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barbie (2653)

  reversethis-{ku. ... m} {ta} {eibrab}

Leader of [] and a CPAN author []. Co-organised YAPC::Europe in 2006 and the 2009 QA Hackathon, responsible for the YAPC Conference Surveys [] and the QA Hackathon [] websites. Also the current caretaker for the CPAN Testers websites and data stores.

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Journal of barbie (2653)

Monday November 27, 2006
09:40 AM

Realistic Constraints & Perl Promotion

[ #31731 ]

A short while ago there was a post on the list to a link for yet another programming contest. Maybe it's just me, but they seem more to be about highlighting how great one or two (often "flavour of the month" type things) languages are in a manufactured competition. It's as if somebody feels like they have to justify their existence.

In the competition PDF document, section 3.2 "What We Need" states "What we need is a direct comparison of the platforms under realistic conditions". The competition is to produce a professional website in 30 hours.

Now for me producing a professional website, on any platform in any language, cannot be done in 30 hours. In fact I would be surprised if any major leading professional websites have been designed and coded in less than 30 days. You may be able to construct a basic functioning website on some framework, but it is unlikely to be anything you would be comfortable putting live. And then there's the layout, graphics, accessibility ....

The competition is unrealistic in many ways, the time constraint is just the obvious one. Another is the teams. Only 3 people per team. Admittedly I do know some cases where great sites have been produced by small teams, I've been involved in some of them, but most companies would employ many more people, although not necessarily at the same time, to handle the requirements, design, layout, development, testing and more.

But the thing that really gets me, is that on the competition website there is an FAQ. At the top of the FAQ is the piece "What about Perl?", where they state "We have been considering Perl as one of the platforms to be admitted to the contest. So far, we have decided against it because we believe that too few professionals use it professionally for us to hope to get enough requests for admittance for the Perl platform.".

I've been hearing a lot over the years is that Perl isn't used by professionals. What on earth is a professional then, as those I would have called professional programmers can programming in Perl, and many do for their day jobs? There are some major web sites (Amazon, LiveJournal, IMDB to name a few) running Perl. There are plenty of multinational companies that use Perl internally for a multitude of tasks including testing, infrastructure management and various data munging tasks.

There seems to be a mindset growing outside of the Perl community that Perl is dwindling in its use. Mostly I believe this comes from other languages having a "flavour of the month" profile with the media, but also because Perl isn't seen to be used as much as it is. I'm sure The Perl Foundation would be happy to hear more Perl success stories or Power by Perl entries that they can promote, but it goes deeper than that. Perl needs its profile raising outside of the Perl community.

Things like the various online technical netcasts and JJ's recent article for Linux User & Developer in the UK, all help, and I know several Perl programmers who are involved with their local LUGs, so reminding the developer community generally that there is a vibrant and growing community around Perl is pretty much covered.

But what about the boardroom Directors, or the Development Managers, who are looking towards their next big project. Why shouldn't they consider Perl? I'm sure some do, but the impression I seem to be getting more these days is that these people see .Net and Java as having more of a safety net in terms of licensed support, more average programmers on tap and more available training. I've been in companies where both .Net and Java have been the wrong application chosen for the job, and while Perl may also not have been the right one either, it did get dismissed for erronous reasons. Such as not enough developers, a dying language, doesn't support object programming, doesn't support prototypes and I'm sure readers have heard several others.

It largely comes down to profile and promotion. How we go about, that I'm not sure of. I like Schwern's (okay Kelli's) idea of videos to help people learn about Perl. It would also be nice to see more high profile companies admitting to using Perl, although in some cases, such as one Bill Odom told during his Perlcast interview, some companies aren't even aware they are using it.

Whatever the answer is, it isn't getting hung up on flavour of the month competitions. But it would be nice in the future to hear those sort of competitions recognising Perl as a serious contender.

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  • If they don't think Perl is good enough, then why won't they allow it? What are they afraid of? That it might *gasp* win?
    • I don't get it either. They did accept entries in Perl after a few people emailed them, but it was the fact that they virtually dismissed it in the first place. It really does seem like there is a growing acceptance that Perl doesn't cut it any more. To my mind it's simply the fact that Perl doesn't have a major company behind it to promote it to the wider audience. Difficult to know how to improve that, but I do get good feedback when I do LUG type events. Maybe we need to persuade old dears to donate thei

  • Perl 5.10 is proof that Perl is not an old and decaying language. And the whole history of Perl shows how professional it is (how many programming languages are so focused on portability and backward compatibility?). I mean, what is more professional than getting your job done?

    When 5.10 is released, the Perl Foundation definitely needs to also produce press releases that are not aimed at the Perl community, but at the IT industry.