it. Sometimes we look over the rails and see some rough seas, so we suggest a course change. I'm not saying "take me back to land and my crappy day job!". I'm not saying "half of you are idiots and should have to find your own damn boat!". I'm not saying "We're all a-goin' tae die!"

Yours in peace and moderation,


on June 21, 2004 08:41 AM
# Marc said:

Is this really a *Problem*? Quite frankly I'm always pleased to see such issues raised - especially when they are done diplomatically. This generally reflects well on Perl as a real 'community' (warts and all). Perhaps it seems like a *Problem* when such issues are brought up in 'open' daylight rather behind closed doors (as say when such arguments occur within corporations - you can bet Microsoft has it share of internal infighting on similar issues - and perhaps a bit more bloody).

The bottom line is how do you keep a community, particularly a long standing one such as Perl, alive and active? This effectively means bringing in new participating members with new ideas and enthusiasm and making that transition from the old guard. Every 'mature' organization/community must eventually face this challenge. This is all the more critical for Perl as it is not as widely used as it once was and is now facing a lot more competition from other scripting languages and technologies.

on June 21, 2004 12:29 PM
# justin said:

I have HUGE respect for the Perl community - cantankerous, argumentative, and seriously disconnected from mainstream tech development. The serious hardcore perl mongers exist in their own bubble. And what they do just simply rocks - if you've ever expanded your perl install with a CPAN download, you'll know what i mean.

Tom Christansen (co-author of the perl cookbook) exists in a parallel internet to the rest of us - an internet that's text only , with multiple perl scripts delivering information to him in pure text only format.

Read elsewhere a while back that Larry Wall implemented an entire home security system for his house, ENTIRELY in perl.

This is seriously hardcore geekdom - and if they have a tiff or argument, so what? That's why I like them. I can never hope to attain the level of perl mongery that the arch-priests of perl monkdom have, but i sure as hell am enjoying it as a spectator on the sidelines.
My only wish was that PHP had the same spirit and soul that the perl community has.

on June 21, 2004 02:25 PM
# justin said:

i just need to qualify something - by "disconnected" , i mean their entire philosopical way of looking at problems , compared to the "standards" driven aspect of the rest of tech.

"There's more than one way to do it" is a highly refreshing mantra.

i certainly don't mean that technically perl is disconnected from other languages , operating systems and databases.

on June 21, 2004 02:33 PM
# Dan said:

It's partially because the perl comminity's constitutionally unable to tell annoying and obstructive people to go fuck off so those folks accumulate and get in the way. (Possibly the single biggest service that perl's done for the rest of the language communities is to gather these people and get them out of your way)

It's partly because the community's secure enough and mature enough (and immature enough...) to rip into its own shortcomings. Publically.

It's partly because the perl community's large enough to actually have these issues, since they're exacerbated (though by no means caused by) heterogenity.

And, of course, Nat's right -- it's partly because the community's old enough that the debris we've accumulated get in the way, since some of us don't have the sense to get out of the way.

This isn't particularly unique to perl. Any organization that lasts long enough gets like this. You can see it at your local arts organizations, town governments, social clubs, businesses, or charities--any place where you have people you have stuff like this happen on a recurring basis. It's a sign of current (though by no means future) viability.

on June 22, 2004 06:07 AM
# hfb said:

I can see it now, Perl's new slogan -"Collecting twats on the internet since 1987!" :)

Gnat is mostly right, but just getting 'fresh warm bodies' around the deadpool isn't going to do much to solve the problem but it will certainly shift the focus for a while. I had a few thoughts as well.

on June 22, 2004 09:22 AM
# rocos said:

Perl is an useful language, and has some features than other language.

on June 25, 2004 06:38 PM
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