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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)

Saturday August 08, 2009
09:50 PM

Myth of rarity of "good Perl programmers"

[ #39426 ]

I learned Java before I learned Perl. This was in the Java 1.1 days. Since then, I've been wooed by Java shops and slid into positions of authority where I was treated as an expert and a resource. Despite my Perl being much stronger and despite having far more credibility in the Perl community and accomplishments there, no such thing has ever happened with a Perl job. Indeed, I've found myself working to prove myself far beyond any reasonable point and still being treated with contempt and suspicion. I hear Perl people comment all of the time to the effect of that they're still trying to convince the company to use testing or POD or other such things. Java programmers on the other hand are able to pitch management and easily sell them on expensive 3rd party solutions or wide sweeping initiatives.

Forgive me, this is a post of generalizations. I'll write up some case studies, perhaps, if people care.

Really f'n smart Perl programmers I know get mundane jobs working on obscure pieces of infrastructure where they stay anonymous and unacknowledged in their company. Java programmers are turned into stars and sent on lecture tours. Google loves to recruit Perl programmers and make them do system administration, allowing Perl only very tacitly for code that no one else will ever touch but demanding Python, Java, or C++ for everything else. Google did a brilliant thing by acknowledging the tenacity and intelligence of those few worthy Perl programmers.

I've written about this before but looking at this situation again I'm reminded of my hypothesis -- the only reason companies hire Perl programmers to write non-trivial programmers beyond the scope of system administration automation is because Perl programmers are inexpensive and submissive. They do what they're told, don't talk back, don't require acknowledgement, don't make a stink about things like testing and security that management doesn't care about nearly as much as deadlines, they don't aggressively negotiate on their salary, they agree to absurd timetables and requirements, and they routine suspend their better judgment to attempt whatever management has proposed.

Looking at Perl jobs, I see sysadmin support style stuff, maintenance jobs where new code is written in something else, but mostly I see sleazy fly by night companies. I keep hearing from companies that it's hard to find good Perl programmers. I'm calling bullshit on that one. I know well Perl programmers who are doing great things in the community and generating news who are working essentially dead end jobs and are not being wooed by anyone. I worked at a large Perl shop where a well known Perl hacker and former pumpkin applied, worked, and was treated like absolute shit -- as I said, with contempt and suspicion.

For companies to lament the alleged lack of existence of good Perl programmers is just another facet of the cutting off the nose to spite the face behavior typical of the haughty attitude they harbor towards Perl programmers. The motive is far more to blame problems on the programmers they have than to actually attract good programmers.

Perl programmers get no respect and aren't about ready to demand it.

Again, I'm speaking in generalities. A few companies are doubtlessly above this, but there are far too few of them to employ the Perl talent. Writing a thousand times more Perl than Java in the past few years, I'm still more marketable as a Java programmer to a degree that far exceeds the relative demands for Perl or Java programmers. Only fundamental attitudes can account for this.

-scott

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  • ...in the past 3 years [perlmonks.com]

    Which is probably why I dropped the mic, walked away, and now make my living hacking C/C++/Python/Java. While recent numbers [presicient.com] indicate the job market may be slowly turning around, I fear Perl's climb out of the pit may be slower than its rivals.

  • You wrote a pretty provocative piece, and I'll keep an eye out for this generality. I don't track programmer language demographics, but at the company where I'm at, they're REDUCING the use of Perl. Perl is still present in a bunch of legacy stuff, and in the deep underbelly of some of our operational scripting, but Java and XML and all the "sexy new stuff" (as I like to call it) has taken over.
    --
    Rick (www.rickumali.com) Umali
  • Hi scrottie!

    I've been having a similar feeling about most Perl workplaces too, but didn't have the chance to put it into words yet. Naturally, this is a generalisation, and I believe there are some Perl shops out there that give their Perl hackers a wonderful treatment and conditions. It's very possible that many Perl programmers are simply intelligent enough to have found jobs using other technologies, where they are treated better.

    Google is indeed a good example. They hire Perl programmers and Python