Perl outreach

Paul Makepeace paulm at
Mon Nov 26 19:37:31 GMT 2012

On Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 10:36 AM, Dirk Koopman <djk at> wrote:
> It isn't that perl isn't "fashionable" any more, it is that it is actively
> being promoted as "unfashionable". People will get fired for "buying" perl.
> Or (yet another analogy): perl is to programming what smoking is to
> workplaces - something you do in the comfort of your own home - or in a
> shelter outside specially constructed for the purpose.

There's possibly an easier explanation than any conspiracy theory.

At some point perl fell out of favour to PHP with the CGI process
start up problem, and mod_perl's complexity and perhaps even early
bugginess (perceived or actual). At that point its usage declined and
it got stuck in a positive (in the control theory sense) feedback
loop: usage drops, so a business case needs to be made to counter
usage dropping, so usage drops, GOTO 10. Meanwhile other languages
(PHP, Python, Java, Ruby) catch up and surpass Perl, each on their own
various dimensions: PHP's ease of install, Python's relative language
simplicity, Rails having a big successful commercial backer, Java an
enormous subcontinent of cheap labour, etc.

Now, Perl in a sense has two problems: its relatively low usage, and
that the other languages & frameworks have caught up & in some cases
surpassed Perl's, so Perl's advantages over other options just aren't
seen as that compelling.

Perhaps Perl's biggest problem though is it still uses -> as a method
invocation operator. (Heh, kidding… kinda… not ;)

Anyway, those are the two areas I would look into: 1) getting real
stats on perl's usage and seeing whether the perception matches
reality -- maybe there is a "dark pool" of perl users that aren't
being counted 1b) making perl more accessible, e.g.,
facebook, etc rather than just this mailing list 2) drawing up a list
of really compelling reasons why perl is a good fit for various tasks.
And possibly being OK with the battle having been lost in the
short/medium term on various fronts (web frameworks)

Key IMO is acknowledging the power of perception: maybe perl is
amazing at X, Y, Z but if it's not perceived that way some marketing
is needed rather than intellectual discussion.


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