Names And All That
The debate about the naming of Perl versions has been started by events which allegedly sprang from Ovid’s visit to FOSDEM a couple of weeks ago. The premise is that Perl lacked punch as a brand. It couldn’t get noticed.
Perl at FOSDEM
I was at FOSDEM too. I’d said some things on the London PM mailing list about how important it was, so I thought I’d better go. I took the afternoon off work and drove down to Dover with my partner and jumped on the Dunkirk ferry.
I didn’t get to any of the evening socials. We didn’t arrive in Brussels until late on Friday. I left Carol on her own to explore Brussels for all of Saturday. I didn’t think it was fair to drag her along to an evening meal with a bunch of programmers so we ate together. We had to leave at noon on Sunday to drive back to Dunkirk.
I attended about half of the Perl talks and mixed it with visits to the Mozilla, Java and MySQL development rooms. On Sunday, I helped Wendy and Liz set up the booth and hung around in case I could help in other ways. I spent about an hour chatting to Ovid, who was there to sign books.
I think it’s a myth that Perl couldn’t get noticed. The booth was one of the most charismatic ones there. We had a stuffed camel which was around four feet tall. Several people asked to have their photograph taken with it. There was a bookcase which must have been about eight feet high and contained approximately 500 different books about Perl. That fascinated people, no other booth had anything like it. The top of the bookcase was crammed with cuddly toys which had been used as Perl mascots over the years. I don’t know how many there were, but the cuddly pumpkins will have to live somewhere else.
In other words, the Perl booth grabbed people’s attention and held it long enough for us to get our message across.
The message wasn’t confused by Perl 5/6 either. There was only one presentation on Perl 6 and I don’t recall seeing any Perl 6 books for sale on our booth. (The ones in Wendy’s collection weren’t for sale.) Everybody was clear that we were talking about Perl 5.
So, no trouble getting attention and no mixed messages. I don’t understand how Ovid concluded from events at FOSDEM that an attention-getting name change is required.
Other Languages at FOSDEM
The Perl presentations were typical LPW-type things, well-delivered and interesting. The Mozilla community struck me as being a bit like Perl in that there was clearly a strong social element. It was the MySQL and Java presentations which got me thinking.
The MySQL presenters I saw introduced themselves as full-time Oracle employees. I’ve got twenty years Oracle experience and I’ve always regarded MySQL as a toy. Not any more. There are some resources being sunk into it now. A lot of resources.
One of the Java presentations was about serious, hard-headed statistical analysis of the usage of various syntax constructs in real projects. This was done with a view to identifying whether perceived weaknesses were real or not, and whether action was required.
It was the sheer professionalism of the subject selection and the implementation which impressed me. More than that even, I’m almost sure they weren’t doing it for free. A lot of resources had been made available.
The events at FOSDEM do not support the idea that Perl needs a name change. We got plenty of attention. The problems are much deeper than that.
Events do support the idea that resources make a difference. Perl is just plain skint.
If the powers that be are serious about a name change then we should pay marketing professionals whatever it takes to get the proper research done. Chatting on IRC does not count. Nor do these blogs!
This is not a game. Jobs are at stake. We will probably only get one chance.