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Perlbuzz news roundup for 2011-11-21

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These links are collected from the Perlbuzz Twitter feed. If you have suggestions for news bits, please mail me at andy@perlbuzz.com.

There's only one useful way to handle your detractors

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This is a repost from my main blog, but it applies to all of us working on Parrot and Perl 6. Keep on keeping on, ignore the trolls, and keep moving forward to completing the vision.

Here's a Reddit/Slashdot/whatever thread that never happened:

Internet crank on Reddit: "Hey, Steve Jobs, I guess that new iPad looks cool, but I think iPad is a stupid name, it makes me think of sanitary napkins."

Steve: "Yeah, well, here's why we called it that. (Long explanation justifying his choices)"

Crank #2: "Well, why didn't you call it the iTablet? I think that would have been a good name. What does everyone else think?"

Crank #3: "What does it have to be iAnything? I'm tired of the i- prefix."

Steve: "We thought about that, but ... (More explanation about his choices)"

Crank #1: "And really, isn't it just a bigger iPod Touch? I would never carry that around with me. And come on, you're just trying to redo the Newton anyway LOL"

Steve: "My logic behind the iPad is (vision, business plan, blah blah blah)"

Can you even imagine Steve Jobs in this sort of time-wasting and emotionally draining tit-for-tat in a thread on Slashdot? On reddit? In some blog's comment section? Of course not. Justification of his plans would take away from the amazing things that he needed to achieve.

Naysayers are part of every project. How many people do you think pissed on Jimmy Wales' little project to aggregate knowledge? Nobody's going to spend their time writing encyclopedia entries! And yet there it is. On a personal level, if I listened to everyone who thought I was wasting my time improving on find + grep you'd never have ack.

We all have to persevere in the face of adversity to ideas, but there's more than that. We need to ignore our detractors. Despite how silly and time-wasting it is to argue your motivations and reasons for undertaking a project, many of us feel compelled to argue with everyone who disagrees with us. I suggest you not waste your time.

On the Internet, the attitude is "Why wasn't I consulted?" Every anti-social child (measured by calendar or maturity) with a keyboard thinks it's his responsibility to piss on everything he doesn't like. They'll be there always. You can no more make them go away than you would by arguing with the rain.

What are you hoping to achieve by arguing with someone who doesn't like your project? Do you expect that he'll come around to your way of thinking? It won't happen through words.

Not only does arguing with your critics waste your precious time, but it tells them, and every other crank reading, that you're willing to engage in debate about what you're doing. Don't encourage them! Let them find a more receptive target.

I'm not saying that factual misstatements need to be ignored. If something is provably incorrect, go ahead and counter it with facts. However, most of the time these message thread pissing wars get down to "I would not be doing what you are doing, and therefore you are wrong for doing so."

The only thing that has a chance of silencing your critics is success at what you do. Arguing with the naysayers doesn't get you any closer to that.

Stand up for your communities and projects

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In the flurry of commentary about Sunday's blog post, three themes have recurred:

  • Andy has done bad things, too!
  • You didn't give specifics!
  • Welcome to the Internet, that's just how people are.

Yes, I've done anti-social things before. I've been part of the problem. That fact doesn't change the validity of my points. We still need strong, human-based communities as the bedrock of any open source project, and those communities can only thrive when people are respected.

Second, I intentionally did not list specific grievances. I don't need to. It's not necessary to give an example of blatant disrespect for us to recognize it. I don't have to mention a time when someone disregarded the basic humanity of others. We've all seen it.

Third, I understand that anti-social behavior passes for normal on the Net, in open source, and among programmers. That doesn't mean we have to let it go unchallenged, or believe that nothing can be done. I accept that this is often the normal state, but I do not approve of it. We can be better than that.

Today's post from the always-insightful Seth Godin couldn't be more timely.

A bully acts up in a meeting or in an online forum. He gets called on it and chastised for his behavior.

The bully then calls out the person who cited their behavior in the first place. He twists their words, casts blame and becomes an aggrieved victim.

Often, members of the tribe then respond by backing off, by making amends, by giving the bully another chance.

And soon the cycle continues.

Brands do this, bosses do it and so do passers-by. Being a bully is a choice, and falling for this cycle, permitting it to continue, is a mistake.

This fits with something chromatic told me last night. He said, "I want people to know that they have permission to stand up to bad behavior." So here it is.

Every one of us has the permission to stand up to the bullies, to the anti-social behavior in our communities. In fact, we not only have permission; we have the responsibility.

Next time someone, for example, cusses out a newbie for asking a "stupid" question, let the offender know how much he or she is hurting the community. Don't accept the bully's excuses for being cruel and abusive to others. If moderators or persons of authority can't or won't intervene, don't be afraid to walk away.

Bullies are damage and need to be routed around. Start your own community if need be, and make sure the people from the original community know about it. Vote with your feet.

It's time to stop pretending this problem doesn't exist. It's time to stop accepting that it's just the way things are. It's time to stand up for your communities.

Google Code-In brings fresh blood to the Perl and Parrot communities

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By Jonathan Leto

I'm excited to announce that Parrot Foundation and The Perl Foundation have been accepted as organizations in Google Code-In 2010!

Google Code-In is a contest, similar to Google Summer of Code, where Google pays students aged 13-18 to do tasks designed by open source communities, while learning about open source. Google pays for the work to be done, and we get new members to our communities, while students learn useful skills. It is a big win for everyone.

In 2010, Google Summer of Code was a great success for Perl and Parrot. We got amazing new features in Parrot, Perl 5 and Perl 6 . In 2009, we had similarly spectacular results.

For the students, the benefits are huge. They get mentored by some of the best minds in open source and get "street cred" in the community. This contest also acts as a stepping stone for Google Summer of Code, so students that excel at Code-In will most likely be sought after for future Google Summer of Code involvement. It's also fantastic experience to put on a résumé. I see many Google Summer of Code students get snapped up by respected companies, or accepted to prestigious academic institutions.

The more well-documented tasks we have before that, the more students we will have the potential to attract. I can attest that these kind of contests attract some of the smartest students in the world, so the Perl and Parrot communities have much to gain by being involved.

I expect great results for Code-In as well, but we need your help. The Google Code-In contest opens up for students on: November 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM Pacific Time / 08:00 UTC.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Add a task to our task list There is a template that you can copy and paste, as well as many examples. Any task related to Perl 5, Perl 6 or Parrot is fair game.
  • Improve the description of an existing task. The more specific a task and the more documentation and links you provide, the easier it is for a student to choose and complete a task.
  • Volunteer to mentor a student on a task. You apply to be a mentor here. Please join the tpf-gsoc-students mailing list and introduce yourself. Provide a brief description of why you are interested when you sign up, so we know you aren't a bot :) Please also join the #gci channel on irc.perl.org.
  • Tell potential students about Google Code-In and how we are involved. Here is a link to the timeline and FAQ that you can send them, as well as flyers to post.

Jonathan "Duke" Leto has been heavily involved in co-ordinating the Perl and Parrot projects in Google Summer of Code for the past three years. He's also a core contributor to the Parrot and Perl 6 projects, as well as the maintainer of many CPAN modules. You can find his Perl-related blog at http://leto.net/perl.

Progressing vs. leapfrogging

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In this blog post, "Ugly Old Perl", the author discusses how he(?) is still finding old Perl code like this:

open(FH, "<<$runpath/log/output.log ")
    || die "Can't write output.log!"

instead of the newer safer

open( my $fh, '<<', "$runpath/log/output.log" )
    || die "Can't write output.log!"

He discusses how he's tried to introduce his co-workers to three-arg open calls, and they have no idea that such a thing exists. Perl 5 has become such a success, so ubiquitous, that people don't realize there have been improvements since they first learned it.

I'm sure these people don't know any of the changes made to Perl regexes, too. They might still be using study as part of the belief that it magically makes regexes match faster.

These are the users that will never use attributes, or Moose, or much of anything discussed in Modern Perl.

I'm OK with that.

These are the users who are going to stick with the Perl they know until they leapfrog to something else. That something else might be Ruby, or it might be Perl 6, but I know that they're never going to make a straight progression.

If you're reading this blog, chances are you're a progresser. You follow each Perl release. You are interested in the incremental changes. You want to know about named captures in regexes and you find ways to use them in your existing code.

But most of the users of Perl aren't. They're using Perl as a tool to get stuff done, and it's not a hobby. There's nothing wrong with that. They won't change their way of seeing Perl until there's something to leapfrog over. All we can do is make Perl 5.12 or Perl 6 a fantastic target to leap to, something to entice them to make the leap.

(Aside: He also brings up the idea often trotted out that Perl 6 be named something other than Perl. It won't happen, so there's no point in discussing it.)

White House releases open source code

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I'm so happy that the White House has fed back to the open source community and, more importantly, advertised that fact.

Remember how fifteen or twenty years ago you'd see mentions of the Internet in popular culture and think "This is really picking up"? That's how this announcement makes me feel.

perl.org gets a beautiful upgrade

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Robert Spier writes

To match the massive advances in Perl over the last few years, www.perl.org has been brought into the modern era. www.perl.org has been completely redesigned, making it clearer and easier to use. All the content has been reviewed and brought up-to-date to provide links and other helpful resources for both new and experienced Perl programmers.

Thanks to www.foxtons.co.uk for donating time from Leo Lapworth, Stephen Morgan, and Cameron Richmond!

Holy cow is it pretty. Thanks to those who made it happen! The download page is especially handy.

Updates to perl-begin.org

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Shlomi Fish wrote in to tell about updates on the site for Perl beginners with which he's involved:

After the last news item, a lot of work was invested into Perl-Begin.org, the Perl Beginners' Site, making it even better than it used to be. Here's a summary of the changes:

We hope you enjoy the new Perl Beginners' Site and please recommend it to your friends. All content on Perl-Begin is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence which allows almost unlimited re-use.

Perlbuzz news roundup for 2009-05-26

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These links are collected from the Perlbuzz Twitter feed. If you have suggestions for news bits, please mail me at andy@perlbuzz.com.

Are you standing on the edge of the pool?

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At my family's St. Patrick's Day party, we had the Wii set up and had two guitars going playing Guitar Hero. Quinn, my seven-year-old daughter, was rockin' and showing her uncle Kevin how to play. She was explaining how he had to hold the green fret button AND hit the strum bar right when the green thing crossed the bottom line and once he got it going, and he was able to play "Barracuda," he had a great time.

Meanwhile, other friends and relatives were clustered around, watching with fascination. They weren't gamers by any stretch, most in their 40s and 50s, but I could tell they really wanted to try. When Kevin was done, I took his guitar and held it out for someone on the couch. "Here, you try it," I told her. "Oh, no, that's OK, I don't know how, let someone else play," she said, embarrassed. "It's OK, it's fun, and it's easy once you get the hang of it." This broke her defense and she said "OK, what do I do?" taking the guitar from me. She got the hang of it quickly, loved playing three or four songs, and started trying to get her husband to try it.

It's kind of like someone standing outside of a swimming pool, embarrassed about jumping in. It's clear that people in the pool are having a great time, but for some reason he feels self-conscious. Maybe he's afraid he's not a good enough swimmer, because he can't do fancy dives off the high board. Whatever the reason, with a little encouragement, whether he jumps in the deep end, or just slowly walks down the stairs on the shallow end, he gets in the water and has a great time, and his friends are glad he's in there with them.

Sometimes I talk to people like that standing in Perl. It'll be someone who's been using Perl for years, and loves what Perl does for him, and would somehow like to contribute to Perl, to get into the pool where everyone's having a good time, but he's afraid.

Maybe he's got a module he developed that he doesn't think is "good enough" for CPAN (as if CPAN is 100% stellar). Maybe he fears that he's not a good enough coder to contribute patches. Perhaps he doesn't realize that not all contributions to open source need to be code. Or perhaps he just doesn't know where to start.

Are you that person? Have you wanted to contribute to Perl, or any other open source project, but just haven't? Please let me know your story in the comments.

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