Over the years, I’ve been involved with a fair number of Bricolage implementations for different organizations. (For those that don’t know, Bricolage is a large, Perl-based, publishing system.) Many of these organizations don’t have a full-time Perl programmer on staff, and instead rely on external contracts to do the heavy lifting that comes up from time-to-time. However, most of these organizations have a "Web producer" or "Web manager" — a generalist who helps with content updates, and smaller scale Web site changes — and, almost without fail, that person eventually asks: How can I learn more about Perl?
The question came up again recently and it got me thinking about the relative obscurity of Perl learning opportunities. There are the obvious challenges that have been discussed recently, i.e., the limitations of learn.perl.org, the small number of Perl books published each year, the fact that O’Reilly appears to be forgetting about Perl, and the prominence of outdated learning resources that don’t help to promote the best practices described as Modern Perl, or Enlightened Perl.
All those challenges aside, the biggest obstacle for many may simply be that it’s hard to find traditional learning pathways, like teacher-led courses, certification programs, and online learning opportunities.
These opportunities exist, but are often hidden away in the annals of community college course offerings, vocational programs, or are only known to Perl insiders who read Perl-related news (which kind of defeats the purpose, if the course if introductory in nature).
Go ahead: do a quick Google search for Perl courses in your city and see what comes up. Now ask yourself: if you were new to Perl and were in search of a learning opportunity, would you have enough information? How would you come to a decision about which learning opportunity to invest in? Who could you ask?
This got me thinking about a couple of things:
- The need for Perl learning resources that go beyond books
- The need to connect people with Perl resources in their community
Perl learning resources that go beyond books: For starters, lots of people don’t learn well with a strictly self-directed approach. While the Perl books are great, they probably can’t compete with an in-class experience that includes peer support and a teacher, when it comes to helping people who are new to the language and prefer learning this way.
On this point, I’m thinking that it would be helpful to compile a list of online courses that can be accessed by people living anywhere. I haven’t done an exhaustive search, but these two are ones that I have recommended to people in the past (not Perl-specific, but with Perl components):
… but there must be others out there, no? (Know some? Please leave them in the comments.)
Connect people with Perl resources in their community: For those that live close to large urban areas, there are probably several options for learning in a traditional course environment at a community college or similar continuing education programs. The challenge is: How does someone who doesn’t know what they need to learn make a decision about which to choose?
Perhaps this is something that the local Perl Mongers groups could help with, either via their mailing list, or via some kind of a local resources page that provides a list of courses and some comments on the advertised course content.
And, while I’m thinking about it, a local resources page could also automatically aggregate some other helpful information like:
- Local Perl jobs (via jobs.perl.org, Craigslist, etc.)
- Local Perl news (via planet.perl.org, etc.)
- Local Perl bloggers and Twitterers (via Technorati, Twitter search, etc.)
- Local groups & meet-ups that aren’t Perl-specific
What do you think? Would it be valuable to explore ways to help people connect with Perl resources that are specific to their region or city, e.g.: yourcity.perl.org? The comments are open.