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2shortplanks (968)

2shortplanks
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Mark Fowler has never been the same since he was elected leader of the London Perl Mongers. The strain manifests itself mainly in releasing various [cpan.org] modules [cpan.org] to CPAN, giving talks [2shortplanks.com], and use of the Trelane nick on #london.pm for endless procrastination. Doctors are still seeking a cure.
Wednesday July 24, 2002
12:33 PM

Flamebait

[ #6611 ]
So, I've just been taking on #london.pm about Perl 6, and I made a few points (and some were made to me) that I thought I should write them down somewhere. Of course, by posting them here, I'm opening up myself to much complaint, but hey ho.

First up, I'd like to point out that I've got nothing to do with Perl 6. Sure, I've got a vested interest in the language, but I've put no effort in. I've poked around with parrot but never coded anything. I've not talked about the grammar. No one owes me anything. This is important as I don't want people to think that I'm whining; I'm just throwing my two pence in, but I don't expect anyone to actually listen to me.

Many people - myself included - are worrying about their long term employability, and the chance that they'll be programming in a language that they love or not in five years time. The question is, if it's not to be Perl, then what should it be?

You see, a lot of people have been claiming that Perl 6 isn't Perl. I've actually had that very argument with pudge on his journal before. In that case I tried to convince him that Perl 6 was Perl because Perl isn't about any one language, but it's about about a community. Whatever we do will be whatever we do - and it'll be what we want it to be because we wrote it.

I stand by this point.

However, I'm starting to come round to his point that Perl 6 isn't perl (note the lower case here.) It's not the same VM. It's not the same grammar. It's not the same anything - apart from it's written by the same community. Maybe it just isn't the same language.

So now onto my big point, the one that'll get me flamed and spat upon by the Perl community: Perl 6 should have never been called Perl.

I've argued this before from a marketing point of view. The 'Perl' brand has become devalued. For a while it basked in the glory of the website, but as the dot com industry crashed, rightly or wrongly, it got dragged down with it. It's seen in the world at large as the quick fix language where many mistakes are made and the land of slap dash programming. Exactly the kind of thing davorg has been ranting about for months.

But that's not the reason I think that Perl 6 shouldn't be called Perl. It's about the community.

You see, people who already use Perl are threatened by Perl 6. They see it as something new and big and scary, that's going to force them to relearn and have to re-deploy everything that they've ever known - if they even get the chance, if it ever makes it. Suddenly their core skills will not be what they once were. But it's worse than that. They see it as the be all and end all of the development of Perl (even though we've recently had a release of the 5.X branch.)

Many Perl coders I've talked to, good ones who spend every day working on Perl, and every evening learning new skills, speak badly of Perl 6. They point out that they can do what they want with the current version of perl. They point out that they'll never have the resources port all their legacy code to Perl 6. They point out that Perl 6 development is going slowly and that it'll miss the market. Essentially they point out anything to point out that they really don't want to change. When it comes down to it, people are afraid of change, plain and simple, for with change comes risk.

Now imagine for a moment if you will if Perl 6 had been called something else. Imagine if it'd been called something like 'ParrotP' - an implementation of Perl like language for Parrot. It'd basically been treated as a project - like any other project - that had the support of the community. People aren't threatened by mod_perl. If mod_perl fails those people that relied on it get burnt, but it needn't drag the language down as a whole. It needn't kill their entire ability as a developer.

Would Perl 6 have got more support if it was seen as another cool project, and wasn't perceived as such a make or break situation? Maybe. More importantly, would it have got a larger buy in from the developers at large? A more interesting question given that these people are the very people that are going to have to be the core advocates for an Open Source language.

Of course, that was then and this is now. One of the things that I'm always saying is that you have to consider what you can do now, not what could have been done then. Should we now rename Perl 6? It's not for me to say - it's not my baby, I haven't been carrying it for nine months, and even though I care about it dearly I don't get to name the child. But maybe Perl 6 has to earn it's right to become Perl 6, and people have to choose that it of their own accord, and calling it that will not make it so.

So back to the original question. What language will I end up programming in five years time? As far as I'm concerned all bets are off...it could be anything. One thing I know is that I won't have to make that decision...when I find it I'll know, and I'll just suddenly find myself using it all the time. Will that language be Perl 6, whatever it's called? Only time will tell.

I was very nearly tempted to turn comments off for this journal entry, but that'd kind of defeat the point now, wouldn't it. I wonder what Larry said during his keynote.

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  • Fear and Risk (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pudge (1) on 2002.07.24 13:41 (#11019) Homepage Journal
    When it comes down to it, people are afraid of change, plain and simple, for with change comes risk.

    I am not afraid of Perl 6, though I basically agree with your points. But I very much agree that I do not want to change, because with change comes risk. Why should I risk anything? Perl 5 is good. Perl 5 suits me well. I have no reason to change to Perl 6, with all its incredible uncertainty.

    In addition, it is not just risk, but time. Since I don't have any need for Perl 6, to switch to Perl 6 is a waste of my time, unless it's something I want to do, and it isn't.

    You make an excellent point about it being another project, and how it is less threatening if it is another project. I am told by the Perl 6 team that if I don't use Perl 6, and stick with Perl 5, that I am behind the times, that I am sticking with old stuff that isn't very good, that the future is Perl 6 and Perl 5 is a dead end. How is that not threatening?
    • I am told by the Perl 6 team that if I don't use Perl 6, and stick with Perl 5, that I am behind the times, that I am sticking with old stuff that isn't very good, that the future is Perl 6 and Perl 5 is a dead end. How is that not threatening?

      I stayed with perl 4, instead of moving to perl 5, for over 5 years. I "knew" that there were a large number of subtly incompatible changes with perl 5 and didn't want to track down the myriad subtle bugs that would start causing wierd problems.

      When I actually tri
      • Perl 6, will certainly be a bigger change to update code [than was Perl 5], but not a huge amount bigger.

        I disagree. I would have a ton of code to change to actually be using Perl 6. Thousands upon thousands of $ signs, if nothing else. Of course, there may be a Perl 5 compatibility mode of some sort, but if I am using Perl 5 anyway, what's the point?

        But again, with Perl 5, there was a reason to upgrade: to take advantage of the large number of modules, to fix longstanding bugs, to use OOP, etc. The
        • First off, I'm rather neutral about Perl6 maybe a shade positive.

          Now, I started using Perl back in 1996/1997 so I missed the transition from Perl4 to Perl5. However, I did have to deal with some code written in Perl4.

          My impression is that most people took several years to switch between the two and that most had switched (say a sigma or two of the population for the statistics folks out there) to Perl5 after 5 years. That's just a WAG on my part.

          I'm think that it will take almost 10 years for folks (a la
    • I have no reason to change to Perl 6, with all its incredible uncertainty.

      This is a perfectly valid reason to not change over to perl 6. In fact, it's a damned good reason that's far too often overlooked in general. Change for the sake of change is often unwise, in perl and anything else. Yes, you need change to make progress, but swapping something brand new into production 'just because' is foolish.

      I am told by the Perl 6 team that if I don't use Perl 6, and stick with Perl 5, that I am behind the t

  • reason to switch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wickline (135) on 2002.07.24 19:00 (#11034) Journal
    I love perl because it lets me think about interesting things.
    When I have a problem, it's a problem that's interesting to
    think about. Perl does the un-interesting things for me.

    Without perl, this is at the level of "interesting problem":
        http://www.techinterview.org/Puzzles/fog0000000080.html

    With perl, it's trivial. You don't even think about it. You
    get to spend your brain cycles on harder problems, your notion
    of interesting is elevated.

    When you upgrade from perl4 to perl5, you find that whole
    classes of "details" you had to worry about previously just
    go away. You have new tools which let you simply gloss over
    things. A %HoHoA "just works" instead of being a delicate
    dance of split() and join() and/or a fragile body of code
    without stricture.

    I'm expecting the same from perl6.

    Some things that are hard problems in perl5 will be simple.
    hyperoperators, continuations, better exception handling,
    curried functions, built-in grammar support... all of these
    will make hard things easier and will elevate my notion of
    interesting.

    Sure, you could try to add all that to perl5, and in fact
    it looks as though various folks are doing just that. I'm
    not in a position to say which is better. However, given
    that these things are being designed into perl6 and are
    added into perl5 with shoehorns and elbow greese, I think
    the perl6 implementation will probably "feel better" to me.

    I'd rather learn a new language to get all these toys than
    stick with an old language and wait for the lesser ported
    version of the toys. It doesn't hurt that I don't feel like
    the syntax changes are all that dramatic. I don't feel like
    I'm learning a new language, which makes the switch to six
    even more worth while.

    FWIW,

    -matt
  • Nobody is even forcing you to use the official Perl 5.

    I am sure everybody is aware that Alan Cox still maintains the 2.0 and 2.2 Linux kernel series despite the Linux stable kernel now being a mature 2.4.19 .

    The same goes for Perl - if not to the same extreme. There is sufficient vested interest for new modules to work with perl 5 and for perl 5 to continue improving even if it means sacrificing some innovation for the sake of legacy code. Perl 6 however need not be hampered in innovation by such concerns
    --

    @JAPH = qw(Hacker Perl Another Just);
    print reverse @JAPH;
    • Other than employers, that is ... Some people code Perl for money, not just pleasure.
      • Employers aren't going to force you to upgrade perl.

        Although this is the case with Java and VisualBroken that has not been a problem with perl or linux.

        Most of the perl I code is for money. Most of the time employers dictate that we have to use out of date systems rather than cutting edge systems.

        I mean where I work now I have to install old linux distros or download the newest ISO and burn it to disk. My employer doesn't care whether I use perl 5.00054 or 5.8 - I currently use a mix of perl 5.5 and 5.6
        --

        @JAPH = qw(Hacker Perl Another Just);
        print reverse @JAPH;
    • I think you're reading this wrongly. The point I was trying to make was that by calling Perl 6 "Perl 6" the developers are making the implicit assertion that it'll be the successor to Perl 5, and the implicit assertion the language a Perl programmer is going to be programming in five years time.

      Sure, no-one's going to come into my office and put a gun to my head and demand that I upgrade from Perl 5 to Perl 6. However you might look at it though, choosing to stick to a previous version number for a la