Speak up for Catalyst


By Kieren Diment

Over the past couple of months, Matt Trout and I have been putting together a book proposal for the Catalyst web framework. We did this because a. we want to publish a book about Catalyst, and b. because a publisher approached us. Now that the proposal is in, the editorial board are concerned that there is insufficient market.

I've looked at a bunch of statistics (mailing list size, Google hits, IRC channel size, Amazon sales rankings and more) to compare the size of Catalyst to a group of other web frameworks. Catalyst comes out at the bottom of the top of this list, in that it's the least popular of the "big" frameworks - Ruby on Rails, Django and so on. On the other hand, it's clearly an order of magnitude more popular than the small frameworks (Pylons, Turbogears and the like). We also know that Catalyst runs some pretty big streaming media websites, including some that we're a bit embarrassed (NSFW) to talk about. Catalyst is also rumoured to be running the BBC iPlayer.

Our publisher now has cold feet, and wants to collect more data on the size of the market before they give us the go-ahead, so if you use Catalyst, please answer a short survey for us . My aim is 100 responses (10% of mailing list subscribers).

The questions are as follows:

  • What country are you in?
  • How many people are on your team?
  • How many of those people are writing code with Catalyst? If there are non Catalyst coders on your team, how many of the whole team would you like to be writing Catalyst code?
  • How many people using Catalyst on your team are subscribers to the Catalyst mailing list?
  • How many people writing Catalyst code on your team use the #catalyst IRC channel on irc.perl.org?
  • What do you see as potential for growth of Catalyst in your organisation? How many people do you think will be using Catalyst in your organisation in 12 months? In 2 years?

Please email your answers to kdiment@uow.edu.au.

Kieren Diment is a Researcher at the University of Wollongong in Australia. He uses Perl and Catalyst for the social science research that he does.


I believe the primary reason why Catalyst was not taken up by the web developer community is precisely because of the lack of a good reference guide to using it. The Rockaway book on Catalyst was deplorable. The code for chapter 5 did not even compile!!

I am using it to develop a couple of sites right now, but they are not production yet (soon). There are other projects we are doing using Rails. Having developed a couple of sites in Catalyst, it is comparable to Rails, especially when using the Mason View plugin to develop views in Mason. But the documenation and books for Ruby on Rails is far superior, and this, I think, is what makes it easier for organizations to get code out the door.

I hope that a good book on Catalyst can change this, but it may be too late.

I will email my information

The one thing that could be a gamechanger for Catalyst is the superiority of DBIx::Class over ActiveRecord. This should feature prominently in any book on Catalyst.

I've also been trying to pitch my contacts at Apress and O'Reilly for a long time on doing a Catalyst book but have gotten the same response (unsure about the market size).

My thinking was that the number of people that know and use Perl is massive, but the number of people that know about Catalyst is not.

But it's a two fold problem, because yes, a good book would go a long way on building buzz in and around the Perl community...but at the same time, people who don't know about Catalyst aren't going to suddenly be looking for a book on catalyst.

I didn't have a great answer (yet) on how to over come the larger problem of getting people to know enough to want a book on Catalyst.

Anyway, if you do get the green light and are looking for tech reviewers (or additional authors) please count me in! I've pitched in on a few O'Reilly things (including writing a web services for rails PDF for them back in 2006) and I've had a book on ActiveRecord published by Apress...

BTW - R.R. Bowker, the company that sells ISBN for books, is doing a lot of stuff in Catalyst these days. (I do some consulting for them).

We've been wanting to use Catalyst. But because of the lack of decent resources, like a good book, we haven't.

I have to answer a big 'zero' on the survey itself, because I've been waiting for a good book to share with coworkers when using Catalyst. Unfortunately, they are not comfortable with the perldocs.

Looks like a heck of a Catch-22. Publishers don't want to go through the effort of releasing a book if nobody's using Catalyst in production, and people like me are hesitant to recommend Catalyst for production work because there's no book to throw on someone's desk.

Catalyst is indeed used for the audience facing part of iPlayer, and for a number of back end systems.


Having good book will help catalyst and Perl community to grow, I'm working with catalyst around than 3 years and feel lack of good book all the times.
when J.Rockway book came out, we ordered one from packt publishing that never recieved!!!.I read the book and quality and accuracy of content wasn't so good.
But any perl developer that I know
they still looking for good catalyst book.If someone can write a good book we will buy it.

Catalyst is has everything that other "big!!" frameworks has, but if you compare it with ROR, catalyst has less resources than ROR, not only in books but also in Screencasts, blogging, marketing, hosting

Final word: We Need Catalyst book.

I think Catalyst's lack of popularity is in part due to TIMTOWTDI - which leads to a paradox of choice. A developer needs to choose between:

  • DBIC and RoseDB
  • Template::Toolkit and HTML::Mason
  • FormFu, FormBuilder, and Reaction
  • Catalyst::Controller::REST with JSON::Syck and Catalyst::View::JSON
  • etc.

Rails eliminates the choice from the developer, which in TIMTOWTDI theory is bad, but in actuality it lets the developer focus on building the core function of their app - the part that makes it different from other web applications, and worry much less about the underlying mechanics and the choice of ORMs, views, form handling or REST.

Catalyst is extremely flexible and it can achieve the best of both worlds if it
recommends a clear choice of "best of" modules that will work for 80% of web applications,
and lets the developer use something different for the other 20%.

See also http://www.wikivs.com/wiki/Catalyst_vs_Ruby_on_Rails

Come on guys, first of all Rockway's book was not horrible, it was probably a bit rushed, and might not have had a perfect flow, but there are definitely some useful chapters, and it provides a good overview of the framework. Additionally it provides a framework for an excellent software development process, a test driven process.

I think we have to understand that there was a lot of ground to cover in this book, and as such it was a tough book to write. He was the first, the next book can learn from his effort, and step it up a notch. I thank him for his effort.

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