On Topic: 1. perl-begin.berlios.de + 2. Meta: Apology for Tactlessness

Shlomi Fish shlomif at gmail.com
Fri Apr 6 10:00:54 BST 2007

Hi all!

I've subscribed to this mailing list from my gmail.com address, in order to
mitigate the fact that shlomif at iglu.org.il has been banned by an

The purpose of this message is two fold:

1. To start a discussion about http://perl-begin.berlios.de/ . (Which may
add to the signal here.)

2. To apologise for the flame war I had caused back then regarding the
file-swapping essay followed by the tactfulness-preaching to merlyn. I'll
also explain the rest of my situation back then. (A meta-discussion)

I'll start with #1 in order for the mailing list to have good SNR.

http://perl-begin.berlios.de/ :

We've been doing a lot of work on perl-begin lately. It was converted to
a new skin (based on an OSWD theme), and its text was revamped according to
many marketing concepts.

At the moment it says:

1. "Perl Beginners' Site" at the top - say what it is.

2. Tagline: "Perl - because programming should be fun.".

3. Call for action: "Work with Perl for a living!" - I think that's what
most people are interested in and what our community desperately needs.

4. "What's in it for me" - "Programming the Way You Would Love". I'd like to
thank lichtkind on Freenode's #perl6 for suggesting a tagline that inspired

5. Testimonials - I mention Amazon.com, LJ, Slashdot, SpamAssassin,
MovableType and Frozen Bubble. I'd appreciate other suggestions.[1]

[1] - The Python site says NASA uses Python. However, I'm pretty sure they
are also using Perl and many other technologies. So I'm a bit reluctant to
add them there. I could mention how Perl was instrumental for the success of
the Human Genome project.

6. A picture on top (I re-used a picture I took of flowers in my

7. This page - http://perl-begin.berlios.de/learn/get-a-job/ - it explains
why Perl has become common and popular, and then explains how to get started.


I'll be glad to help contributors help me. If you are someone I know, I would
gladly give you a commit bit. To do that send me an email with the requested
username and password in a separate text file encrypted with my public key (
http://www.shlomifish.org/me/ ). Otherwise, you can prepare a patch against the
Subversion sources (not the HTML themselves, which are generated from
templates) - http://perl-begin.berlios.de/source/ , send it to me and I'll give
you the write permissions to apply it. (Also send me the username+password
encrypted again).

Please choose a hard-to-guess password, preferably a set of random characters.
Like <<< ak75j#f09b4@$Gdf9sd >>>. Don't worry - you can note it down on
your computer and Subversion can be configured to remember it.

There are still a lot of things to do. I'd like to go over the tutorials in
the list and make sure they are still up-to-date, and not misleading or
encouraging bad practises. I'd like to add more advocacy resources
and also add missing pages. And naturally, I'd like more sites linking to it,
so people can reach the site, and that the site will have a higher page rank.

I believe the site as it is now is much better as the first stop for learning
Perl, than http://learn.perl.org/ . And one cannot easily contribute to the
latter, while the source of perl-begin is publicly available and
fully FOSS/free-content.

As I'm frequenting Freenode's #perl, we are inundated by beginning Perl
programmers who either do cargo-cult Perl programming, learnt from bad
tutorials or books, etc. [1] Searching for "perl" in Google and other
search engines, or looking at the de.licio.us/simpy/etc. streams for perl
will yield many antiquated and bad resources. I admit that when I wrote
Perl for Perl Newbies, it too suffered from several problems, as I did
not know Perl then as well as I do now. (At least I corrected it, though.)

[1] - This is excluding people who seek help with Perl without wanting to
learn it (or pay for someone who will do the job for them), and people who
seek help with a regular expression problem in PHP or whatever. We have a
policy against helping people like that.

Some people have come to believe Perl is dying. However, I think it's more
complicated than that. I think it's just that many Perl programmers have "grown
up" and, while still being capable Perl programmers, are now working in
different languages [1] or are in management. However, there's still a large
amount of code in many places written in Perl and a lot of more is added by
programmers who like it. Companies desperately need people to maintain it, but
as commercial companies go, they often don't provide a good enough salary or a
good enough environment for the star programmer to be happy there. And often
they refuse to train a different programmer in Perl.

And I'm speaking from my experience here in Israel.

[1] - It is much easier for a Perl programmer to become productive with Python,
than the other way around. The same is true for most other languages,
because Perl is the Tower of Babel of programming languages. Google has been
hiring many Perl programmers and telling them to write code in Python.

What can we do?

I suggest educating employers that they should read and integrate such good
software management resources as "Joel on Software", ESR ("The Cathedral and
the Bazaar", etc.), Paul Graham, Extreme Programming, Eric Sink, etc. I'm not
saying to blindly follow what they say (they are often seemingly or really
contradictory or often wrong), but at least think about what they say.  If you
want a good programmer you need to pay for him or her, and you need to give him
not just average but exceptional conditions.

The days of IT slavery are over.

OK, I've digressed a bit. But having followed my stream of consciousness,
I believe I should add something like that there.

Well, that's it I guess. It may be a bit of shameless self-promotion, but it
is Perl related. "Those who can - do; those who can't - complain." While
still complaining a lot, I'm trying to also be a doer. And by contributing
to perl-begin, or even just giving me some useful input, you can be a doer

Now for the next issue:

The merlyn "tactfulness"/Getting Banned from London.pm Issue:

You may recall this:


What happened was that I posted a message about an essay I wrote saying
file swapping is not bad, and should be legal, and then merlyn (= Randal L.
Schwartz) claimed he isn't surprised it wasn't accepted to Slashdot. As I had
a history with merlyn being criticising of my postings, I wrote to him a
letter arguing for him being more tactful. The letter was very tactless, in a
shoemaker-has-no-shoes kind-of-way.

As a result of this letter I was moderated and after complaining was
completely banned.

I now admit of having a large part to blame for it. I shouldn't have:

1. Made my first post to London.pm about an inflammable topic such as file

2. Responded to merlyn's comment.

3. Complained about the moderation the way I did.


I later on have been talking a lot with merlyn on Freenode's #perl. He seems
like a very nice guy, and I'm pretty sure he's a good guy (i.e: not a
malevolent one), and certainly has been very productive, and also helpful
to many people with Perl, UNIX or other problems. I asked him to forgive me
for this post, and he did. Merlyn is not without his faults, of course, but
I won't mention them here.

Now I'd like to apologise from the entire list. I'll try not to repeat these
mistakes again, and I'm working on becoming more tactful. As you may know,
I recently contributed a lot to XML::RSS (later also as part of a grant
I received from TPF); been chatting a lot on Freenode's #perl, where I helped
many people with Perl; blogged about Perl on use.perl.org; been answering
questions people had on several Perl mailing lists or made other posts; made
many new releases of several CPAN modules (some of them not entirely useless);
and Perl is still my favourite language, and the one I find to get the job
done in the most "it just works" manner. So I'm a good guy.

Please unban shlomif at iglu.org.il, which I much prefer over gmail.com so I can
subscribe again[1]. Once I am subscribed, I can post some funny, insightful,
or interesting links I have encountered or conceived, and can take part in
discussions started by me or others.

Best regards,

    Shlomi Fish

[1] - It seems after I complained for being moderated, someone banned me
completely, and as a result, I did not receive any subsequent replies to
the thread, and could not send mail. This made me unable to reply to the
accusations, character attacks, and other comments people sent to London.pm.

Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/

Electrical Engineering studies. In the Technion. Been there. Done
that. Forgot a lot. Remember too much.

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