Jesse Vincent, the pumpking for Perl 5, gave a talk at OSCON called
“Perl
5.16 and beyond”
where he lays out the future of Perl 5. The
slides
are up on slideshare
, and they’re well worth reading. I haven’t
read perl5-porters,
the Perl 5 maintainers’ mailing list
, in a few years, and Jesse’s
slides are an eye-opener to the trials and tribulations of keeping
Perl 5 usable in legacy situations but moving forward with new
innovations.

The pumpking is sort of the project leader for Perl 5, and arbiter
of what gets committed into the source tree. The pumpking also
used to be the person who created the releases, but as Jesse points
out below, this responsibility has been delegated to others. The
term “pumpking” comes from the holder of the patch
pumpkin
.

Key points from the slides:

  • Perl 5 is now on a regular release schedule, where releases
    are made based on the calendar, not some critical mass of
    changes.
  • The dual track of odd numbers (5.13.x) for development releases
    and even numbers (5.14.x) for production releases continues.
  • Although Perl 5.14.1
    is current production, 5.12.4 and
    5.15.0
    have recently been released as well.
  • Releases used to take three weeks for a single pumpking to do.
    Now it’s a documented process that takes only a few hours.
    Releases are done by rotating volunteer release engineers. Per
    Larry, the time of hero pumpkings is over.
  • As Perl 5 changes much more quickly, we need to be able to
    recover from mistakes. Perl should have sane defaults. Perl
    5 should run everywhere: Every OS, every browser, every phone.
  • Forward changes should not break older code. Programmers
    shouldn’t have to build defensive code to protect against future
    changes to Perl 5.
  • The Perl runtime needs to slim down. Old modules are getting
    yanked from core and moved to CPAN. Not deprecating, but
    decoupling. We need to release a version of the Perl core that
    contains all the stuff we’ve yanked out of the “slim” core
    distribution.
  • The test suite needs to be split into three types of tests:
    language, bug-fix and implementation.
  • Jesse wants saner defaults in the future, to make Perl 5 cleaner,
    simpler and easier to work with:

    • warnings on
    • autodie-esque behavior
    • throwing exceptions rather than returning on failure
    • 1-arg and 2-arg open gone
    • Latin-1 autopromote off
    • utf-8 autopromote on
    • Basic classes and methods
    • No indirect object syntax
  • How to make this happen faster? Donate to the Perl 5
    Core Maintenance Fund
    .

I couldn’t attend Jesse’s talk because I was speaking about community
and project management with Github
in the same time slot, so
if video exists I’d love to see it. And thanks very much to Jesse
and the rest of p5p for keeping Perl 5 so amazing.