A better Recent CPAN Uploads feed

Our own CPAN Watch has the tag line “We watch the CPAN so you don’t have to”, but if you still want to, then there’s a new CPAN feed in town.

search.cpan.org has the Recent Uploads page and feed, but all it shows is the distribution name and description. Daisuke Murase has created his own CPAN Recent Changes site and feed that now shows the relevant parts of the change log, back to the latest non-developer release. At least, that seems to be its intent, although its heuristic seems to not always work.

I’m glad to see the new site in place. I’m sure new additions will be coming, and maybe others will offer their own spin on what’s new in CPAN, as well. It’s a mutation that will lead to more evolution.

Deadline for Frozen Perl call for speakers almost here

Time’s running out to submit your talk for consideration to Frozen Perl 2008 in Minneapolis. Submissions close on Tuesday, October 23rd at midnight. This is a great opportunity for you midwestern Perlers to get your feet wet if you’ve never spoken at a conference before but have always wanted to.

Instructions for submitting a talk are available at the Frozen Perl website.

Perl Survey 2007 data released

Attention all trend-finders and part-time statisticians: The results of the Perl Survey 2007 are now available.

Michael Schwern presented a basic analysis of the results were recapped at Pittsburgh Perl Workshop this past weekend, and I’m still trying to get a summary to post here. Skud is also working on her own analysis of the data, and will post it to the Perl Survey results page.

No need to wait for them, though. We encourage you to do your own analysis of the data, and tell us and the world what you think it means. The data is released under a Creative Commons license, and I’ve created Data::PerlSurvey2007 to give you a quick & dirty way to slurp up the data into Perl code and have fun trying to find your own correlations and interesting insights.

It’s simple code. It just slurps up the .csv file available on perlsurvey.org (and also included with the distro) and gives you an array of hashrefs for each completed response. They look like this:

'Attended Perl Mongers' => '1',
'Attended Perl Mongers (non-local)' => '0',
'Attended conference' => '1',
'Attended conference (non-local)' => '0',
'CPAN modules maintained' => '12',
'Contributed to CPAN' => '1',
'Contributed to Perl 5' => '0',
'Contributed to Perl 6' => '0',
'Contributed to other projects' => '1',
'Contributed to websites' => '1',
'Country of birth' => 'au',
'Country of residence' => 'au',
'Date survey completed' => '2007-07-26 12:49:37',
'ID' => '25',
'Income' => '80000-89999',
'Industry/ies' => [
'Real Estate'
'Led other projects' => '1',
'Other programming languages known' => [],
'Perl versions' => [
'Perlmonks' => '0',
'Platforms' => [
'BSD - FreeBSD',
'Linux - Debian',
'Linux - Ubuntu',
'Mac OS/X',
'Windows XP'
'Posted to Perl Mongers list' => '1',
'Posted to other list' => '1',
'Presented at conference' => '1',
'Primary language spoken' => 'English',
'Programming languages known' => [
'Proportion of Perl' => '90',
'Provided feedback' => '1',
'Sex' => 'female',
'Subscribed to Perl Mongers list' => '1',
'Subscribed to other list' => '1',
'Year of birth' => '1975',
'Years programming (total)' => '22',
'Years programming Perl' => '11'

Nuthin’ fancy, but I hope this gives people a starting point without having to worry about the mundane parts of slurping up CSV files.

Evolution requires mutation

In the past couple of days, I’ve seen some counterproductive
social behaviors that help scare away community members and lead
to boring monoculture: Taking a public dump on the projects of others when they do not directly affect you.
It’s rude, it discourages future risk taking in everyone,
it goes against the very nature of open source that has
brought us here today, and it leads to monoculture. I’d
like people to stop.

Mutation #1: kurila

Gerard Goossen recently released
a fork of Perl 5 that includes some speedups and tweaks
that seem to scratch Gerard’s itches, as well as bundling extra
modules. I’m right now trying to get an interview with
him to find out more about his project and the reasons
behind it, because there are probably some interesting
lessons in there. However, the disapproval on the Perl 5 Ports list
was swift and severe.

All forking based on the Perl 5 syntax and code base,
throwing away CPAN compatibility, seems to me to be a
complete worthless waste of time.

So what? Who is anyone to say how Gerard is to use his time?
Is there any harm here? No? Then leave the guy alone, please.

Mutation #2: lambda

Eric Wilhelm released lambda,
a distribution that lets you
use the Greek character lambda (&#955) as an alias for sub
, apparently as a nod to Python’s lambda
keyword for anonymous functions. Immediately people jumped
on him saying that the module should go into the Acme::
namespace, as if the namespaces of CPAN mean anything in
2007. There was also this cluck-cluck from someone I figured
would be more encouraging (and later apologized, as it turns out):

Well, if you want to use it in your own code and your work’s code,
that’s fine (because I’m sure you find typing CONTROL-SHIFT-EL so much
easier than “sub {}” 🙂 but if it shows up in your CPAN modules, you
might get a few complaints since this sugar, while a really nifty hack,
adds nothing complex but does screw up older editors and will confuse
the heck out of a lot of maintenance programmers.

Personally, I figure that if someone’s a smart enough
programmer to do a hack like the lambda module, he or she
is also smart enough to figure out potential downsides.
And so what if he doesn’t? What’s the harm here?

Mutation #3: perlbuzz

Perlbuzz itself has always come under this umbrella of disapproval. Even before
we announced the site, Skud and I have fended off the comments saying “We already have
use.perl.org, we don’t need Perlbuzz.” Maybe not,
but why do you care if we start the site? Why does it bother you? And why do you
find it necessary to tell us that we’re embarking on a waste of time?

I hope that in the past few months, the work that Skud and I have done have shown
you, the reader, that Perlbuzz is a worthwhile addition to the Perl community,
and a valuable news source that overlaps other news sources while not being a subset.
What if Skud and I had listened to the tsk tsk of the doubters?
Perl would be right where we it was before, with nothing new.

Evolution requires mutation

Why are we so quick to take a dump on the projects of others?
The only way anything interesting happens is that people
try weird, new things and see what sticks. What if Larry
had listened to those way back when who said “Ah, we’ve got
Awk and shell tools, we don’t need Perl?”

I fear our tendency to monoculture. I want crazy new projects to thrive,
not get squashed at their very infancy. Next time someone comes out with a project
that you think is silly, congratulate the person rather than scoffing at it. Who
knows what it might lead to?

(And a big thank you to Jim Brandt for the “Evolution requires mutation” idea.)

Richard Dice talks about changes and projects at the Perl Foundation

I talked today with Richard Dice,
the newly-elected president of the Perl Foundation,
about the recent changes in TPF, and what TPF has been working on lately.
If you’ve asked “What does TPF do? Why should I support it?”, this
interview should help answer that.

Andy: Richard, you’re now President of
The Perl Foundation,
Jim Brandt is Vice-President, and Bill Odom is Chairman. What do these
changes mean for TPF and for the Perl community?

Richard: Regarding the first of the two questions you have
embedded in there, what it means for TPF, there’s a pretty
straightforward answer – it means that I am now the person entrusted
with the abilities of the President, per Article V, item 5.05 of
the Bylaws of The Perl Foundation.
From the point of view of TPF being a corporation the abilities of
the President are pretty standard President-stuff. It basically
means that I’m the guy able to sign contracts and am responsible
for the general management of the corporation. The President is
also a member of the Board of Directors so I have a voice within
that group and a vote in all voting matters of the Board. I don’t
think that there are too many surprises as far as any of that goes.
It’s vanilla-corporation-legal stuff.

For the previous two years the TPF President had been
Bill Odom. In the past few months Bill had been considering what
his own personal strengths, interests and abilities to commit time
would be in the future and mostly he was thinking that what we
wanted to invest his energies into were Board considerations. That
is, organizing how the Board would conduct its responsibilities.
And that’s a Chairman job. The chairman for the previous few years
had been Kevin Lenzo. After all the years Kevin had been involved
he felt as though he had done all he wanted and needed to in terms
of active participation. So the Board thought that Bill would be
the right person to take on that role. I was the Steering Committee
Chair of TPF for the almost-two years up to that point. Bill and I
did plenty of work and discussion together because of that, and I
got a level of familiarity with much of the rest of the Board over
that time as well. They thought I would be a good choice to fill
the position.

I think that the Board liked one aspect of my
thinking in particular pertaining to the Perl community. That is:
the Perl community is just fine. Better than fine. The community
is great. TPF exists to support the community. So what we
have to pay attention to is the areas where the community is not

Andy: What areas would those be?

Richard: We need to help the rest of the world understand
what Perl has to offer them. We need to talk with the rest of the
world and gather together what they have to tell us, organize it,
and present it back to the community in a coherent way so that we
understand what the perceptions of the rest of the world are regarding
what Perl and its community are all about. This kind of communication
is a pre-condition for the next step, which is figuring out how the
community and the rest of the world can help each other.

Andy: Any plans or grand ideas to share along those lines?

Richard: I’ll share one plan that has already come to pass.
Forrester Research approached
TPF back in April 2007, asking us to participate in a survey of
dynamic languages (Perl, Python, Ruby, PHP, Javascript) they were
putting together. That was really important.
Forrester has a lot of reach into the corporate IT
world, at the VP and CIO/CTO level. I thought it was very important
for us to get the word “Perl” prominently placed within that survey.
What followed was a few weeks of brain-wracking work, not just mine
but with a ton of help from about a dozen people inside and outside
of TPF. But it was also important for us to participate because
just seeing what sorts of considerations Forrester put into the
survey were reflection of what they thought their audience was interested
in. Participation was an excellent two-way communication opportunity.

Andy: What were the results of their report?

Richard: The results were quite good I thought. Forrester
“Wave” surveys have a
pretty standard format; in it, Perl was considered a “Leader” in
this space. TPF will issue a larger press release about the results
of this survey later. (The citation guidelines are complicated and
we have to spend some real time in sifting through it all before
we can make an official and detailed statements of the results.)

Another project that I’m involved with now is trying to make Perl
5.8.8 an official part of the
Linux Standard Base
3.2 spec. This is a really good idea, as it means that any Linux
ISVs that make a product that targets LSB 3.2 can assume the presence
of a (sane) Perl distribution and so they don’t have to ship it

These two examples suggest what I think will be a theme of the next
year, which is TPF working with other organizations in alliances.
Everyone is good at something. No one is good at everything. We have
to be able to offer our expertise to other organizations, and we
have to be willing to work with others in order to take advantage
of their expertise. Trying to do things another way is a recipe for
frustration and limited results.

Andy: Is the LSB project something that needs to happen at
the TPF level? Is this one of those things that couldn’t happen if
TPF weren’t doing it?

Richard: That’s a good question. I don’t immediately see a
reason why TPF would have to be involved.
Linux Foundation
could have tried doing this without our help. However, this goes
back to what I said about everyone having their own areas of
expertise. The people in Linux Foundation aren’t experts about Perl.
From my perspective, the things I helped them with on this are
pretty minor. But I saved them a ton of time helping them stay
away from blind alleys in where they were going with this. And I
could give them confidence that this was an effort that was worth
undertaking. If they wanted to include Perl in LSB and they couldn’t
find a “Perl door” to knock on to get help in what they’re doing,
maybe they’d think that it wasn’t worth the effort because Perl
wasn’t vibrant, active and supported.

[Note: Allison Randal noted after this
interview was published “In fact, the Linux Foundation did try to do do it without our help, but had a hard time figuring out who to talk to in the community.” — Andy]

As I said before, I think TPF has a huge role to fill in interfacing
between people on the inside of the community and people on the
outside. Perhaps some Perlbuzz readers can’t imagine other people
thinking that Perl isn’t vibrant, active and supportive. But that’s
exactly my point — without an organization like TPF to speak
for Perl in these kinds of situations, that’s exactly the kind of
impression that would be conveyed. Some aspects of what TPF does
are simple, but they’re crucial.

Andy: So did the Linux Foundation come to TPF asking about
getting Perl in LSB 3.2?

Richard: I’m not quite sure what the mechanics of the
engagement were. Allison Randal, a TPF Board member, was the one
who started up the discussion with Linux Foundation. Once she made
initial contact I inherited the doing of the work.

Andy: So what can Perlbuzz readers do to help out with TPF?

Richard: The first thing I’d urge Perlbuzz readers to do is
to be involved with the Perl community. Go to
YAPC conferences, go to Perl
Workshops and Hackathons, go to your local
Perl Mongers meetings. This
strengthens the whole Perl community, not just TPF. (And as an
aside, it’s something I’ve found enormously personally rewarding
and enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone.)

Be eyes and ears on the ground and in the local Perl and IT scenes.
If you see something interesting that you think has implications
for Perl, let us know. Email pr@perlfoundation.org.
Pay attention to websites like
perlbuzz.com and
yapc.org. Every now and then something
can happen where TPF could use specific help. These are the places
where the news would first go out to. There is also the #tpf IRC
channel at irc.perl.org. If you want to talk to TPF folk, you can
look for us there.

Andy: I should note that I am the pr@perlfoundation.org
contact, and that Perlbuzz is sort of an outgrowth of my PR role
for TPF, although entirely separate from TPF.

Richard: That’s it for projects right now, but please track
me down for another interview in a few months. We can cover what’s
been going on then. And thanks for the great work with perlbuzz.com!
And while it’s separate from your Perl Foundation PR hat, I think
the most important thing is that Perl gets promoted! You and Skud
are doing this fantastically well with perlbuzz.com so I’m a big

Andy: Any time you have something to say to the community,
Richard, I’m glad to publicize it. Thanks for your time.

Pittsburgh Perl Workshop fast approaching

The Pittsburgh Perl Workshop is coming soon, October
13-14. If you’re not yet signed up, there’s still time to register. The price
is only $40 for students for two days, or $70 for non-students, a
heck of a deal for two days of talks from dozens of speakers.
Plan to come early and make the Friday
. Plans are also afoot for a Saturday Social.

There are also spots available in the full-day From Zero
To Perl
training class, so you can bring your friends
who aren’t yet hep to the wonders of Perl.

Finally, if you’re going to PPW, and you’ve always wanted to speak at a conference, but never had
enough to say, there is still time to get one third of your fifteen
minutes of fame.
Submit your lightning talk today.