Perl is dead ... when I'm dead!

Too fanboy/girl-ish, perhaps?

Yes, I'm well on-trend, by a couple of months. As you see, lockdown has made a hot mess of my blogging schedule. I count myself very fortunate that is the worst effect it's had on me, alongside the gaining of some mass.

WfH WARNING! Watch out for those caramel waffles! A single Stroopwaffle has enough calories to feed a hungry village for a day and are not a sustainable treatment for anxiety. Two kWh per packet, not a word of a lie.

on RT .. or “I agree with everybody”

Are we flogging a dead horse here?

I understand the pull of fulfilling one’s civic duty by stepping up to take responsibility for a community resource. You get that warm glow inside that masks the early symptoms of burnout. There’s a palpable pressure to do everything in Perl to demonstrate the capabilities of the language and that we eat our own dogfood. The problem is that we don’t have the budget (aka tuits) for the shiny toys that we want to showcase our favourite language. The argument boils down to

Opportunity cost of maintaining things that other people are doing well


Pride of showing off our talents

If what we do doesn't look good, it's not doing the job of showing off and lack of utility becomes a liability. We have limited resources now and have to choose what we can support.

On the other hand, I do use bpo a lot (broken as it is[0]) as a place for search engines to find some obscure solution that I don't think many people are interested in, just the one person with the same problem. And because Dave asked us to. It's a useful community resource - perl challenge repo, source for perl weekly, etc. Also, I like the pseudo-anonymity it provides so I can blog about work without embarrassing anyone and I probably should take the opportunity to talk about semi-taboo issues such as mental health. I poke around stackoverflow and perlmonks a bit. Someday, I’ll get around to creating a account, but not reddit. I don’t need that monkey on my back.

Less Management, more Leadership

So why do people always leap in at the last minute to keep the patient on life support? In this case, I think that it’s a clear, well-defined task that is a simple matter of maintenance, easy to understand. There is no glory and no glory is sought. It is reactive and responsive, not proactive and driven. Catharsis after a hard day’s work, perhaps?

More challenging is the lofty goal to Make Perl Great Again. The only clear idea there is that, given a box of Sharpies, you can get your hands on a lot of branded merch going dirt cheap. The fact that great things are not made great by a single person is made less clear by our notable exceptions. You cannot be a BDFL if no one cares to play with your toys.

The Perl success stories have gathered sustainable communities around them and individuals have taken on leadership roles because there is no progress without them. And that means willingly dealing with other people. Anyone who has organized an Advent calendar knows that a little bit of, ever-so-polite, arm twisting is involved and the world benefits.

All of the current ideas not already in progress that really would make Perl great are so poorly described that if they were a ticket given to you at work, you’d send them straight back to for clarification. You wouldn’t even waste time estimating them because the only way to figure out what needs to be done is to do it.

So, faced with the choice of doing something easy or sailing off to the other side of the world, you’re going to have to generate some excitement about what you’re doing to get volunteers[1]. If you really think that RT isn’t fit for purpose, start asking people to help you out doing the stuff you think we should be doing.

Me? Well, 15 months ago, I was planning on making Perl the new language for Data Science by 2021, making plans, lining up some arms to twist, when all of a sudden I got distracted by sumthin er other. now where was I? Oh, yes .. k-means! … and then there’s my list of posts and there’s my list of vict^Wvolunteers

Feeling inspired to take up your own challenge? Like Jackie Weaver facilitating the Handforth Parish Council Planning meeting, you have the authority.

Perl 7

My only contribution to the Perl 7 debate, other than a just close your eyes and pull the trigger level of encouragement (I get like this when I don't know the consequences ;) is not to enforce "use strict" on one-liners. It's the one place where I can see all the code and I'm throwing it away in a few minutes. Typing "my" in front of every variable that I want to stuff temp values in is going to slow me down. I don't need the level of helicopter parenting that puts a helmet on a kid for just walking down the street. Making helmets required for riding motorbikes I can get behind.

Oh, and get Corinna "inna da core" post-haste. A succinct, Moose-like class declaration syntax for OO was the only thing that impressed a python newbie I was trying to show off to. Make the easy things easy and develop modules for the hard things.

Did I speak too soon? The previous para was written in the time honoured tradition of commenting before reading the Overview of Corinna. Now that I have, I’m conflicted. It’s way too terse for my liking. I’d use it in my modules just to have an OO that I can ship without some people getting worked up over installing non-core stuff, but sigils in the attribute declaration break up the flow of reading. One line declarations are just dragging us back into line-noise territory. A minified class definition won’t convince anyone to use Perl.

Did I just become the person I was hating on at the top of this post? I am conflicted. ...well, it’s all up for feedback, so maybe I should go and leave some coherent thoughts.

[0] Why yes, bpo did eat one set of really good edits because I was foolish enough to think it really was saving when it said it was auto-saving. I knew this behaviour. Shame on me.

[1] Apologies. It’s late and I’ve been rambling. Fininsishing it before it gets any worse.

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About Enkidu

user-pic I am a Freelance Scientist** and Perl is my Igor.