The stake-holders in the Perl Ecosystem - who cares about Perl?
In this longish post I am trying to enumerate all the forces that care about Perl. Both those who are "just" having fun and those who are in for the money.
Many people might react badly if I claim that they have financial interest in the well being of Perl as they see it only as fun. My feeling is that the "Perl community" - whatever that would be - does not like the idea of making money using Perl. So when I am at a YAPC I am expected to wear of my We do it for the fun hat only.
On the other hand when I am around people who do not care about Perl or do not use it, I have to explain them in other terms why do I spend so much time in writing open source Perl code and trying to promote the language. Fun is strange but sort of acceptable for them but when I tell them about my financial interest in it well being of Perl and the ecosystem around it then they understand and accept it.
I have started to write this blog entry a while ago as part of my plan to add a more business oriented face to the many faces of Perl. With the recent surge in the discussion of the well being of Perl it is time to finish it and post it.
A long time ago Ovid wrote a blog post titled ( Solutions Are Not Problems. Problems Are Problems. ) and finished it with the sentence Our careers depend on it. referring to the well being of Perl. To this brian d foy reacted that it is not a good enough reason and to my surprise Ovid corrected himself.
Frankly even if Perl was really like COBOL and should have been gone from the world - and many people try to distribute that kind of FUD - even that it is totally acceptable to people who have financial interest in the subject to try to protect their investment. Let's try not to be on some moral high-ground here or judge each other.
Some people are in "just for the fun" others are "just for the money" and yet others have both.
Let's try to group the Perl stakeholders. If I missed some groups or you have other comments of refinement, please do comment.
Individuals: Perl Mongers and CPAN Authors, the Perl 5 Porters
First and foremost are the Perl Mongers, CPAN authors and the Perl 5 porters around the world. Most of them are heavily invested emotionally in Perl. They are participating as they enjoy the technology or the community. Some have financial interest too, others have no financial interest at all but they together are the enthusiastic crowd behind the actual code.
- Some of them are involved purely as hobby. They don't use Perl at work.
- Others are using Perl at work but it is far from being the most critical part of their job. (e.g. a sys-admin who could do her work manually, or by using shell or some other programming language).
- The third group is people who are employed as full-time Perl developers or run their own Perl developer company. They would probably be able to switch to another language as well but it will take a long time - probably many years - for them to reach the level of expertise they have in Perl.
This is probably the group of people we mean when we are talking about the Perl Community.
Individuals: The people behind the closed doors
Both the people who use Perl-as-a-glue, the people who use Perl for lots of internal automation and the full time Perl developers are represented in this group. This is probably a much bigger group than the above - open source - section but we hardly know about their needs and wants as they are usually not interacting with the open source Perl community at all.
These people usually have a lot less emotional connection to Perl if anything at all but they have an investment in Perl that should be protected. They spent time and energy learning it, they build some expertise around it. If they need to switch to another language this investment is partially gone.
Companies: Glue language
There are tons of places where Perl is used in critical applications but because it is at the sys-admin level or because it is the glue between the "real applications" higher management does not see it as having a strategic importance.
Perl Training Companies (and individuals)
These are the companies providing Perl training - a few have specialized for Perl, many provide Perl as just another technology.
The latter don't really care, they usually take people with 1-2 years experience in Perl and let them teach the usually outdated PERL training material. (Having seen some of these training materials I am not sure why are we surprised people new to Perl show up and write code in the style of previous century.)
The former has a real interest in making Perl more popular. (examples: Stonehenge, Perl Training Australia, Thoughtstream (aka Damian Conway) just to mention a few and myself). Most of these companies are run by people who are involved in the Perl Community.
Small Perl Development Companies
There are companies, providing application development service using Perl (eg. based on Moose, Catalyst, Krang, Bricolage, Titanium, Mojo or whatever else).
AFAIK Most of the companies providing these services are the actual developers of the mentioned applications or frameworks and thus are already involved in the Perl Community.
Large Perl based Companies
There are larger companies using Perl in big mission-critical customer facing applications. They have one or more applications written in Perl (or at least that Perl is a large part of the application). They recognize Perl as one of the technologies critical to their ongoing health. Some of these companies (e.g. Booking.com ) employ people from the Perl Community and/or have given nice sponsorship for the further development of Perl. There are many others but I am not sure how easy or difficult it could be to find them.
There are the huge companies that we keep mentioning such as Amazon, Yahoo, Intel, IBM that have lots of Perl code in mostly in-house applications. They use lots of other technologies as well. Because of the size of these companies and the number of different technologies they use neither upper nor mid-level management see Perl as a critical technology.
Individuals and companies selling products for Perl
Some of these companies have good relationship to the Perl community others don't have much.
Individuals and companies selling products written in Perl
There are various CGI and other scripts written in Perl sold by people either as a plain commercial product or as shareware.
The developers of these applications should have some interest in how well Perl is doing but in many cases they don't care much. AFAIK usually they are not involved in the Perl community.
Perl related foundations
All of these organizations are filled by people from the Perl community who are already volunteer their time and in cases some of their money too for the advancement of Perl.
Let's accept that there are many individuals and companies that have clear financial interest in the well being of the Perl ecosystem. Some of these people are even members of the open source Perl Community and some of these companies already support the Perl community.
Let's not be shy and talk to all of these people and companies so we can use their expertise and money too to promote Perl so more people will be involved and to understand how to improve Perl and the Perl ecosystem to better serve the market. (aka marketing Perl).
In October 2010 the Perl Ecosystem Group was established.