The Zen of Python is a set of 20 aphorisms that "succinctly channels the BDFL's guiding principles for Python's design".
Some of these are contradictory, or consist of pairs saying "This is true. But not really". But we can ignore all that.
Because one of them stands out clearly at the top.
Beautiful is better than ugly
Beauty is something Perl does really badly, because the Perl community as a group trends towards pragmatists and sysadmins. We lost the "front end" (HTML-side) of the community to PHP long ago, and never really recovered.
Perl has a public reputation of having ugly code. This can be true, but is often incorrect or besides the point. But with a stereotype like this in play the LAST thing we want to do is have ugly websites, which only serve to reinforce "Perl (code) is ugly" to the uninformed.
This is especially true in the case of our oldest core websites.
http://perl.org/ is horrible.
An 800-wide fixed-width site with dark, block colours, small type in a link colour not clearly distinguishable from black to non-perfect eyes and purple "visited links" ala 1998 and dense clusters of links with no descriptions, ratings or ranking.
It's slogan is "When you need perl, think perl.org".
But clearly not many people do, with the number of distinct visitors to search.cpan.org alone running 1-2 orders of magnitude higher than perl.org.
The "download @ % Perl" image link is ugly and doesn't even look clickable and the yellow box that says "Where do you want to go tomorrow?" is both meaningless and out of place.
Even as a "directory", the website fails horribly to help me with anything I want to do.
http://cpan.org/ is almost as bad.
It's minimalist, contains almost no information, and itself only serves as a directory to other CPAN websites.
But of course it also has a website design circa 1998, doesn't actually link to most of the CPAN-related websites at all, and doesn't even have a search box! You have to read through three search website descriptions and pick one before you can actually search.
And lets not forget http://www.perl.com/, which has (admittedly very slowly) degraded over the years under O'Reilly's stewardship.
The irony in this situation is that the most useful link on http://perl.com/ is the link to "our expanded news coverage" at http://perl.oreilly.com/, which is a far far better website than perl.com. Even though everything on perl.oreilly.com is based around commercial services offered by O'Reilly, it is a much more useful resource for commercial Perl people when compared to perl.com.
When someone turns up to the perl.com, perl.org or cpan.org websites with some task in mind, we don't do much of anything to help them get where they are going.
Looking through the list of all the other Perl websites, the look and feel disaster just keeps going on and on.
http://learn.perl.org/ is just a three page ugly clone of the ugly perl.org website, with two of those three pages links back to perl.org.
http://history.perl.org/ is another three page ugly mid-nineties style website, although this one isn't a copy of perl.org. It's a whole different ugly.
http://search.cpan.org/ is simple, clean, suitably elegent and has a search box right on the front page, where you'd expect it. And, I'm sure partly because of this, it also has the highest traffic of any Perl website.
http://cpanratings.perl.org/ is another ugly copy of the perl.org website, but feels more comfortable in that skin, because it's behaviour more like a simple review blog instead of an actual website, and it points you in plain language directly at the three things you might actually want to do when you arrive there.
http://annocpan.org/ isn't too bad, but has a completely different colour scheme from the rest of the Perl websites (most of which are blue) and is to some extent "confusingly similar" to search.cpan.org.
http://dev.perl.org/ is another ugly perl.org clone, with a front page that's basically just a joke (although hey, it is at least informative).
http://rt.perl.org/perlbug/ is different from BOTH the perl.org style and the rt.cpan.org style.
http://dbi.perl.org/ is horrible, but at least it knows that it is and is going to change.
http://perl.apache.org/ is reasonably competent (although you'd expect that from a group of people who are completely web-focused).
The YAPC website at http://www.yapc.org/ is decent, which you'd hope for a conference website who's entirely reason for existing at all is as marketing. O'Reilly's OSCON website is of course great (although we've finally reached the end-state, where the string "The Perl Conference" does not actually appear anywhere on the website, that Google can see anyway).
http://www.pm.org/ is another horribly plain website with a front page image circa 2000, although at least it's not fixed width.
http://perldoc.perl.org/ is actually pretty good looking, and does look like something you'd expect from a document archive. In that sense, it has a similar suitability-for-purpose feel to the Oracle documentation archives.
Except, of course, perldoc.perl.org doesn't actually have all the Perl documentation like the typical visitor would expect.
At the Birmingham hackathon Jon mentioned something about this being because he builds the website on his laptop, and it would take too long to upload via FTP/rsync if he built it for all versions of Perl.
Can someone please hunt Jon down and force him to accept your donated server space to generate the full website on? As one of the few people we have that can produce a good looking and functional website, we really should be giving him more technical/infrastructure backup.
http://faq.perl.org/ is fucking horrible and looks like the kind of Windows 3.1 post-install help pages that were being generated in 1993.
http://www.nntp.perl.org is sparse, but functional, although it could do with someone giving it a little chrome.
And of course, nobody has any idea that it exists. Partly because we also have http://lists.cpan.org/ which is a second website for the same mailing lists. No, I don't understand the difference between the two either.
http://www.theperlreview.com/ is fine, but someone needs to have a talk to Brian about some of those yellow-on-white mouseovers.
http://perlcast.com/ is mostly ok, but as it mentions on the front page has been podfading a bit, and doesn't release on a regular schedule that people can anticipate.
http://perlmonks.org/ is crufty and could use some CSS attention. But it is a great community and does seem to have made something positive out of the cruftyness. After all, monks themselves are pretty crufty. Of course, I still find the chatterbox weird and hard to use, and if I can't use it as an semi-regular visitor how is any casual arrival going to use it.
Apart from the ugly perl.org chrome http://planet.perl.org/ actually does a really good job of aggregation. I have a small question about why Plagger wasn't good enough to run our Planet website, but that's a secondary issue and something I guess I'll take up with Miyagawa one day.
And of course there's the http://use.perl.org/ debacle. It's now mostly a news site without much news, hosting a highly valuable set of blogs that can't do images, syndicate to the blog aggregation services, support trackbacks or do any other normal bloggy things that help get our message out into the wider community.
Given the astonishingly large amount of blog software that is written in Perl, I find it astonishing that no Perl blogging companies, and no Perl blog system authors have managed to find the time to make a best-of-breed blog.perl.org.
I suspect that if we had such a thing, most of the people still on use.perl.org (including me) would move over to it pretty much overnight, and then use.perl.org can go back to what appears to be it's real purpose, being pudge's private beta testing website for slashdot.
https://donate.perlfoundation.org/ is also another ugly website, and doesn't contain anything on it that actually tries to convince me to give anyone any money.
The Perl Foundation's website is just as horrible, although there's another bitter irony here that when the Perl Foundation News section basically failed, they created a "blog" (called http://news.perlfoundation.org/) which is really a news page, and it's far far prettier and usable than the actual Perl Foundation website (although it's still fairly plain and ordinary by normal standards).
If we look at the CPAN websites, things are just as bad. http://www.cpantesters.org/ has been improving in leaps and bounds functionally but the look is horrible... except for its wiki at http://wiki.cpantesters.org/ which looks pretty good, but is really mostly for internal consumption by a small number of people. And the statistics website is yet another ugly perl.org clone.
The CPANTS website is also horrible. The name CPAN Testing Service remains annoyingly and confusingly similar to CPAN Testers and badly needs rebranding. Perhaps "CPAN QA"? (but keep "Kwalitee for the name of the metric).
And did you even know that the CPAN had a bookmark database? http://bookmarks.cpan.org/ is another practically useless directory, but this one is so bad we could live with it just dying outright. It's link to perl.com doesn't even point to a valid page.
http://svn.perl.org/ is so simple, trivial and ugly that even my personal repository at http://svn.ali.as/, which I INTENTIONALLY made ultra small and ugly so it would work on my crippled mobile phone browser, looks good by comparison. What does it say when someone trying to look ugly can end up far better looking and functional than the official Perl subversion repository.
And hey, at least my list of modules doesn't throw Python exceptions like the svn.perl.org one does.
I could keep going (I probably should have stopped long ago) and I'm not even going to bother talking about technical beauty yet in this post.
What's it going to take to fix this crap?
Do we need a dedicated website group who can start taking over the crap and come up with a standard website design that doesn't look a decade out of date?
Do I need to start taking over these websites and moving them into my repository? I already have a collection of six simple websites that anyone with commit to my repository can edit, and they are automatically synchronised from SVN to the web server. Should I just start sucking in all the small websites?
Could I just take over perl.org and all those bits and pieces websites and act as a steward in the same manner I've done for abandoned toolchain modules and (most recently) DBD::SQLite?
Would a Vertical Metre of Beer competition for a new look and feel for all of the Perl/CPAN websites be useful?
And for god sake, can someone with a spare thousand bucks leftover from a YAPC PLEASE organise legitimate crypto certificates for the SSL websites? This whole self-signed certificate crap makes us look like incompetent amateurs (when we are supposed to actually be competent amateurs)