How to write about Perl 6
YAPC::EU is about the Renaissance of Perl (although Eddie Izzard wonders why the Italians gave the real one a French name), and like the original, that's the time for an explosion of information and exchange of that information.
I have a few suggestions for people who want to promote Perl 6 by writing or speaking about it. I've had these complaints about Perl 6 articles people wanted to put into The Perl Review, but from the summer conferences this year I've been hearing the same complaints from other people. I've also had these same complaints about my own Perl 6 talks (which is why I have stopped giving them for awhile). This isn't just my own advice, but wisdom I've collected from many people over my years writing about Perl. It's also the stuff that I want to read about Perl 6.
First, show something that Perl 5 or other languages can't do. It's easy to show how to make arrays or show that the sigils don't change, but the simple syntax stuff is really, really uncompelling, even to the point of being discouraging. Surely all that development time and effort and thought was for more than just fiddly typing bits, so show stuff that doesn't exist. Junctions, hyper-operators, and infinite lazy lists are interesting because they are new not only to Perl, but to widely-used computer languages. Quoting syntax isn't sexy and it's just something you look up. People aren't going to rush to Perl 6 for its quoting, even if the fancier quote-words operator makes things less painful. Include something radical and salivation inducing. I recall the first thing Larry Wall mentioned in the meeting where Perl 6 was born, way back in 2000. He said he wanted was distributed computing. Eventually we'll have map-reduce as a couple of keystrokes because we can let map, grep, gather, reduce, whatever work out on its own how to farm out work. We might never need Gearman again!
Second, show something more than simple demonstration programs. Most of the writing I see about Perl 6 doesn't even get past the second hour of my Learning Perl class, or even the BASIC class I had in junior high. Putting stuff in variables and printing it out again is less than uncompelling. That's the easy stuff to write about because you don't have to explain much, but for someone considering switching to Perl 6 from, say, Ruby or Python, isn't going to be impressed that Perl 6 looks like the language they already use. You don't have to write complete applications, but something that people could reuse would be nice. People writing about Moose, such as Yuval, have been very good about this. I've really liked Jonathan Worthington's Perl 6 essays, because, even though he's usually creating what look like toy programs, they are really just exemplars for common tasks.
Third, have three arcs in your stories about Perl 6. There's the main one that you want to show, which is probably something about syntax or technique, but develop at least two minor points to draw more interest. For instance, if you want to talk about an algorithm in Perl 6, show it in other languages or discuss its history. Mark Jason Dominus is a master at this, and it's one of the reasons he can attract interesting audiences: he's talking about something more than just Perl usually. For your third arc, thrown in something of a human aspect. Why is the feature interesting to you and your work? What did you try previously? What spectacular failures did other attempts have? People like train wrecks, which provide extra entertainment even if they already know about your main topic. A corollary to this point is to cut out anything that doesn't relate to the three stories you're telling. Ignore detractors, don't try to give every negative remark you've seen previously even more traction by discussing (much less linking!) it. Get your own message out there, not someone else's.
Lastly, be very clear when you say "useable". You know what you mean, but a lot people on the sidelines think "useable" means "production ready" instead of your intended "it mostly works for you to get started". I've been asked by customers several times this summer if it's time to switch to Perl 6 because it's "useable", and many publishers are itching to get their Perl 6 book now that it's "useable". I have to disappoint both of these groups by explaining the current state. We've gone through this cycle a couple times since 2005 when Pugs was the hot implementation. No matter what you think people should think, there is always the literal message, your intended message, and the received message. Each is influenced by context, expectations, and knowledge on both sides. The term "useable" is a poor description because people's expectations of it are so varied.
Those are just my two cents, having written about Perl quite a bit and having received a lot of reader, listener, and editor feedback. It sounds like a lot of work. Paying more attention to the impact and implied messages in your writing is a bit like using strict for the first time. It only gradually gets less annoying as you gradually get better.