Bead, ivory, off-white

Chromatic makes fun of Alberto. I understand the sarcasm: much of it, I share. (Falling into editorial we seems common in Alberto’s posts.) And yet, Perl From The Outside.

Calling it Perl 6 was sensible at the time of its inception, for all the reasons chromatic outlined there in caricature. But the premise and direction of The Language has evolved dramatically since the time its name was chosen. In premise it’s a similar idea now, and at the same time one with naught in common with the original. And still, the name persists.

As programmers we (yes, us, us all, not editorial we) should know of the importance of naming: any good programmer spends a lot of time in agony over variable names and function names.

What we (the editorial, this time) have done here is refactor the entire codebase rug from underneath the variable, yet insistently kept its now-misleading name the same. Become, became: we left the frame.

On the other hand – of course! –, names create. There are no things until there are words to name them. And also: names identify. You don’t rename your son or daughter because they’ve grown and changed.

And Perl 6 is Larry’s baby.

I get that. And yet: Perl From The Outside. Perl From The Outside.

I don’t know what to say.


Three things:

1) Perl from the Outside.

0) I'm not making fun of Alberto. I don't disagree with his opinion, but if the premise holds, it should hold all the way. It doesn't. I don't know why.

2) What we call Perl in the time of Perl 5.14 is very different from what we called Perl in the days of 5.005. That change is a fine and wonderful thing. What we call Perl in five years may also be very different. Even so, if you work with a Perl release from the Perl 1 days (as I have done in the past few years), there is still something discernibly Perl even given the differences between Perl 1 and Perl 5.

Perl has an external perception problem, but even if Larry did change his mind on the naming either or both of Perl 5 and Perl 6, Perl would still have an external perception problem.

Put another way, nomenclature is the smallest imaginable sliver of Perl's external perception problem--so small in truth that it's barely worth the time spent reading this paragraph.

I'd like to rant about marketing and brand and perception.

How Perl 'Modern Perl' is so great, but having a perceived 'replacement' being worked on makes people question if they shouldn't just look around for another language which is not likely to change as much under them.

I could go on for days, I know that the name is not going to change, but just as much as "Perl 6 is Larry's baby, he gets to choose the name" - there are lots of places where "Perl 5 is now the communities baby" so many we need to be sticking up for it more.

Maybe the name is only a small part of the problem, but it's easily perceived as a low-hanging fruit. Your tongue-in-cheek narrative aside, it seems easier to change a name than to address the other parts of the perception problem.

brian's got the 6th ed of the camel book on the way, and that should solve a bigger part of the problem. But realistically, for all the introspection and discussion we do about the "external perception" problem, what can we really do about it? It seems like the iron man challenge barely made a dent, and I personally thought that was a really fantastic idea.

The Ironman Challenge didn't make a dent because, as far as I can tell, it wasn't aimed anywhere but the echo chamber.

If we want people outside to change their perceptions of Perl, then things need to happen that people outside of Perl can see.

At best a name change would delay the problem. More likely it would continue the problem.

As a thought exercise, consider a world without Perl 6 as we understand it today. What would a successor to Perl 5 as we understand it today--a successor which breaks syntactic compatibility with Perl 4--look like? Who would like it? Who would hate it? Why?

That's why I believe the name grumbling doesn't matter.

By "outsiders" do you mean "people who haven't used Perl 5" and possibly "people who aren't programmers"? I hadn't considered that perspective.

I've approached this by thinking that anyone who's used Perl 5 much should have noticed several flaws, but for whatever silly reason I'd overlooked what you just made me realize.

I've actually come across people at various jobs where the version of perl they are using is so ancient (and more or less locked in) that they've a negative view as well -- they see Ruby, they see Python, and then they see OLD Perl. And they say "Screw Perl, I'm just gonna move to Ruby/Python/Whatever".

It's sad, really.

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