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.