Recently, I’ve been reading with great interest about the future of Perl, and — more specifically — about how the "outside" sees Perl and how Perl might need a director of marketing. Frankly, and at the risk of rocking the boat, I’ll propose that Perl needs more than just a marketing director, or someone on the "outside" to do a survey; Put simply: Perl needs a creative agitator. (Or, perhaps more appropriately, a creative benevolent dictator.)
Though I’ve been using Perl on-and-off for more than ten years, I’m relatively new to the "Perl community." I’ve been involved with promoting free and open-source software since 1999 — writing articles, organizing events, and so on — and sometime in 2005, while interviewing the fine folks at Portland’s FreeGeek project, I was pulled back into the world of Perl.
At that time, my initial reaction was: Is the Perl community schizophrenic?
As far as visual presentation goes (dare I say "branding?"), the Perl community is all over the place. Spread across a dizzying array of Web sites — perl.org, use.perl.org, perldoc.perl.org, Perl Monks, Perl Mongers, CPAN, and so on — and each with its own entirely unique visual identity, the Perl community fails at presenting an easy-to-understand and easy-to-navigate information space. (Perhaps a bit of the TMTOWTDI gone awry?)
Don’t believe me? I present to you the world of Perl as it looks to the outside:
Why is this a problem? I believe it’s a problem because first impressions matter. For those new to programming who are in search of the right language, there’s a lot of information to slog through. Younger languages like Ruby and frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Django, are making their case upfront, concisely, and in a visually compelling way. (Something that Perl.org fails at, in my humble opinion.)
It’s also problem because we are in a time where the Web is the platform, and everyday programming is less likely to be strictly confined to some dark corner where it can hide away its ugliness. I believe this is partly why there are movements within the Perl community toward a "modern Perl," and an "enlightened Perl," and toward providing the various Perl (a-hem) Web frameworks that we have to choose from now. The trend is toward a better-looking Perl, an object-oriented Perl, a Perl that is more Web-native, and — ultimately — a Perl that the whole community can be proud of.
In conclusion: improving the outside perception of Perl is going to take more than just blogging.
That’s it for today. Next up: A closer look at the Perl visual identities in the wild.