On "Communities" In General and Modern::Perl

Ever since I read this piece and more on evolutionary biology, ideas have been flipping in my mind.

This is more of a private hypothesis and I think it might be useful to perl community on how it sees itself from a long time lurker's perspective. I am not a good sample point though :)

This post has nothing to do with sexual selection. It's more about how communities are formed and how they sustain in a changing world.

Each and every programming language/Operating System/License out there has a community around it. A twitter hashtag has a micro community around it.

Generalizing from handicap principle and signaling theory, these are my axioms (sort of)

1) A community forms around signals
2) Signals are a way community member's recognize each other
3) Signals are *the only way* to recruitment new members
4) The signals of one community are irrelevant to other community
5) Signals encourage risky and useful behavior
6) Signals can't be described easily because there can be non-linguistic signals

To give an example of Google, here are the signals I see that I think what google emits
1) They value the academic style intelligence
2) Don't be Evil, which implies they want to fuck things up (risky)
3) Googleplex, its not an office, its the continuation of your college campus
4) The simplicity of their home page
5) Their products like Google Books, Google Scholar which signal that they genuiely care about free information
6) That 20% your free to do what you want to do thingy

Of course those are just obvious publicly available signals. I am sure internally there are more numerous examples of other signals.

A *bad analogy* -- signals are like the background music of an active culture. If the signals go down, people express phrases like "I can't feel it anymore".

What about Perl ?
2) All the Perl golf, Perl Poetry, JAPH are definitely what can be classified as risky behavior in order to send out signals
3) Kindness to noobs
4) I wrote more modules than you on cpan ! I win (this is just a guess)
5) Humour and the Informal approach -- Larry Wall's speeches, the joke modules, Lightning Talks and the writing style in the books
7) All Embracing approach to other programming languages (Inline::*) and learning more than one programming language
8) A taste for the obscure and the absurd -- post-modernism
9) FOSS mentality

Of course, this is just from a lurkers perspective. I am pretty sure there are more goodies in there !

To be honest what attracted me to perl is 5) and 7) more than anything else.

To give you an example of how subjective and how dumb a signal can be, let me give you my personal case.

Every one knows that the "python" in python programming language is a reference to Monty Python

Which obviously *signals* that python people are supposed to funny just like Monty Python fans are funny.

Personally I don't like the Monty Python's humour style.

This is a public example of what python people think humour is.

As a lurker, I found that page not as funny as perl's style

I am also into linguistics. The fact that English is a germanic language fucking surprises me ! It also surprises me that England had French as an official language for 100 years.

So I was enjoying reading more perl things and trying perl out. Obviously, perl is a pain after the initial stages of "It runs! I can use print !", but I was willing to endure it. That's pretty much the reason I am here, I guess.

It is clear that perl is trying to gather more community presence. Modern::Perl is definitely a great signal that is being sent. And I sort of feel that the old signals are no longer being used. So, people of the perl land, do decide engage in more risky behavior and crazy signals :P (If you agree with my odd theory that is)

Annnnnnnnd, I prefer Peter Cook to Monty Python any day


An invisible signal is that there are a lot of professional perl programmers quietly getting big stuff done. Things that run important infrastructure across a wide range of business domains in government, education and industry.

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user-pic I blog about Perl.