It Was About Time To Find A Shared Vision Of Perl
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Monday, 26 July 2021

The Perl Foundation (TPF) is looking pretty active lately, undertaking a number of initiatives which aim to advance Perl's ecosystem further.

The start came with "Coding in Perl? What support do you need?", a survey into what help and guidance Perl beginners would find useful, which we reported in "New To Perl? What Do You Need? The Results".
Among other findings, it was revealed that beginners would like a standardized way of doing things along the lines of a framework, they crave the security and agility that an IDE provides, and that, when they look for help, their preference is first books and then online courses and videos, relegating real-time chat and one-to-one contact at the final places.

That survey is now followed with yet another initiative, that of "Finding a shared vision of Perl". This tries to:

identify the shared values of the Perl community, and their vision of the Perl ecosystem in years to come.

The problem that TPF is looking at is that Perl's ecosystem is compartmentalized; one part doesn't know what the other part is doing and there's no clear communication path between them. So the attempt now is to get a high-level overview of what is important for each compartment and connect the pieces in order for the TPF to be able to offer the best possible help and collectively push Perl further ahead.

One key group is the Perl Steering Council, which supports the maintenance of the Perl core. Its members views on Perl are that regular expressions play an important part and they lose sleep over the debate of new features versus backward compatibility.

Next comes the TPF and its affiliated Perl communities. For them the important values are the desire for communication, collaboration, diversity and inclusivity, as well as Perl's public image and branding.

The next group is that of the contributors, who consider that IDEs are especially important for early career Perl developers, and that there's should be more focus on releasing modules for data science.

Last but not least, come the communities and companies, who feel that there should be more training services and learning materials available. They also fear that the community is small and shrinking.

It's important to note that apart from the disconnect between compartments, there's a few times that they even became antagonistic forming tensions between, or within them. Recent instances of that kind of behavior is the drama that developed between the two sister languages, Perl 5 and Perl 6, which I reported in "The Perl Renaming Debate Highlights Tensions" and afterwards the tension between Perl 5 and Perl 7, debating whether to break backwards compatibility or not, which climaxed with the release of Perl's version 5.34 (Perl 5.34.0 Released - What's New?) and Pumpkin Sawyer X resigning from his position.

Thus I see this attempt to find a shared vision as also a way to reconcile all parties and concentrate all the community's power to one common cause - that of progressing Perl on all levels.

The survey, hosted on the Gobby platform, asked the following questions: 

  • What’s your connection with Perl and its ecosystem?
  • What do you see as the Perl ecosystem’s core values and initiatives?
  • What are your future aspirations for Perl?
  • What do you perceive are the main challenges of unifying the
    Perl community, culture, and governance with a shared vision?
  • As an individual, how might you support Perl in the future?
  • How could Perl community groups contribute to our long term goals?
  • How can The Perl Foundation help the community achieve their long term goals? 

To give a brief overview the findings, here are the top two answers collected from each question category: 

  • What’s your connection with Perl and its ecosystem?
    1.I'm an experience Perl programmer
    2.Web developer

  • What do you see as the Perl ecosystem’s core values and initiatives?
    1.A willingness to share information, be helpful, and to provide meaningful answers.
    2.TMTOWTDI

  • What are your future aspirations for Perl?
    1.Modernization without compromising backwards compatibility.
    2.Keep backward compatibility but made it easy to use modern features.

  • What do you perceive are the main challenges of unifying the Perl community, culture, and governance with a shared vision?
    1.Everyone has their vision.
    2.Perhaps the lack of market momentum doesn't attract enough critical mass to drive things - especially people with fresh energy

  • As an individual, how might you support Perl in the future?
    1.Simply by using it!
    2.Contribute to CPAN

  • How could Perl community groups contribute to our long term goals?
    1.By existing and pushing enthusiasm for the language
    2.Ensure that there are enough good modules and frameworks on CPAN to get popular tasks done

  • How can The Perl Foundation help the community achieve their long term goals?
    1.Education of what Perl can do. Getting Perl integrated into vendor's tools would be helpful. Python seems to be many vendors love child.

    2.Get some big names on board for their SDKs - e.g. AWS, Azure. The lack of Perl's presence for modern SDKs adds to the perception of it's irrelevance. 

All the answers together with the amount of votes gathered can be found at this link.

So the people have spoken, the people have voted. What's next? Its now time for TPF to look into the most important issues brought forward by the community at large.

As I said at the start, TPF's cogs are oiled and well in motion, as there's yet another survey,the Ann Barcomb study, by the University of Calgary which looks into

understanding episodic, or occasional, participation in the Perl and Raku communities

This survey is ongoing and you can take part by following this link.

In the end, yes, it was about time to look for a common vision for Perl inside such a fragmented landscape. Maybe that's what was holding Perl back from staying "alive".

 

More Information

Finding a shared vision of Perl

Related Articles

Perl 5.34.0 Released - What's New?

The Perl Renaming Debate Highlights Tensions

 

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 July 2021 )