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Re: Building a Perl based business

by dragonchild (Archbishop)
on Feb 02, 2006 at 03:51 UTC ( #527223=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Building a Perl based business

Part of the issue with selling a Perl-based product is that Perl is inherently opensource. While this doesn't always mean "free as in beer", it tends to be that way, culturally.

I work for a very small company that builds and customizes a reporting web application as part of a package that another large firm sells. It's currently written in Perl, so it would be a Perl product that's sold again and again.

What's special about our product is that it's not a product, per se. It's more of a service that happens to be written in Perl. In other words, we're a consulting firm in disguise. And, frankly, that's how you're going to have to think of yourself. While you may be able to ride the gravy train of a certain product for a few years, you're not going to build your business unless you're a domain expert first and a producer second.

There's a lot of really bad programmers out there*, but it's not like they have their abilities tattooed on their foreheads. You need to have all the credentials in the world in order to be a recognized domain expert. For example, Stonehenge is a well-known Perl consulting firm. Why? Because Randal Schwartz and brian_d_foy are there! If you want to hire someone, you want to go with the best you can afford. Stonehenge has two of the TOP names in the Perl world. In other words, you have to compete with that if you want to grow your business.

Now, it's not all doom-and-gloom. You can go away from the Perl-centric idea and just build a good web-based product to market. For example, that's what Basecamp does. I bet you can't figure out what language they're using. I'll give you a hint - it's not Perl.

*: According to some estimates, the top 1% of the world's programmers are more efficient than the other 99% combined. Figuring out which side of that line you fall on is tough. But, the nice thing is that it's easy to go from one side to the other, if you're willing to devote yourself to it.

My criteria for good software:
  1. Does it work?
  2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re^2: Building a Perl based business
by johnnywang (Priest) on Feb 02, 2006 at 05:06 UTC
    I know that Basecamp is in ruby, in fact RoR. I guess the same question applies to the other languages: php, python, ruby. Websites are great because the language is hidden, and there are lots of very successful ones out there (not to mention google/ebay/yahoo/amazon). But is that the only way "out" for Perl(php/python/ruby) programmers, besides selling by the hour?
      Here's the issue - what's the greatest strength of Perl(PHP/Python/Ruby)? It's the ability to write something and have it (almost) truly be cross-platform, not have to worry about compilation/linking, and 90% of every application is already written for you (at least in Perl). This ease comes with a price, but most scripters consider that price to be worthwhile. We'll discuss that price in a second.

      What does it take for an application to succeed in the marketplace that you're describing? Well, it needs to be installable on Windows in the same fashion that Firefox is installable on Windows. You download something, double-click on something, click "Yes" a few times, double-click on something else and you're up and running.

      This takes a lot of infrastructure on the Windows machine. While it's all possible to do with Perl, it makes a lot more sense to do it in a language that already has all that infrastructure in place, like C# or Java. Why compete in a space that's already saturated?

      Instead, it's much better to work within a space that doesn't have that cost of entry, like rich web applications. Have you used Basecamp? It's a damn slick application - I like it ... a lot.

      As for "only way out" ... I make a fine living doing exactly what you're describing, and so does nearly every other serious Perl/Python/Ruby developer. Just because it's not flashy doesn't mean it's not a good thing to do.

      My criteria for good software:
      1. Does it work?
      2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
Re^2: Building a Perl based business
by Anonymous Monk on Feb 03, 2006 at 21:57 UTC
    According to some estimates, the top 1% of the world's programmers are more efficient than the other 99% combined.

    I wouldn't be at all surpised if that statement were true, but I also wouldn't be surprised if the top 5%-1% had a combined efficincy greater than the top 1%. The bottom end of the scale has negative efficiency.

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