One of my favourite things about Perl is its community. We're a disparate lot who don't like to agree on almost anything but there's definately a community. It shows here, at Perlmonks, at Perl Monger meetings and at conferences. This is fantastic.
According to a Python release manager I've spoken to, this community behaviour is not something that all other languages have. Apparently Python user groups don't work. Conferences, yes, but not user groups. Is there a python community? I'm sure there must be, but I don't know where to start looking to find it.
But we shouldn't feel too superior. There are lots of people out there coding Perl who aren't part of our community, who don't know any other Perl programmers, who don't know they can turn to us for help and advice. There are Perl jobs advertised which don't reach us and which result in bosses lammenting the lack of Perl programmers, or choosing to use another language instead.
I often hear others wondering how we can reach out to those people and I think I have some of the answer. Every user group I've ever visited has been the result of one to four people doing the hard work while everyone else cruises along. Sometimes this is formalised in a committee, other times it isn't. These people find talks, organise venues and stand ready to present their own material if required. These people rock.
The people who cruise along are also valuable. They are the speakers, the questioners, the audience and sometimes the financial supporters.
But there's still something of which we could all be doing more: building the user group. Invite your friends, your co-workers and your family to come along. Suggest that introductory material be offered every now and then.
Get manager support for the usergroup, get your managers to help encourage the Perl programmers to attend their local Perl Monger meetings. See if you can get your workplace to host the meeting if a new location is needed. Ask if your workplace could sponsor chips and drinks at a special event. Suggest that your work might help pay to get a Perl expert to swing by your hometown if that's not on the schedule. See if you can get them to sponsor your user group's bid to host the next local YAPC.
Why should your manager help? Because if you're using Perl in your organisation then sooner or later you're going to need to hire more Perl programmers. Being seen to care about Perl will encourage good programmers to consider leaving their jobs to work with you. Helping your local user group will encourage them to help you.
What if you're not really a Perl shop? Why should your manager help then? Because interacting with others is how most of us improve our skills and this skill improvement isn't just in Perl. Listening to others present talks helps us learn what works and what doesn't work. It also helps us learn about new coding techniques we might otherwise not have tried. Presenting talks ourselves leads to better communication skills. Networking with others helps build social skills.
There are still Perl programmers out there who either don't know that strict exists or who don't know how to use it. There are still Perl programmers who use symbolic references instead of hashes. There are Perl programmers who don't use CGI because they think that their hand-rolled solution is sufficient.
That these programmers are ignorant of better methods doesn't mean that they're bad programmers. They might be brilliant C programmers who have had to learn Perl. Or they might just have tried to learn Perl themselves and never had an opportunity to learn any better.
Some of these programmers may work with you.
Be active in supporting your local Perl user group. You don't have to be evangelistic, just active. Keep inviting your workmates, invite your boss, suggest it as an afterwork excursion that everyone goes. Turn up regularly, offer talks (especially if you haven't given one before).
Explain the benefits of supporting the group to your boss, or your boss's boss. Demonstrate it: I learned about Class::DBI at Perl Mongers last month so I used it in this project. Notice how I've finished the project much faster and the LOC count (and therefore hopefully places for bugs) is down? Writing it in the old style would have taken much longer and left much more room for errors....
If you don't have a local user group it's a lot harder to learn about new technologies, to improve your programming skills. If you know a number of Perl programmers in your area, perhaps you might want to start one going? You'll need a venue (which could be the local pub) and a goal (are you meeting to just socialise, or do you want to have talks?).
If your local user group is currently dormant, perhaps you might want to consider re-awakening it? This is often easier than it sounds.
Good luck with it all!