Why Perl 6 needs to be deemphasized and renamed

| 18 Comments

Paul Cory has contributed what I hope is the first of many guest editorials on Perlbuzz. -- Andy

Recently, Andy Lester wrote about the zombie question that haunts Perl: Where is Perl 6? One of the questions he posed was:

"And to everyone else, who is willing to help in this task, to help keep the fires of anticipation burning in the public?"

My advice would be to not keep the fires of anticipation burning in the public. For the good of the language, Perl 6 needs to be deemphasized in public, and, in addition, renamed.

How Keeping Perl 6 Front-of-Mind Hurts

1) It emphasizes the "inadequacies" of Perl 5.

2) It makes the development community look unorganized, at best. People comparing at the development pace of Python, Ruby and PHP to Perl 6 are likely to come to harsher conclusions about the community's focus, viability and competence, based on Perl 6's seven-year, and counting, gestation period.

3) It creates uncertainty: what happens to Perl 5 when Perl 6 finally drops? How much new stuff will I have to learn? How will my existing code work, or not, if I upgrade? Why should I invest time in Perl 5 if Perl 6 is just around the corner, and will be far superior?

4) It creates frustration inside the community. Perl 6 has been "coming soon" for 7.5 years now. It's hard to remain excited about something that long with no payoff.

5) The story is confusing: Pugs? Haskell? Parrot? Two development tracks? I thought this was about Perl? Yes, I have an idea of what those things are, but most folks outside the community (and a fair few inside, I'd wager) don't know, don't care, and shouldn't have to.

Basically, the more we push Perl 6, the more we Osborne ourselves.

How Keeping Perl 6 Front of Mind Helps

I got nothing. Honestly, I can't think of a single positive for trying to keep public anticipation burning.

How Deemphasizing Perl 6/Changing its Name Helps

1) Allows us to focus on the strengths and successes of Perl 5.

2) Allows us to tell the development and improvement success story of Perl 5, which is as good as that of any other scripting language.

3) Removes uncertainty that can be used against Perl when companies and developers make decisions about which language to use.

4) Finally, by changing Perl 6's name, to something like PerlNG or PerlFG, we can get away from the "It's just a 1 point upgrade," problem and have a basis for which to talk about it as a "research project." That allows us to both avoid talking about delivery dates, and allows to talk about how cool stuff from PerlNG is finding its way back into Perl 5.

5) Gets us away from all the negatives listed above.

How Deemphasizing Perl 6/Changing its Name Hurts

1) It might be harder to get folks to work on PerlNG if it's not "just around the corner." I happen to think that can be overcome with inside-the-community marketing.

For the record, I greatly appreciate all the work that folks have put into Perl 5 and Perl 6. Nothing here should be taken as a criticism of how the actual development gets done, nor of the talent or the commitment of the developers.

I don't question the desirability of Perl 6 either. I can see how, when it's finally finished, it will be an improvement over any language available.

However, from a Communications standpoint, it's obvious that there are significant problems in communicating about perl to the world at large. Perl 6 has been a Public Relations disaster, one that has made it harder to attract developers, other contributors, users and companies.

Again, from a Communications/PR standpoint, our goal should be to stop shooting ourselves. And that means taking the public focus off Perl 6 as much as possible.

Paul Cory is the Webmaster for the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, North Carolina. He started using Perl nine years ago to automate some particularly tedious Website updates, and has progressed to the point where Perl glues the entire system website together.

18 Comments

Posted by the same Andy Lester who told the whole Perl community a short while ago to, roughly quoted, "stop crapping all over projects other people are working on".

I wrote zero code these past two days.

Thanks, Andy.

Without taking a stand on the points regarding the outside perception of the Perl 6 effort, how do you propose to sell a Perl 6 re-branding effort to the people (like chromatic, heh) who've actually invested in the effort over the last 7+ years and continue to do so?

"These pyramids you're building look like they're going to be pretty great... but I think we can get more people working on this if we call them something other than 'tomb 6'."

No, chromatic, what I said was to not crap on things that people are working on that don't negatively effect you, just because they're different.

Again, I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm taking a crap on Parrot or Perl 6. I'm not taking a crap on the project itself. I'm just trying to get some public-facing marketing going. Remember, please, that I'm part of the Parrot project myself.

All I'm doing is bringing to light the inconvenient truth that the Perl community outside of the Perl 6 core perceives, in fact takes as fact, that Perl 6 will never be completed. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

While I don't actually want to get involved in any conflict, and also don't actually think that the rebranding is really necessary, and believe that Perl6 is getting closer ever day.... that all said, if we were to rename it, I vote for "Onion"!

Yeah, I think the developers have lost the script there somewhere. Perl 6 sounds like a set of interesting projects. It does not sound like a development effort toward the next version of Perl.

And 7 years is way too long for it, whatever it is. Seriously now...

I recommend Perl6 be named Peridot. I didn't say it was a good recommendation, but it does follow a pattern :)

  • Pearl
  • Ruby
  • Peridot

Finally, by changing Perl 6's name, to something like PerlNG or PerlFG, we can get away from the "It's just a 1 point upgrade," problem and have a basis for which to talk about it as a "research project."

I realize that you have the term in scare quotes, but Perl 6 is NOT a research project. It's a serious design and implementation effort that is not attempting to advance the state-of-the-art, but rather bring it to practical utility. The research has already been done.

WRT changing the name, see what Larry has to say about it.. Pay particular attention to the paragraph that talks about branding.

The simplest name change that would work for me, is to drop the space: "Perl6". It shows it's a different language, while still showing where it came from.

I realize that you have the term in scare quotes, but Perl 6 is NOT a research project. It's a serious design and implementation effort that is not attempting to advance the state-of-the-art, but rather bring it to practical utility. The research has already been done.

Er, those weren't scare quotes. They were there to indicate there was a question over whether Perl 6 was a research project or something else. I got the term research project from Andy Lester's Where is Perl 6? The question that won't die post.

It appears the research project angle was, well, completely wrong. My apologies for that.

As for the branding aspect, note that my suggested names both included Perl. They just dropped the 6 in favor of letters, for the reasons named.

While I am happy to read almost anything about Perl 6 since to me, a very very poor Wannabe perl programmer, Perl 6 promises more of what Perl 5 has delivered (a powerful and expressive language that delivers for those without the willingness & capability to get the most out of languages like Java that seeem to make even simple jobs difficult), comments like this make me less happy.


As you can see from the tone of some of the comments, your suggestion fails to acknowledge the sacrifice and effort already committed to Perl 6. Since one of these (thanks PerlPilot) has already made his feelings about rebranding public some time ago, the suggestion is at least insensitive.


With respect, I don't think you appreciate what this project has already cost people, and that Perl 6 is not just another language. Perl 6 is a rewrite of a wonderful language that fills a real need. It inspires such loyalty because of its commitment to truth and beauty.


If the Perl 6 project needs any modification I am more than confident that those who have committed so much to it can be trusted to do whatever is necessary.


Finally, while I am less happy to wait. So what ! It's not my reputation at stake. If I had Perl 6 today it would only be an opportunity for hubris. Perl doesn't care too much about World domination; what it does care about is helping and the Perl 6 will make a helpful Perl even more helpful for more people.

There is a distinct divide between the development work being done on Perl 6, and the work of communicating about Perl 6. Criticizing the communications work is not a criticism of the development work.

I have no quibbles with the development work. If you're working on bringing Perl 6 to life, you have my respect and admiration.

The communications about what's going on, and where the Perl community has been putting its communication efforts, that I think can be improved. I don't think pointing that out is disrespectful or insensitive.

I think that having this conversation, whether or not any of my ideas gain any traction, is good for the community. The foment, which you have to credit Andy Lester for, already seems to producing some concrete attempts to improve communications about Perl 6 within the community. That's a good thing, in my opinion.

Oh dear. I had decided to try and shut up about this.


Firstly, I apologise for not reading Paul's suggestion and his case for it, instead of agreeing instantly with the case against.


It should be clear by now that most of the respondents have also failed to see how Paul's request for re-branding is not a condemnation of the work to date.


However, I am not concerned about either. The fact is that Perl 6 has taken longer than anyone would have seriously imagined. The community has not tried to conceal this. On the contrary, folk like Alison have acknowledged some blame (in response to the Sugalski PM) for the lack of product.


Those who want to carp and whine will find any number of reason. A cursory study of the history of the West in the last 50 years shows there is never any lack of those in positions of power and respect, who unblushingly lie for those they admire (and carp at those they hate). Does the name Katyn mean anything to anyone ?


Since I work in what I think is called the 'Federal government' in your great country, I have a great skepticsm of those that put their trust in spin. I don't.


Perl is best served by patience, and confidence in those doing the work, and the truthfulness of those involved.


One doesn't have to look too hard to see mistakes in former promotion efforts (eg the failure to provide suitable materials for the users - language developers - of Parrot; the demise of the Perl 6 summaries; the stalling of the Pugs efforts, and the decline of the fantastic excitement it created). Help with these will turn around opinions.

Lastly, why not make your case a bit more graciously or at least humourously (love those Brit vowels) ? How about BST, for all I can offer you is Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Bah.

How is "the demise of the Perl 6 summaries" possibly a "[mistake] in former promotion efforts"?

The people who were doing the work suddenly found themselves without sufficient free time to do the work, and they stopped.

This happens in volunteer free software work frequently.

Now I agree that it's too bad that there have been no new summaries for months, and I'd like to see them continue, but the failure is not on the people who volunteered for a while (blessings and thanks on them for their time and work!) nor on the people who continue to work on other things.

Maybe it's a mistake of not recruiting sufficient new people. Maybe.

Speaking as a long-time daily Perl user I strongly agree that Perl 6 has been a public-relations disaster.
I read Perl news sources (casually but frequently) and this is the first time I have read that Perl 5 will continue on a separate path. My relief is considerable. My code is safe (I *thought* that it would be, given the caliber of the development community. I feared it would not.) My anxiety about yet another learning curve is relaxed due to hearing that there will be no big rush for me to switch to Pugs or Parrot or Perl 6.
I do not think that Perl 6 needs to be de-emphasized or renamed, but I most certainly think that this essential point needs airing and repeating to the majority of the Perl-using community. I could be part of the 2% who never gets the word, but I doubt it.

Regards,
Cap

I really like your point of view.

There are more and more articles on the web talking about the "never ending proyect", vaporware, etc, people saying "why bother to learn perl 5", "Perl is perl 6 and its not finished yet", "why do I wait for perl 6, ruby is finished".

That's the rumor, I heard it, and there is no way to take control over it.

I'm sure you know there are a lot of programmers out there switching form language to language each 4 or 5 years, they can adopt perl6. There is no Window of opportunity. People gets boring and changes language, wifes, etc. In due time. But it's very important to take pressure from perl6 ... Perl 5.10 is great

In the last year I have been developing a good deal of engineering analysis and measurement scripts in Perl 5. I have also been using the Perl/TK GUI library -- which I am finding very useful and has saved me much time.

I am very impressed with Perl 5 and am still learning more everyday - especially since there's a ton of libraries (CPAN) for Perl.

When Perl 6 comes out -- that will be frosting on the cake (or the new & better cake). (Even if we have to adapt to the new language features of Perl 6.)

Before getting serious with Perl I was preferring Java. But since starting Perl in earnest I am now inclining to Perl. From a language purist point of view I like Java, but in practice I have been finding Perl more valuable. (Although I still value Java.)

My point here is that even if the Perl 5 camp (or other camps) have to adapt to the Perl 6 language it really is not a big deal. Any programmer with any experience knows a few different languages and is used to adapting to the different languages he finds himself using.

Perl 6 developers, Keep on keying !
And thank you.

- Mike Peralta

For me, this post paints a picture of the tobacco industry trying to come up with a way to take peoples minds off the fact that their project *kills* so they will keep buying.

Having the first "reason to downplay Perl 6" is that it highlights the deficiencies of Perl 5 makes this whole proposal dishonest (and probably immoral). You sound like a salesmen for a sleazy product. Why not tell people what's good and what's bad about Perl and let them decide objectively? Oh, wouldn't get many "customers" then, eh?

Then maybe you have a bad product.

Leave a comment

Job hunting for programmers


Land the Tech Job You Love, Andy Lester's guide to job hunting for programmers and other technical professionals, is available in PDF, ePub and .mobi formats, all DRM-free, as well as good old-fashioned paper.