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ank (5971)

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Journal of ank (5971)

Monday June 14, 2010
07:48 PM

Perl 6: True-Believer Syndrome

[ #40396 ]

I've been dealing with some delusional people lately, mostly as a side-effect of recent posts I made regarding chromatic, his entourage and Perl 6. This contact has left me wondering over and over - how was it that I used to love the idea of Perl 6 so much? How did I become so disenchanted with it? And ultimately, why is there still people rooting for Perl 6, seemingly oblivious to the defects the project has been dragging with it for more than a decade?

It's actually quite easy to explain. I have always been programming Perl and other languages in parallel, so it wasn't that hard for me to stop believing the idea that Perl 6 was going to be great. I have also changed and evolved as a person and programmer, so I am no longer at the place I was when I used to work for Yahoo! and used Perl on a daily basis, a decade ago.

This is markedly not the position other programmers find themselves in. Fervently believing that Perl 6 will be a good thing for the Perl community and buying O'Reilly reference books for the unfinished language, they simply cannot accept the fact that the whole concept is broken, even after it's been shown to them over and over.

This cognitive disorder is actually very well known, and is called True-believer syndrome. Wikipedia says:

According to The Skeptic's Dictionary, an example of this syndrome is evidenced by an event in 1988, when James Randi, at the request of an Australian news program, coached stage performer José Alvarez to pretend he was channelling a two-thousand-year-old spirit named "Carlos". Even after it was revealed to be a fictional character created by himself and Alvarez, many people continued to believe that "Carlos" was real.[5] Randi commented: "no amount of evidence, no matter how good it is or how much there is of it, is ever going to convince the true believer to the contrary."[9]

This reminds me of Chet Raymo's book "Skeptics and True Believers," which is filled with amusing depictions of True Believers.

Another point is that the few in the know, such as Larry Wall, chromatic, etc are having fun creating their project, and don't really care all that much about how long it takes - it will be done when it's done. So they don't really fit into this group - they are more like the Carlos who show the rest some mysterious cool magic acts that we are supposed to awe at.

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  • I found this last bit amusing. -I assure you Larry, chromatic, etc. are not like Carlos. I.e. they are not fictitious 2000 year old spirits...

    Perl 5 continues to be actively developed and maintained. Rakudo Star is being readied for release (an 80+% complete Perl 6 implementation). And counting the number of active developers, commits, and monitoring IRC channels, it looks to this observer that Perl 6 projects are ramping up.

    If Larry and company are having fun designing and implementing a new language w