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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Tuesday June 02, 2009
06:37 PM

Another way we make Perl look dead

[ #39067 ]

Wanting to take a break from ActionScript and write some Perl, and being stuck in the curious position of having my main cell phone currently be the Sierra Wireless AirCard stuck in the side of my laptop, I hobbled together a SMS autoresponder. It uses my Acme::State to skirt having to explicitly read/write any database/data to disc, Algorithm::MarkovChain to do chatter-bot style replies, and the excellent Web::Scraper to pull down the meat from textsfromlastnight.com.

The result is that anyone who texts me gets an even more drunken version of drunken texts. I'm in awe of myself and of Perl and the excellent CPAN modules. But I also feel hollow.

Something that really got my gears spinning is a kid in town who wrote some Ruby using the Shoes GUI layer for an "open sprints" bicycle race they have here now and then in a bicycle friendly pub. Yes, in the pub, on rollers, with beer, under a projected scoreboard generated by Ruby. Ruby hooks up to interrupters on the rear tires and computes speed and, more importantly, distance. It draws a progress bar of how much of the course you've completed. First one to the finish line wins. The mph is just for kicks.

The contrast between my little hack and this Ruby guy's hack, and between I think most Perl hacks and most Ruby hacks, is striking. Mine glorifies myself. His is a toy he brings to a party and shared with everyone.

Ruby people are full of themselves because they're hip, cool, edgy, artsy, and media literate. But Perl people are full of themselves too.

Who here remembers the old days, when you could be cocky about knowing Perl? I do, but I didn't know Perl then. The "don't bother me, or I'll replace you with a very small Perl script" well summarizes the particular flavor of Perl conceit. You had guys that very well knew how to use computers surrounded by people who very much didn't. Quite often they were sysadmins or technical people whose job position only implicitly suggested programming. And they tended to wall themselves off so they could enjoy life rather than get sucked their user's stupidity and the chaos that comes with that.

It seems like a lot of those attitudes have prevailed. Users are different now -- rather than being hopelessly non-technical, they're quite often partially technical or they're in the early stages of aspiring to be technical. Many are quite promising but are hung up on the same dumb stuff that every novice is. I think the old us-vs-the-dumb-users sysadmin-ish attitude doesn't do well in places like IRC. #php embraces the novice ignorance. #perl struggles with it. Novices ignore the FAQs, want people to write their code for them, ignore critical questions, blame Perl for their woes, etc. On #php, the response is "lol oh well youll get it". I myself am especially bad in this department. DEMONS OF STUPIDITY, BE GONE!

I idolized the Perl programmers at JaWS and their dark hacking and aspired to be like them. I learned the wrong lesson first -- cockiness. This happened a generation ago. Is it possible that this value is so ingrained that that's the perception of the new generation, and that in 15 years, when they've mastered Perl, it'll be the most perceivable attribute to the next generation of Perl programmers after them?

Of course, I'm speaking in generalizations here. All generalizations are false. Or, put another way, generalizations are only true to the degree that they are. None of this proves anything. It's merely one perspective. Please don't comment on the truthiness of it, only the usefulness of the perspective and ways that the perspective is confused.

Also note I'm not suggesting any specific course of action. My goal, as usual, is merely to understand what is happening in the world around me. I believe that bad behaviors take care of themselves in the light of understanding. I very much am still thinking about what kind of person and what kind of programmer I want to be. I neglect this thinking too much about the immediate task at hand.

-scott

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  • Projects like Padre and Dreamwidth are two examples (both very recently established too) of a new style of Perl community, which are highly welcoming to newcomers (or babydevs as the DW people call them).

    • Those don't get Perl _into_ _the_ _pub_.

      Everything everyone is doing in Perl is for programmers. None of it is for non-techie friends with other interests than programming.