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.