Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments
NOTE: use Perl; is on undef hiatus. You can read content, but you can't post it. More info will be forthcoming forthcomingly.

All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

use Perl Log In

Log In

[ Create a new account ]

schwern (1528)

schwern
  (email not shown publicly)
http://schwern.net/
AOL IM: MichaelSchwern (Add Buddy, Send Message)
Jabber: schwern@gmail.com

Schwern can destroy CPAN at his whim.

Journal of schwern (1528)

Friday September 07, 2007
05:24 PM

Talking with Alan Burlison about Perl v PHP, Solaris v Linux

[ #34378 ]

Last night on #p5p Alan Burlison talked about how Perl is viewed inside Sun. Alan is a Perl 5 Porter from way back and is deeply involved with dynamic languages at Sun. He talked about how Solaris is currently struggling to reshape itself after losing lots of ground to Linux and the parallels this has with Perl vs PHP and Ruby.

It wasn't a formal interview by any means, just a late night IRC bitch session. I've posted the whole conversation (don't think anybody minds, it is a public channel and there's good stuff in there). Here's some highlights.

<alanbur> They care about being able to do things quickly, not how they are
done.  PHP is proof of that
<alanbur> Web2.0 types
<Schwern> I was musing about PHP.  I think PHP has something we lost, and
that is that its ok to be sloppy.
<alanbur> I subscribe to a local mailing list of web designers and
developers.  It's been interesting - virtually *all* the conversation i about
either ROR or PHP.  perl has never even come up.

<alanbur> Perl stared off with a massive head start in the webworld - it was
*the* de-facto langiage for CGI, it integrated really well with Apache.  What
happened, and why?

<alanbur> I see close parallels between the problems we had to address with
Solaris when confronted by Linux and the problems perl has.
<alanbur> Any of these sound familiar:
<alanbur> 1. Being displaced by a new kid on the block who has inferior
technology
<alanbur> 2. Losing you place on CS teaching courses
<alanbur> 3. Concentrating mainly on existing users rather than obtaining new ones
<Schwern> I don't understand #2.
<Schwern> My place?
<alanbur> Do people teach your stuff in CS courses?
<Schwern> No, but they never did.  However, I see your point.
<alanbur> 4. Valuing technical beauty over pragmatic usefulness
<alanbur> 5. Concentration on solving existing problems rather than new ones

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
 Full
 Abbreviated
 Hidden
More | Login | Reply
Loading... please wait.
  • They are part of a (now) well-known business pattern. Read The Innovator's Dilemma or its follow-up The Innovator's Solution.

    I'd never thought of applying the theory to programming languages. But it fits. Some of the pressures documented in The Innovator's Solution to pay close attention to existing customers apply in the case of Perl as well if you interpret them just right. The pricing part is not quite as good a fit, but it is close.

    However I've long said, if you want to improve the visibility of

    • Umm, so why is Java so popular ? I've never seen an ISP that supported it.

      If Perl is going to compete with PHP, then its time for me to switch to Ruby.

      See also Idiocracy [imdb.com].

      • There are different paths to success. Java's path involves having a large marketing machine and significant corporate sponsors. There is no mystery there, but it isn't an example that Perl looks like it will duplicate soon.

        PHP's success is along a line that is closer to how Perl grew. Historically Perl was the language that people used for small and personal web projects, which sometimes grew up. That's how a lot of Perl projects started, and a lot of Perl people began learning the language. (Including
      • Umm, so why is Java so popular ?

        As an IT manager, you can buy a big huge manly server and hire a man-sized staff of dozens of barely-competent monkeys to write programs in it and look like a big man in front of your other big manly peers.

        (Don't blame me; Sun's marketing department uses libidinous phrases such as "opening the kimono".)

        Don't discount the value of being able to reach a level of success despite having to hire an army of barely-competent monkeys to write software for you.

      • Umm, so why is Java so popular ?

        Java takes a totally different approach facilitated by a huge marketing machine funded by number of large businesses who have bet the farm on Java.

        1) It's taught in schools.

        Java, sadly, is the predominant language taught in CS classes. Every year you have an army of CS students graduating and entering the workplace ready to code some Java on the cheap.

        2) Your CEO knows about Java.

        Java advertises in business magazines. Business folks have "Java" branded into their brains r

  • You are more in tune with what is happening in P5/P6 circles. What do you get out of that conversation?
    • Me? Alan's just framing what I already know. As far as Perl 6 is concerned it's orthogonal to the problem. If Perl 6 came out tomorrow we'd have the same issues. Double since Perl 6's public perception is so messed up.

      This is an issue of people and direction, not technology.
  • Well, I know why Sun lost out. They were overpriced and had poor customer support. I worked at two companies that had the high level support with them, and it was always a pain to get them to actually provide that support (as in, come out and replace the power supplies in my machines like you are supposed to). I liked Solaris well enough, but with Sun's non-technical problems, going with FreeBSD on Dell was just easier to manage because Sun wasn't the bottleneck in support and replacement hardware.

    I don't t
    • Perl might have other problems, but Sun wasn't acting like a good vendor to people who really wanted to use them.


      But that's exactly Perl's problem. We *think* we know what Perl users want, but we're actually very disconnected from the vast majority of our own users out there, not to mention the folks who aren't Perl programmers but could be.

      Backing that one up requires an entire essay that I'm not ready to write at 4am.
      • Aw shucks! I would love to read it. You seem generally positive that any current negative perception problems could be wiped out. I would like to hear your thoughts on that.
  • Interesting conversation. Regarding Perl not being on anyone's Web 2.0 radar, I could have sworn Yahoo Pipes used Perl heavily. Not sure how popular Pipes is these days but it did create some measure of Web 2.0 buzz when it came out. Odd that it's never mentioned whenever Perl's lack of Web 2.0 presence is brought up.
    • Odd that it's never mentioned whenever Perl's lack of Web 2.0 presence is brought up.

      That's EXACTLY the (a?) problem. Companies don't trumpet "we wrote this new produced in Perl!" Bill Odom laments this all the time. Why is a bit of a chicken/egg problem. They have no incentive to trumpet Perl because Perl isn't sexy and won't win them any points or want great programmers to work for them. This makes Perl even less visible which makes it even less sexy which gives them even less incentive...

      Perceptio

  • Insisting on staying compatible with technology which is simply too old? Maybe the 5.5 compatibility habit was developed when 5.6 came out. Perhaps we should drop 5.5 (and even start sharpening the axe for 5.6) once 5.10 arrives.

    Perl has *actually* changed in that time. Being compatible means programming with your hands tied behind your back.

    And then there's ExtUtils::MakeMaker, which apparently is the favored installer of 99.9% of CPAN users (at least, if you take the default options of CPAN or CPANPLUS
    • Being compatible means programming with your hands tied behind your back.

      How dare you use a feature as simple and nice as lexical filehandles in a CPAN module, you fascist! It is my right as someone who demonstratably does not upgrade to have the option to upgrade to code written this millennium, you pig!

    • WRT compatibility, it will be interesting to see from the results of the Perl Survey [perlsurvey.org] how many people still use the older versions we're so slavishly adhering to.
  • This woke me up, just as it was nap time.

    Reading computer language development as an evolutionary issue is interesting.

    I think although the analogy of a business (Sun) and a computer language (perl) is an okay, even good, analogy, a business organization has more in common with a biological organism than a language, and a language has more in common with a religion than a business.

    Although running a business requires winning hearts and minds and using the language involves programmers tapping at keyboards,
    • Interesting thoughts, all.

      I'm interested in the statement that is perl not a contender in Web-2.0. I thought there was lots of CPAN stuff that could be considered Web-2.0

      If they knew about it.

      Here's a soul crushing exercise. Go to your favorite popular web 2.0 style search site, Digg [digg.com] or Technorati [technorati.com] or del.icio.us [delicious.com] and type in "Perl". Look at the garbage that comes back.

      And if it were easy to install.

      Jifty and Catalyst are both awesome web frameworks able to go toe to toe with anything out there. But inst

      • I have not seen any talk in the P6 circles about "easier to install". Is that problem being dealt with as well?
        • Not to my knowledge. Parrot has a couple of features to bundle up everything into a single PBC file, and it looks like we can avoid having to require everyone to recompile their own bindings to shared libraries, but there's more to distribution and installation than having a single big blob of code.

        • To go off topic a bit...

          It hasn't been relicensed yet to my knowledge. They're wibbling about it. [movabletype.org] "Before we released an open source version of Movable Type we wanted to engage with the community regarding its development and scope." What a complete waste of time and energy. What's to talk about, JUST RELEASE IT!

          Just you watch, they're going to write their own license. I can smell it.

          Let me make some sweeping generalizations...

          Commercial software dumped onto the open source world acts very differently
          • Movable Type 4's admin interface has had a complete overhaul and is rather lovely now. MT has a shed load of plugins too. Themes however, yes, Wordpress wins on number of themes by a mile.
        • I haven't seen a *single* other wiki with structured metadata

          Check out Freebase [freebase.com] and their Metaweb Technology. Watch the first intro movie all the way through.

          But OpenGuides has the same publicity issues as the rest of Perl I suppose. A dozen or so people actively work in the community, probably a few hundred more in the world support their local guide. Simply nobody knows about it.

          Yep. "How to advertise your web project" is something to be figured out. Here's one way... try searching for it and simil