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The First Ten Perl Monks

by eyepopslikeamosquito (Chancellor)
on Nov 16, 2014 at 13:31 UTC ( #1107342=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Perl Monks has become a big part of my life, so I thought it would be fun to discover how it came into existence in the first place. In particular, I was eager to learn about its earliest users.

Please note that I only joined Perl Monks in 2002 and have not met any of the major players from the early days. The content of this node therefore is derived only from independent research and speculation, not first-hand knowledge. So, if any folks who actually witnessed these early historic events are listening, please respond away.

Perl Monks Origins

After some random googling on the history of Perl Monks, I hit upon this nugget from oostendorp.net, the home page of nate:

Everything2.com was my own creation after Slashdot was acquired by Andover.net. It and its sister site, PerlMonks were developed in a CMS I designed called The Everything Engine. The Everything Development Company ran from 1999-2001, and consisted of Ryan "dembones" Postma, Darrick Brown, Tim Vroom, Chromatic, and Robo.
Apart from using the incorrect case of chromatic, nate may have forgotten some other Everything developers, or at least interlopers, who appear to be among the first ten registered PerlMonks users, as we shall see later.

After finding that gem, googling for Slashdot uncovered Rob Malda:

Rob Malda (born May 10, 1976), also known as CmdrTaco, is an American Internet content author, and former editor-in-chief of the website Slashdot. Malda is an alumnus of Hope College and Holland Christian High School. In 1997, Malda and Jeff Bates created Slashdot while undergraduates of Hope College. After running the site for two years "on a shoestring", they sold the site to Andover.net, which was later acquired by VA Linux Systems. Malda ran the site out of the SourceForge, Inc. office in Dexter, Michigan.

and Jeff Bates:

Jeff Bates, also known as hemos, is the co-founder of Slashdot along with Rob Malda ("CmdrTaco"). Bates graduated from Holland Christian High School in 1994 and received a Bachelor's degree in History from Hope College in 1998.

and more, including Jonathan "CowboyNeal" Pater.

Holland Michigan

Holland is a coastal city in the western region of the Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is situated near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan on Lake Macatawa. Holland was settled in 1847 by Dutch Calvinist separatists, under the leadership of Dr. Albertus van Raalte. Dire economic conditions in the Netherlands compelled them to emigrate, while their desire for religious freedom led them to unite and settle together as a group.

-- Holland Michigan (wikipedia)

It seems that most of the major players in the formation of Perl Monks hail from this picturesque and charming city, an outpost of Dutch culture and tradition in the American mid-west, with a population of just 33,000!

Hope College is a private, residential liberal arts college located in downtown Holland, Michigan, United States, a few miles from Lake Michigan. It was opened in 1851 as the Pioneer School by Dutch immigrants four years after the community was first settled.

-- Hope College (wikipedia)

Slashdot, and the Everything Engine, were the brainchild of a bunch of creative Hope College students. In particular, Rob "Commander Taco" Malda, Jeff "Hemos" Bates, Nathan Oostendorp aka nate, Everything Engine architect Darrick Brown, and Tim Vroom all attended Hope College in the late 1990s. I'm pretty sure they also attended Holland Christian High School.

I gleaned this information only from browsing the internet, so if anyone knows different -- or knows of other influential players from the early days who also hail from Holland Michigan -- please let us know.

Blockstackers Inc

In particular, I don't know where early PerlMonks developer chromatic resided in the late 1990s; though he lives in Hillsboro, Oregon nowadays, he may have lived in Holland Michigan back then while working for BlockStackers, joining "late summer 2000".

BTW, nate refers to this company not as BlockStackers, but as "Blockstackers Intergalactic (BSI)". This node indicates that the perlmonks.org domain was owned by "Blockstackers Inc, 116 E.18th Holland MI 49423". Curiously, Block Stackers Inc still seems to be in business in Holland today, filing Tax Returns. No idea if this is the same BlockStackers Inc that founded PerlMonks however.

When I was moving to Amsterdam, pschoonveld advised me to demand a certain clause in my contract that translates to "pants not required"

-- Ovid from (Ovid - be careful around pschoonveld!) Re(3): Favorite Slacking Activity

Back in the heady Dot-com bubble era, Blockstackers Intergalactic (BSI) certainly seemed like a cool company to work for, located in a beautiful and historic city, with a name derived from Block Stacking Theory, and where wearing pants was optional.

Top Ten Countdown

For fun, and using the background information above, let's try to identify the first ten Perl Monks, counting down from ten to one.

No 10: cinder_bdt

Node id: 1336; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 22:49 UTC; last here: Jun 15 2005; Experience: 8; 1 post.

I noticed a cinder_bdt use.perl.org account. This tenth PM user could be Bryan D Thomas based on this twitter account. If anyone knows more, please let us know.

No 9: yiango

Node id: 1335; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 22:29 UTC; last here: Mar 01 2000; Experience: 27; 6 posts.

I suspect yiango is an early Slashdot or Holland Michigan person because in RE: The computer I use most runs... he says "Hey Tim" in response to vroom, indicating he may know vroom personally. Moreover, slasholic is a Perl script written by "yiango" to query slashdot for new articles. I found a circa 1999 yiango everything2 account, yiango sourceforge account and a yiango twitter account. The name "yiango" is obscure to me, but may be related to Cyprus, based on random googling.

yiango is almost certainly the first "non-insider" Perl Monk, beating cinder_bdt to that honour by just twenty minutes.

Update: No 8a: dem bones

Node id: 1329; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 21:49 UTC; last here: Dec 12 2000; Experience: none; 0 posts.

Ryan "dembones" Postma, one of the early Everything developers.

No 8: nate

Node id: 1316; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 03:36 UTC; last here: Jan 24 2009; Experience: 572; 24 posts.

Too easy. This is obviously the father of the Everything Engine, Holland Christian High School and Hope College alumnus, Nathan Oostendorp.

No 7: pschoonveld

Node id: 1027; user since: Dec 02 1999 at 11:56 UTC; last here: Oct 01 2010; Experience: 695; 29 posts.

His home node says he is from "Utrecht, The Netherlands". This may well be Patrick Schoonveld, who's linked-in account spookily lists his education as Hope College, Holland Michigan. His CV further lists a stint at SourceForge/Slashdot and indicates he has worked in the Netherlands. Finally, his "pants not required" advice to Ovid above suggests he was part of the Blockstackers (BSI) culture.

No 6: sgtbaker

Node id: 1012; user since: Nov 19 1999 at 02:42 UTC; last here: Feb 18 2000; Experience: 4; 1 post.

This one is quite a mystery. I found this library link where user "sgtbaker" recommends a couple of Perl books. Apart from that, nothing, nada, zilch. If anyone knows, please let us know.

Update: Found a sgtbaker user on everything2.com where his school is listed as Hope College and his company as Everything Development Company. It seems he worked closely with nate, so closely that his nickname was "the hands of nate" (a pun on the hands of fate, one of the worst movies ever made) ... so it remains a mystery why he was not listed as an Everything employee by nate above.

Update: Heartbreakingly, it seems that sgtbaker was not a real person, just a vroom test account. Still, the mystery remains, why did he choose the name sgtbaker? Was vroom a keen fisherman, naming his test account after the Sergeant Baker fish?

No 5: vroom

Node id: 979; user since: Nov 12 1999 at 05:53 UTC; last here: Jul 04 2013; Experience: 1007430; 607 posts.

This is obviously Tim Vroom, primary founder of the PerlMonks web site. Kudos for that, but how on earth did he manage to accumulate over a million experience points?

No 4: dbrown

Node id: 859; user since: Oct 28 1999 at 07:37 UTC; last here: Oct 18 2001; Experience: 15; 2 posts.

This is almost certainly Darrick Brown, Hope College alumnus, outed as an early Everything Developer above by nate.

No 3: CmdrTaco

Node id: 857; user since: Oct 27 1999 at 04:21 UTC; last here: Nov 03 1999; Experience: 9; 0 posts.

Though hardly a prolific Perl Monks user, the nickname indicates this is the famous Rob "Commander Taco" Malda, co-founder of Slashdot.

Update: The Rob Malda Rule:, posted by gods on Sep 08 1999, was probably authored by CmdrTaco. Strangely, CmdrTaco's home node says "Writeups: None" yet if you click on "None" you find the one node authored by CmdrTaco namely Counting Substrings in Strings - curiously, this node was created on Oct 27 1999, two months before Perl Monks opened its doors to the public!

No 2: CowboyNeal

Node id: 850; user since: Oct 27 1999 at 02:31 UTC; last here: Jun 28 2000; Experience: 8; 0 posts.

The nickname suggests that this is Jonathan "CowboyNeal" Pater of Slashdot fame.

No 1: paco

Node id: 846; user since: Oct 27 1999 at 01:12 UTC; last here: Oct 27 1999 at 02:16 UTC; Experience: 754; 1 post.

We have saved the best for last! 754 experience points from just one post! Amazing! The highest rated node of all time! (Update: oops, only 2nd highest after camel code, thanks tye).

The mysterious paco spent a total of just sixty four minutes at this site, incomprehensibly vanishing fifteen minutes before the second user arrived. paco achieved more in sixty four minutes than most of us do in a lifetime. A living legend. Like many others, I patiently await his return. During my research, there were indications from some that paco may not be a real user. Don't listen to those heretics. paco will return!

References

Everything2 References

Updated Nov 17 2014: Minor corrections and wording changes; Nov 22 2014: Added Everything2 References plus minor update to "Blockstackers Inc" section (no pants required) and mystery sgtbaker user; Nov 23 2014: Added a bit more detail to top ten section, added more References; Nov 30 2014: Added more references; Aug 5 2017: Added Perl Monk No. 8a dem bones, clarified Perl Monk No. 6 sgtbaker.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: The First Ten Perl Monks
by GrandFather (Sage) on Nov 16, 2014 at 21:56 UTC

    You may also be interested in The early history of Perlmonks.Argh - didn't notice the reference in OP's list

    I recall seeing mention that both Vroom and merlyn received bonus XP for "services rendered". merlyn's bonus was subsequently removed after some protest from other monks. I've done some Super Searching, but can't find any evidence to back up this story so it could be, to quote herveus, "a peanut-laden steaming three-coiler".

    Perl is the programming world's equivalent of English

        Yawn!

      but can't find any evidence to back up this story

      well, IIRC, merlyn said it, vroom said it (and Corion repeated it), vroom(or Corion or ar0n) also explained how early on in the codebase someone needed to have the most XP :) ... yes, these are my recollections of the early days of 2001-2002 ... tye has a better memory :)

        I don't actually remember any details about this (just that there was an award and, quite a bit later, a reversal of it). But RE: Saints: # of writeups vs. XPs says it was 1 million and Gratz Merlyn! shows that the award was retracted.

        - tye        

      Howdy!

      One's words resurface in interesting ways...

      yours,
      Michael
Re: The First Ten Perl Monks
by eyepopslikeamosquito (Chancellor) on Nov 23, 2014 at 07:32 UTC
      Where I come from, we say that public figures have a limited right of privacy.

      Are those first ten contributors really public figures?

      Don't get me wrong I'm not accusing you of breaching privacy yet but I'm feeling unease if a forum starts to discuss RL infos of others and am wondering in which direction this investigation will continue to after you started gathering infos from different sites... :)

      What about the ten highest ranking monks? Are they public figures?

      E.g for years now I know about some monks which were (non simultanously) re-incarnations of the same person.

      While occasionally having issues with these personas I never tried publicly to link them together, b/c it was their/his decission to not reveal informations.

      Cheers Rolf

      (addicted to the Perl Programming Language and ☆☆☆☆ :)

        Yeah, Privacy in general, and Internet Privacy in particular, are enormously complex topics.

        In writing this node, I felt torn between privacy concerns and reporting interesting historical facts. I suspect this is a common problem for historians and amateur family history researchers.

        The Dot-com bubble era in which Perl Monks formed is of interest to me, as are the individuals who made it happen. I'm amazed at how many influential players in this era came from Hope College Holland Michigan. As pvaldes pointed out, you could make a movie or write a book about this!

        I view the creation of Slashdot, the Everything Engine, and the Everything2 and PerlMonks web sites as significant accomplishments, significant enough to be of historical interest. Since I don't know any of the early players I can't be certain of course, but I hope they are proud of their historic role and accordingly would not mind being identified.

        See also:

      FWIW ... where 'nothing' may be a valid value.

      A SOPW today (26 Nov 14, US EST) included a use info; which made me curious ...and which seems to lead to an ID on paco

      perldoc info NAME perlinfo - a command-line frontend to HTML::Perlinfo # [irrelevant details -- for the purposes of this post -- edite +d out] EXAMPLES perlinfo -i 'Saved file perlinfo.html' perlinfo -i /home/paco/www/perl-info.html 'Saved file /home/paco/www/perl-info.html' COPYRIGHT Copyright (c) 2009 by Mike Accardo ...



      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Juvenal, Satires

        That's a very cool idea. Good work! I'm not sure this is much positive evidence, though: of ACCARDO's modules currently on CPAN, none date to earlier than 2003; it's possible (I'd say likely) that Accardo was influenced by perlmonks' paco, rather than the other way around. Also note that "paco" would be an unusual nickname for a Michael; it's usually a nickname for Pablo or Pasquale, I think, as well as Francisco -- or so they say. Not that that proves Accardo didn't adopt this username, of course...

        I reckon we are the only monastery ever to have a dungeon stuffed with 16,000 zombies.
        Finally we'll learn what happend to the Lindbergh baby!

        Cheers Rolf

        (addicted to the Perl Programming Language and ☆☆☆☆ :)

Re: The First Ten Perl Monks (2nd)
by tye (Sage) on Nov 16, 2014 at 20:41 UTC
    The highest rated node of all time!

    2nd highest (at the moment).

    - tye        

      However it seems to be the most upvoted node: 838 upvotes, vs. 781 for Erudils masterpiece.
      doubtless on its way back (it seems I hadn't voted on it yet; corrected that oversight)
Re: The First Ten Perl Monks
by eyepopslikeamosquito (Chancellor) on Nov 18, 2014 at 20:42 UTC

    I've had a bit more time to poke around in the catacombs.

    From Perl Monks turns 5 we learn from vroom that:

    5 years ago today, Perl Monks opened its doors for the first time. yiango and BBQ were among the first to wander in.
    Apart from setting the official Perl Monks birthday at Dec 23, this historic post indicates that yiango was the first "non-insider" Perl Monk. Of course, it also confirms that the first eight Perl Monks were indeed "insiders": either original Perl Monks site developers or their friends (or groupies) ... except paco of course, who has a supernatural genesis, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

    That leaves the two most mysterious "insiders" as: No. 6 sgtbaker; and No. 7 pschoonveld. sgtbaker remains by far the most mysterious because examining pschoonveld's posting history has revealed some further insights:

    • In this node, Ovid admits having had a beer with pschoonveld and "finds him rather cool". Update: the "pants not required" advice given to Ovid further indicates that pschoonveld was part of the BSI culture where wearing pants was optional ("The BSI motto. We believe that pants constrict us, so at our offical corporate headquarters, we wear clothing that doesn't restrict the flow of air around our genitals").
    • On their home nodes, both Jouke and Beatnik claim to have met this mysterious early monk in real life. He probably attended YAPC::Europe in Amsterdam in 2001.
    • According to this node, pschoonveld taught vroom how to swear in Dutch in preparation for his upcoming visit to the Netherlands.
    • Finally, this early node describes a gripping duel in a local bar, indicating that vroom and pschoonveld were drinking buddies in the early days.
    Since he was not listed as an official Everything developer by nate, and since his CV indicates he was officially working for venux.net at that time, I deduce that the mysterious pschoonveld was a Hope College buddy of vroom who hung out on the early Perl Monks web site for entertainment in his spare time (when not at the Pub).

    BTW, and curiously, this early node is a (deep) meditation posted by nate on Sep 09 1999 ... more than three months before he joined!

    Update: Found a sgtbaker user on everything2.com where his school is listed as Hope College and his company as Everything Development Company.

Re: The First Ten Perl Monks
by pvaldes (Chaplain) on Nov 17, 2014 at 02:55 UTC
    okay, okay, but we're still waiting for the movie

      Would love to see a movie about those innovative Hope College kids. Meanwhile, if you are looking for a Perl Monks "sacred" site to visit, I suggest Holland Michigan. The sacred sites that I would rush to are:

      Doubt my wife would understand this. That would seem to be cool though because, quite apart from its sacred Perl Monks sites, Holland Michigan seems like a really interesting and enjoyable city for a tourist to visit.

Re: The First Ten Perl Monks
by eyepopslikeamosquito (Chancellor) on Aug 04, 2017 at 10:19 UTC

    jdporter kindly messaged me with still more vital historical information missing from my original post.

    Though correctly identifying Ryan "dembones" Postma as one of the early Everything developers, I somehow totally missed that he was also the ninth Perl Monk!

    No 8a: dem bones

    Node id: 1329; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 21:49 UTC; last here: Dec 12 2000; Experience: none; 0 posts.

    Other Hope/Calvin College students from the early days who registered at Perl Monks include krikke (Josh Krikke) and Robo (Rob Oostendorp).

    Gratifyingly, jdporter confirmed the correctness of my guesses about:

    • Jonathan Pater
    • Darrick Brown
    • Patrick Schoonveld
    • Bryan D Thomas
    Heartbreakingly however, sgtbaker is apparently not a real person, but just one of vroom's many test accounts.

    The revered paco, of course, is no test account. He's a real person all right, and, tantalizingly, jdporter revealed that he had some sort of mysterious, perhaps supernatural, association with the early BSI developers. The paco mystery deepens!

Re: The First Ten Perl Monks
by eyepopslikeamosquito (Chancellor) on Sep 01, 2016 at 10:44 UTC

    jdporter kindly messaged me with some further and exciting historical information missing from my original post. I had totally missed an important player from the early days, namely kurt, Perl Monks user since Jan 11 2000, aka Dr. Kurt DeMaagd, PhD, formerly Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, currently working once again with nate at Sight Machine and currently a director of the Perl Foundation.

    Kurt was Business Manager for BSI from Jan 1999 to Jan 2001, studied Computer Science at Hope College 1996Ė1999, and was a co-founder with nate of slashdot, Everything2, and Perl Monks.

    For a time, kurt ran his own site "ThePope.org" which was probably running a version of the Everything Engine. Curiously, the disclaimer page at "ThePope.org" (scraped from the wayback machine) confirmed the BSI link:

    BlockStackers Intergalactic LLC is in no way associated with the Catholic Church.

    In 2012, Kurt co-authored with nate an O'Reilly book on Computer Vision. Curiously, the source code behind the book is written, not in Perl, but Python!

    Finally, kurt performed valuable work at YAS, as indicated by these posts:

Re: The First Ten Perl Monks
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Nov 18, 2014 at 13:14 UTC

    It’s nice to know a web-site’s history, and all of that, but not necessarily a good thing to be doting on it.   PerlMonks could use a slew of technical and design improvements that it has never received.   So, why don’t we work on making this venerable web-site better?

      "PerlMonks could use a slew of technical and design improvements that it has never received. So, why donít we work on making this venerable web-site better?"

      Why don't we? Why don't you? Why haven't you? In all your time posting here I've yet to see you make a worthwhile technical contribution, or even lift a finger to help. In the past you have been unwilling to even try and replicate phantom problems you alone experience yet complain about repeatedly. Time and time again you make a song and dance about threads, even though each time you do so it's apparent to all that you have no idea what you're talking about, you post some technically hilarious posts and wild venomous outbursts, further down the spiral we go...

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