Oh, I am happy to see Perl is still alive!

It was very fascinating to read the thread on the mailing list of the Boston Perl Mongers that started with what Perl can do at non-Perl Conferences.

There were a couple of great posts there but before writing about them a note of interest. In almost every discussion I saw regarding promotion of Perl even on a "marketing mailing list" within just a few messages people start to drift into technical discussions. For example on the Boston.pm thread people were writing about exception handling in Perl, C, Java, etc., about safety critical code and even about life-critical avionics.

But let's get back to the main topic.

John Redford wrote an interesting message on why he thinks many people left Perl.

On one point I agree with him: If someone tries to advocate Perl as the one true choice that will only lead to negative reactions. Along the same lines we do not need to convert people to use Perl. We need to show them it exists, it is a viable choice along with the wealth of CPAN. More than that, we need to show them our enthusiasm. Of course if you think that Perl is just another tool and that people will always consider the best tool - whatever that could mean - then you might not want to promote Perl. It is worth reading his post.

On the other point that Perl does not need improved marketing. Everyone knows about Perl. I disagree. Many of those who know about Perl do so based on stories from other people or based on their experience from 10-15 years ago. Things have changed since then. In many ways Perl grew up. Especially when looking at CPAN.

But why would any of us care if more people were using Perl? For one, because if you like the language you would like to use it at work. I keep hearing from people that it is hard for them to find Perl jobs. I also keep hearing from companies that it is hard to find Perl programmers. The reason for this contradiction is related to location and maybe expectation. There are Perl jobs but usually not at the same place as the free Perl programmer is.

By getting more people to use Perl you increase the number of available programmers thus making it easier for companies to hire. By promoting the powers of the language you will also make it a more likely choice in many companies thereby increasing the number of jobs.

how do companies choose a language?

I bet in most cases it is based on two things.

  1. What have the manager heard - and they keep hearing that Java is good but they hardly hear good things about Perl.
  2. What do the developers already know or for what language it will be easy to hire more people?

We can keep talking about the relative power of the languages and pretend that we can always pick the right language based on the technical merits of the languages but first of all there are huge areas where many languages can fit reasonably well. Besides, that's not how companies pick an implementation language.

Who chooses the language?

Who chooses the language? Jim Eshelman suggest that there are 2 cases when the principal language of a company/project changes.

  1. If a group of developers want it together
  2. If management imposes

Back to the conferences

Bill Ricker then tried to go back to the conferences by being practical with a few very good points, rephrased by me.

  • Just be present with a T-shirt with Perl at a booth!
    Our experience at FOSDEM was that many people were happy to see us there as that gave them the reinforcements Perl is still alive and kicking!
  • Just show that Perl is still a viable choice.
  • No need to try to show that it is better than X or Y or that it should be the only choice!
  • JFDI. No need to wait for a market research and a perfect marketing message.

Oh, I am happy to see Perl is still alive!

Let me go back to the title. I think one of the biggest thing a Perl stand on a conference can do is to show people the presence of Perl and show how enthusiastic you are about the language without bashing other languages.

Published on 2010-03-19 by Gabor Szabo