the "no good Perl jobs"/"no good Perl programmers" myth

Adam Turoff ziggy at
Mon Aug 7 16:19:43 BST 2006

On Mon, Aug 07, 2006 at 03:15:50PM +0100, Peter Hickman wrote:
> We officially gave up looking for Perl programmers.

This is an increasingly common attitude.  I interviewed with a
(tangentially) biotech startup last year, and ran away because it was so
horribly mismanaged.  (Sorry, did the startup thing already. Don't need
someone shaming me into working nights and weekends for roughly the same
salary, and maybe a promise of shares that might be worth something at
some point in the far, far future.  Maybe.)

That company started maybe 7-10 years ago with two "brilliant"
researchers stumbling into an interesting solution to a vexing problem, 
bundling it into a webapp, and scaling it up to handle multiple
concurrent customers.  The resulting app was written in Perl, and grew
like a cancer into a big huge mess.  As they got big, a few managers
from a large company swooped in, and had the opinion that eventually,
everything would be rewritten in Java.  However, because they were
making payroll with Perl, it was always a looming threat, never an
actionable plan.

The *real* problem is that they couldn't attract truly senior staff to
apply some design to a festering hack (due to said horrible mismanagement).
As a result, the Perl programmers they *did* manage to find were
generally junior level programmers who were just barely capable of
hacking the hacked hacks to meet deadlines.  Eventually, this plan will 
run out of steam, and they'll probably revisit the "do it in Java" 
plan with gusto.

Of course, every situation is different.  But "giving up on Perl"
and "moving to Java"[1] cover a multitude of situations, both internal to a
single organization/department, and endemic to the industry.

-- Adam

[1]: Hire a bunch of smart people and get them all to use Ruby, and 
     possibly Rails, is a more fashionable alternative this week.

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