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To Perl or not to PERL.

by jethro (Monsignor)
on Jul 14, 2010 at 09:48 UTC ( #849475=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Lets imagine you have an important question about a ruby library that's giving you no ends of problems. Finally you are posting your first question on a site dedicated to ruby. Imagine further the first answer you receive would begin with

"First of all, it is Ruby, not ruby. Only the interpreter is called ruby. ..."

Now what would be your first impression of the s/r/R/uby community after that (if you were susceptible to generalizations) ?

a) Very thorough people. And so very right. How could I miss such a fundamental property of the language

b) Hey, did they swallow a stick or what?

I believe that newbies on perlmonks who get corrected about PERL tend to think of sticks as well

If we want to attract new people to perl, there sure are more effective measures (more sensational hype, colors and animations on the website, cool language features to name a few), but one good way to push away interested newcomers is to correct them sternly about a triviality

Is perl vs. PERL vs. Perl a triviality? I would say so (counter arguments welcome), but even if you are of a different opinion you should think about how it looks to new posters. Spelling correction is after all the last line of defense in any flame war and it usually looks silly to everyone else

But wait, I have solutions:

1) "Don't mention the war" Ignore it. Anyone staying longer with perl will adopt the right spelling by observation and mimicry fast enough

2) "I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it" Put in lots of 'perl' in your answer. Instead of "Use split to extract the data" say "perl has the split function to extract the data". He won't have a chance against his subconsciousness

3) "Yes, you did. You invaded Poland" If you really really must mention it, let it look like an afterthought, hide it in some subordinate clause or in parens. "perl allows you to do that with split (nobody writes PERL by the way)".

PS: Citations from "Fawlty Towers"

PPS: Yes, this node has the same fault it critizises, i.e. making a big case out of a triviality. Let's call it self referential

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by ruzam (Curate) on Jul 14, 2010 at 14:37 UTC

    I grew up in a computing environment where everything was an acronym. Programming languages like COBOL, RPG, PL1. Heck everything was done on telex terminals, most times you didn't even have a choice of caps (everything was upper case). Project names were acronyms, software tools were acronyms, equipment names were acronyms, parts and services were acronyms. Nobody thought twice about what was caps and what was lower case and only a pin headed manager would be anal enough to get worked up over it.

    When I started learning Perl it was just another acronym language. It even says so, right in the introduction: Practical Extraction and Report Language. I didn't think twice about it. I wrote PERL, I used PERL, I put PERL on my resume, I love PERL. Then one day I got a response back from a job I applied for. The reply was "If you're going to put Perl on your resume then at least spell it right. It's Perl not PERL". I mean geez, if you're that bent over the capitalization then don't even bother with a reply because there's no way in h... I'm going to work in that kind of environment.

    So now I use Perl/perl instead of PERL and blend in with the crowd. Call me assimilated. I won't hold a grudge against anyone who calls it PERL, I don't think it's even worth pointing out. But I will hold a grudge against anyone who feels it's more important to get Perl/perl right than to actually learn the language.

      If you're going to put Perl on your resume then at least spell it right. It's Perl not PERL".

      I don't care if you're a poor speller. I care if you have attention to detail. Spell it "Pearl" and your resume loses a point with me, same as if you write "C Sharp" or "C/C++" or "Ur-Lang".

        You say that, but I can very well seeing people spelling it 'Pearl' to get past a recruiter/HR person who is searching for a 'pearl programmer'. And the same thing goes with 'C Sharp' -- and even more so, as I suspect that many of the resume search engines strip '#' character.

        Resumes tend to be written for the gatekeepers and not the people that are trying to learn something from them. When your gatekeepers can't spell, how can you fault the writer for adapting to their requirements.

        It's not a case of poor spelling, is a case of acronyms and capitalization. "Pearl" would be just plain wrong, and could even imply a completely different language.

        When faced with a stack of resumes, it's reasonable to weed out the candidates based on some criteria, even if the approach takes on a Perl vs PERL evaluation. Employers are entitled to use what ever methods they feel meets their needs. If an application doesn't meet the criteria, move on or issue the standard "thanks but no thanks" form letter. Just don't waste the company or the applicants time with condescending "spell it right" crap.

Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by JavaFan (Canon) on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:30 UTC
    "perl has the split function to extract the data"
    No, it doesn't! Perl has, but perl hasn't. How could you be so ignorant, you worthless newbie. Go back to your Rruby friends, where you belong. You're lucky I can -- vote a post only once.
Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by talexb (Canon) on Jul 14, 2010 at 15:15 UTC

    It's an interesting question. My first programming language was BASIC, which I just put in all caps because it's an acronym. Yet I've also see it called Basic. Similarly, I took FORTRAN (WATFIV/S, to be specific) at Waterloo, but no doubt it was called Fortran by some, without attracting too much attention.

    But the Perl community seems to attract the kind of attention to detail gang that makes a big deal out of whether it's 'PERL', 'Perl' or 'perl'. When I type it on the command line, it's lower case, but that's because Unix/Linux is case sensitive; PERL and Perl aren't recognized, but I bet they are on Windows, which (I believe) is case insensitive. Because Perl is a programming language, and a proper name, it's OK to give it an initial cap, so 'Perl' it is. Yes, there's a ridiculous backcronym so the name could be capitalized as PERL; but in the end, the community has chosen *not* to capitalize the name in common usage.

    My team lead is a big fan of Ruby, and since it's a programming language, I'd capitalize it, even though (I just tried this) it's 'ruby' at the Linux command line. (Cool! print 'foo!'; works!)

    While there are pedants who descend like locusts on newbies and shriek about how wrong 'PERL' is, I think Perlmonks is relatively low-key about this -- they'll mention it, but it won't be the first thing in their reply.

    I hope.

    Alex / talexb / Toronto

    "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

      ... all caps because it's an acronym.
      The two "acronyms" for Perl are actually backronyms and are more for fun, so the normal rule of upper-casing all letters in an acronym do not really apply.

      Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks

Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by moritz (Cardinal) on Jul 14, 2010 at 16:12 UTC

    Here's my take on it: if I reply to a node anyway, I point out that PERL only exists as Inline::PERL. I try to frame it as a half-joke, in company of a hopefully helpful reply. Writing a reply that only consists of a perl vs Perl vs PERL comment seems uncalled-for to me.

    Is perl vs. PERL vs. Perl a triviality? I would say so (counter arguments welcome),

    I object. Names contribute to identity, and are important to most humans. I still flinch a bit when somebody spells my name and nick as mortiz, which happens quite often.

    And I do care about Perl. If somebody with sufficient technical background asks me about my hobbies, I don't say "I program", but "I program Perl".

    1) "Don't mention the war" Ignore it. Anyone staying longer with perl will adopt the right spelling by observation and mimicry fast enough

    Possible. But then other people come to the site, and see that it's spelled PERL in the heart of the Perl community, nobody objects - it must be right.

    2) "I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it" Put in lots of 'perl' in your answer. Instead of "Use split to extract the data" say "perl has the split function to extract the data". He won't have a chance against his subconsciousness

    He has a very good chance. Learning works self-reinforcing, and writing stuff typically makes you remember things better than if you just read it.

    Modern Psychology has numbers for the relative effectiveness of learning through reading and writing, which of course I can't find right now, but all the results I've seen so far suggest that the vast major learns better from writing.

      "I object. Names contribute to identity, and are important to most humans"

      I agree. But misspelling (for example the aforementioned pearl) is of a different quality than case.

      "But then other people come to the site, and see that it's spelled PERL... nobody objects - it must be right"

      On the Monastery Gates page perl is mentioned correctly 73 times at the moment. The impression anyone gets seeing this is that whatever 'PERL' is, it is not used, except by an obvious newbie. Even if he should conclude that PERL is technically not wrong (if he thinks about it at all) there is nearly zero chance he will use that.

      and writing stuff typically makes you remember things better than if you just read it

      Yes, but what is the ratio of reading to writing even a newbie does on a site like this. If he reads 10 times as much 'Perl' and 'perl' as he writes PERL he is still learning the right version.

        But misspelling (for example the aforementioned pearl) is of a different quality than case.

        Perhaps not in your native language.

        Remember also that the difference between use strict; and use Strict; is dramatic. Proper capitalization in programming is vital to correct behavior.

      I don't say "I program", but "I program Perl".
      Yeah, you say I program Perl, but what they hear is I program PERL.

      Java "I program capital-P lowercase-e lowercase-r lowercase-l" Fan

        Ha Ha ;)

        A stranger walks into a computer store, flags the floor manager and says: "Yes, you have a very fine establishment here."
        "The finest" replies the manager. "What can I do for you?"
        The stranger continues "I'd like to learn more about PERL."
        manager: "Perl sir? Yes, right this way."
        stranger: "Not Perl, PERL. The PERL programming language my good man."
        manager: "Right sir, perl. We have a very informative display right over here."
        stranger: "This is not PERL? I distinctly asked you about PERL. I absolutely must know more about PERL."
        manager: "Perl sir?" (getting confused)
        stranger: "Yes PERL! Do you know who I am?" (becoming visible agitated)
        manager: "Well, no sir. You've just walked into my store." (smug bugger that one)
        stranger: "I've heard tell that PERL is the finest programming language in all the land. I simply must learn it."
        manager: "Oh, you mean Perl?"
        stranger: "Yes PERL."
        manager: "Well then, why didn't you say so? Right this way please."
        The manager takes the stranger to a shelf of programming books picks out a book called "Learn Ruby in 24 hours" and hands it to the stranger.
        manager: "Here you are Sir. The clerk at the front will help you with your purchase."
        stranger: "Thank you my good man. You have a very fine establishment here."
        The stranger walks out of the store looking quite satisfied.

Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by toolic (Bishop) on Jul 14, 2010 at 16:06 UTC
Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by eighty-one (Curate) on Jul 14, 2010 at 15:56 UTC

    I'm not sure the two possible reactions you listed are the only two. If it's said in a reasonably polite way, I think clarirying the name for someone new to the language is fine. And if it's reasonably polite I don't think they'll be offended or think someone's "swallowed a stick" - I personally would take note of it but be more interested in seeing what their advice regarding my problem was.

    I see the one of the purposes of this site as, in a very general way, helping people to use tool to solve problems. And part of learning to use a tool or how to solve certian problems is to learn the proper vocabulary. And while PERL, Perl, and perl won't ever get confused too horribly (no one will think you're taking about a different language entirely), it's still nice to know which to use when. And it can be a sort of Shibboleth as well, indicating to people how deep your knowledge of / involvement with the language and comminuty goes. While this isn't always accurate or a good thing (I'm sure there's people who are solid Perl programmers out there who use the wrong form for some reason or another) I'm sure some people will make judgements based on this, as illustrated by the poster above, so it's good to get on the same page as everybody else as far as nomenclature IMO.

Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by BrowserUk (Pope) on Jul 14, 2010 at 23:49 UTC

    I could not agree more. The puerile affectation of making heavy of this distinction is nought more than a ready stick with which bored insiders choose to beat newcomers.

    If those whom choose to wield this stick can perceive enough of the newcomers intent to wield it, they understand enough of that intent to ignore it. If they chose to.

      Or they could never mention it, all the while snickering at the poor clueless fool who keeps using it incorrectly? I think as a new user I would want to know sooner rather than later.

      Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks

        Hm. Sounds a little like saying that if ginger kids dyed their hair brown, nobody would take the piss out of them.

Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by thundergnat (Deacon) on Jul 15, 2010 at 19:16 UTC

    I suspect that a large contributor to the PERL|Perl|perl confusion is the Activestate HTML documentation. They chose to apply a small-caps style to the h1 elements so every page heading shows up as caps. Like this: (ooooo! simulated small-caps!)

    PERL - PRACTICAL EXTRACTION AND REPORT LANGUAGE

    Rather than this:

    perl - Practical Extraction and Report Language

    Sure it is small caps not caps, but the distinction is subtle, and beginners are not likely to pick up on it or know the difference. When the "official" documentation displays it in all caps and they get smacked down for doing the same thing here, I'm sure there is some feeling of "WTF is up with those pompous, self-absorbed jerks?..." I'm not going to try to defend this as THE cause, but it is likely a fairly large influence. Activestate is a major perl distribution, especially in the Windows world.

Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Jul 20, 2010 at 03:44 UTC

    I rEaLlY hAvE mOrE ImPorTaNt tHiNGs In mY LiFe 2 ThiNk AboUt ... tHaN CaPiTAl lEtTerS!

    Like beer, for instance ...

      I entirely agree with your points about capital letters and beer.

      But using a monospaced font? Bleuch! You make me sick!

      use JAPH;
      print JAPH::asString();
Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by biohisham (Priest) on Jul 19, 2010 at 05:58 UTC
    I agree with Argel that the sooner this is brought to the attention of the Novice the better. Part of getting things on track from the get-go for many new-bies will be reiterating to them the importance of observing the mantra use strict; use warnings;. It will indeed be worthwhile to show the Novice the distinction between Perl and perl and the contexts using either is advisable as this is the best time to start purging the worldly-dross away from someone who is walking into the Monastery.

    While some are strict monks, others have a great amount of zeal and others are sporadic in their responses but we know it is Perl that is pumping in this heart of the community which is called the Monastery out of a religious-like passion for the language, so seeing PERL instead of Perl | perl causes me to flinch but pardon the ignorance of those who do not know as long as they don't know for I am a Perl monk and not a Perlorist.



    Excellence is an Endeavor of Persistence. A Year-Old Monk :D .
Re: To Perl or not to PERL.
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:08 UTC
    To XP or not to XP

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