Sifting Through the CPAN
Some interesting stuff has been said today on The Four Major Problems with CPAN, Don't release experiments to CPAN and CPAN is for experimentation and I hope that never changes.
If you haven't read these posts yet, I encourage you to do so. They've all got interesting things to say.
(As an aside, let me say that I think PAUSE authors could probably participate more on PrePAN. I've posted a few things there and found it quite helpful. Even if your module is already on CPAN and you just want feedback on it, post something on PrePAN. I've found the discussion to be of a good quality and actually quite positive.)
One of the proposals which was being discussed was not (immediately) uploading experiments to CPAN. Now, even if we were to propose people uploading less modules (which, to be clear, I'm not proposing), we still have many years worth of good, less good and kind of crazy code to sift through. What this tells me is not that CPAN is full of junk, deprecated modules and weird stuff, but that we need better search tools to deal with the code we already have. The web on the whole is full of stuff of questionable quality, but modern search engines generally do a decent job of cutting through the noise. We should also be able to cut through the noise. This is one of the goals of MetaCPAN, but we haven't quite gotten there.
Right from the beginning, we've wanted to implement some system of tagging, which would allow interested parties to impose their own views on what a module is or is not. Imagine tags like "deprecated", "author unresponsive", "author deceased", "best practices", "needs love", "looking for maint/co-maint". The list goes on. You just need to use your imagination. These sorts of tags could a) help improve search results and b) help humans sift through the results when they do get them. There's a certain amount of heuristics which can be applied in the parsing and searching phase, but really I think we just need humans to have more influence on the outcome of results and tags are a great way to do that.
Now, where is this tagging of which I speak? Well, for now it's just a glimmer in our eyes. My hope was that last year we could round up a GSoC student to take on the tagging project, but with TPF not being one of the accepted organizations in 2012, it didn't happen for us. There is still hope for GSoC 2013, which has not yet begun accepting applications. There is also hope that outside the scope of a program like GSoC someone will step forward and "just do it". Along those lines, I actually think this would be a good candidate for TPF grant. I've even considered applying for the grant myself, but I'd much rather if it were done by someone with a schedule that's a little more flexible than mine currently is.
We don't need to be stuck with trying to figure out which module is best for which task. That's a problem which we, to a great degree, have the ability to solve. It's a layer on top of the CPAN that we can provide. We just need to do it.