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Is the Perl community schizophrenic?

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 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:

Is the Perl community schizophrenic?

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 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.

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  1. #1 jedsen 27 Jul 09


    That's some seriously dumb shit you posted. Keep up the good work.

  2. #2 phillip_at_newint 27 Jul 09

    Thanks for that helpful comment, jedsen. Keep up the good work yourself. :-)

  3. #3 Adam K 27 Jul 09

    A breath of fresh air

    Thanks for your comments Phillip, it's nice to see someone with actual knowledge in this area joining the conversation.

    If I may be so bold, I have a small response/endorsement.

  4. #4 ciderpunx 28 Jul 09

    @rubies = ('red');
    @camels = ('blue');
    $i ne 'schizophrenic'
      and $neither->{am}{i};

  5. #5 szabgab 28 Jul 09

    Yes and no

    I was glad reading your post and I think your insight might be of great help. Maybe you would want to talk to [a href=’’]us on how to get our message straight and through. (or what would be our message :-)

    On one hand I agree that the diversity of messages might distracting especially as most of them just look bad but on the other hand I believe that one of the strength of the Perl community is its diversity.

    So while I think we need people with better understanding of marketing and communication such as you but on the other hand one who wants to improve the communication of the Perl community has to understand the community and the diversity behind it. For the good and the bad.

    BTW your creative agitator or just agitator might cover better what I meant than the <i>marketing director</i> I used.

  6. #6 phillip_at_newint 28 Jul 09

    @Adam K: Many thanks for the follow-up post. Great stuff. I've posted some comments [a href=’’]here.

    @szabgab: I agree with you about the diversity of the Perl community. Admittedly, that's why I'm drawn to it myself. However, there are many examples in the Perl community of initiatives to spread ’best practices,’ or ’promising strategies,’ to the rest of the people using Perl.

    For example, think about the [a href=’’]Perl Best Practices book -- it's well known that Perl can be written in any number of (potentially confusing) ways, but Damian tries to provide us with a common way to organize Perl code and coding style.

    Or think about CPAN. The Perl community is quick to advice those new to Perl to check CPAN before writing a new module from scratch. Or think of the Module::Starter concept -- providing people with a standard way to get working on new modules should they choose to go that path.

    Perl's diversity and flexibility is a huge advantage, but -- as described above -- the whole Perl community benefits when we limit the TMTOWTDI to when it's necessary vs. whenever we feel like it.

    The blog post above was just about 1/5 of a much longer post, which I thought was getting a bit lengthy, so -- thanks to the input and interest here -- I'll carry on with some specific thinking around a path forward.

    Many thanks all for your comments,


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