In an recent thread, Abigail and I have traded ideas about Baby Perl. Chromatic later sent me a /msg suggesting that Larry himself talked more about Baby Perl in "State of the Onion 2." In turn, this led me to all of the "Onion" addresses (along with another) which I dutifully read. While I'd seen a couple of them previously, it was very interesting to read them sequentially.

Besides reinforcing my opinion that Larry Wall is a very smart and wise person (not to mention a little strange--in a good way), this led me to ponder a number of recent (and some not so recent) discussions about Perl Culture, our community, and some of the various, um, reactions we've had with each other.

As far as I can tell, Larry doesn't specifically outline how he'd like us to respond to Baby Perl specifically. He doesn't seem to be the type of person to be so dogmatic. In these talks, he tends to speak (write?) metaphorically and leaves you to draw your own conclusions.

So, here are some conclusions I've drawn, expressed in the form of out-takes:

Yes, these quotes are taken out of context and, as we well know, context is very important--especially to Perl. Even so, I believe that they illustrate the intentions that Larry has for the Community and how he'd like it to operate. Even if I've mis-stated, misunderstood, or am otherwise mistaken, I think there are interesting observations to make regarding effective community practices by reviewing Larry's other writings.

I also believe that these ideas might apply to a number of current and (in some cases, thankfully) dormant discussions (including a certain non-public one currently in progress).

I invite you draw your own conclusions, after investing some time into the original material. For the really industrious, I also recommend Larry's own Perl page. Let's use these as a starting place to discover how we want to handle--and maintain--our little online home.


P.S. Please understand that I'm not trying to canonize Larry as a role-model. However, I do believe that part of the success of Perl lies in his personal vision of how things should work. Since many of us agree that the technical vision has worked reasonably well, it seems worthwhile to see if similar success can be found in his expressed ideas regarding Community and Participation.

Edited: 28 Jun 01, 15:08 (PDT)

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Virtues of Community
by Mungbeans (Pilgrim) on Jun 29, 2001 at 13:01 UTC
    There is nothing wrong with canonizing Larry Wall. The man is an excellent communicator and facilitator -- as well as technically brilliant. Plus he has no problem with integrating different, often totally opposing view points. That's pretty rare.

    All good traits to aspire to. I wish I could listen and understand and synthethise as well as Larry.

    I agree that Perl's strength is in the community. Look at CPAN, look at the vast body of code and algorithms out there (donated free out of others blood sweat at tears). Look at the people prepared to spend their time helping others.

    To give an example of how this works: I used an algorithm yesterday from this node 67956 (thanks bjelli) to put together code that would have taken me a week on my own. It took me 4 hours; to put this in perspective, this is replacing C code that's been running badly and buggily for 2 years. I didn't want to replace it because I didn't think my skills were up to it. 4 hours.

    I'm grateful - which means I'm motivated to contribute more (such as I can) - which means the community keeps growing. This is a virtuous circle - if you find the community helps you, give back, it's in your own interests.

    Another facet to the circle, strange as that may seem, the more support there is out there for Perl, the more it will be used. The more it is used, the more people will make a living from it. The more making a living, the better support it will get. Selfishly speaking, this is good - I'd far rather code in Perl than in C or pretty much anything else I know. And it's good for employers too, the cost of development with Perl is extremely low (not that I have stats to back this up).

    It's all good. So, um, thanks Larry :-)

    "The future will be better tomorrow."

Re: Virtues of Community
by nysus (Parson) on Jun 29, 2001 at 18:52 UTC
    Heh, I guess what Ultima is to gamers, Perl is to programmers. Thinking back, I learned quite a bit about values from playing Ultima in 1983 on my Apple IIe. But I think Perl is a bit more useful as a tool in the world. :)

    $PM = "Perl Monk's";
    $MCF = "Most Clueless Friar Abbot";
    $nysus = $PM . $MCF;
    Click here if you love Perl Monks

Re: Virtues of Community
by dthacker (Deacon) on Jul 02, 2001 at 09:03 UTC
    For context I give you my background. I have been a member for over a year. I do not write perl for a living. It's maybe 10-20% of what I do. I used to code in 4gl for a living. I now can truthfully say that I code perl like a 4gl programmer. My code can be clumsy and unwieldy, but eventually works. I work with people who have much stronger skills, and I badger them a lot. I want my code to be as concise and coherent as theirs.

    I found this definition of monk:

    monk-A man who is a member of a brotherhood living in a monastery and devoted to a discipline prescribed by his order: a Carthusian monk; a Buddhist monk.

    I have found the monks to have high standards. They are truly devoted to their discipline. I like that. I want my code to meet those standards. I'm willing to have my questions re-phrased and my code corrected as long as you are explaining why or giving me a clear path to that explanation. By showing me civility when you do this, you also show me your brotherhood.

    I value your time and your help. For my part of the discipline, I commit to RTFM, thinking it through, and trial and error before I post. For your part, I ask a civil and thoughtful answer. I'm as devoted to the discipline as you are, but I've not seen everything you have. Help me see.

    And now I must go meditate on perlref.... Dave

Re: Virtues of Community
by Aighearach on Jun 30, 2001 at 15:09 UTC
    I think a basic question in these discussions is, who is a member of the community, and how can we be useful to each other.

    So, Who is a member of the community? I propose that anybody who is a serious Perl programmer, or has a desire to become a serious Perl programmer, should be considered a full member of the community. That is to say, the person who strolls in, doesn't want to learn Perl, but wants us to help them get a script working... this person is not a member of the community. Their role should really be as an employer of a member of the community, else they don't really have anything to give back.

    And that definition of the community embraces both the "expert friendly" sort of Perl, and the Baby Perl. It also makes it a little easier to decide if you should tell the person the wrong way they are asking about, or the right way; of course, if the person is or intends to be a serious Perl programmer, they need both answers! If I don't know both why it sucks and what it looks like, I won't be able to spot it when it creeps in.

    And something maybe Larry Wall doesn't know about the native people of parts of Washington State, (potlatch wasn't practiced much in most of the NW, it is northern coastal thing) it is more of a cash economy than the other systems in the region. This is because, when you are given a gift, you then have a very real obligation to give back based on that. So, a lot comes down to exchange rates. It's really not what it looks like at first glance. Certainly it isn't a gift economy. The term "potlatching" is often used to describe fake gifts that are only given in expectation of the return gift. I think it is a bad precedent to say that the producer of a thing should decide who buys it and how many they buy. Far cry from "gift economy." Are humans even capable of producing working examples of ideas like "gift economy?" I suspect it is like socialism... many things, but all of them something other than what it is claiming to be. The only difference I can see between NW "gift" economies and bartering is that in bartering there isn't a decepection about the purpose of the transaction.
    Snazzy tagline here

Re: Virtues of Community
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Jan 23, 2004 at 03:21 UTC
    I just reread this post tonight while waiting for RH9 to download. I've had it as the only link in my profile for over two years, because it's the only post I found worth putting in my wallet. Larry has the breadth of paradigm and lack of filtering that makes his words and thoughts worth listening to. A true modern philosopher.

    We are the carpenters and bricklayers of the Information Age.

    Please remember that I'm crufty and crochety. All opinions are purely mine and all code is untested, unless otherwise specified.

Re: Virtues of Community
by mpeppler (Vicar) on Sep 23, 2003 at 19:01 UTC
    I'm reading this two years after it was posted - but it reminds me of a post to comp.lang.perl (yep, before the split) that Larry made in response to a flame. That had 30 or so different answers, all saying the same thing in different tones of voice. I found the post on google a while back - I could probably find it again, but my point is that when Larry was still active in the newsgroups he was always able to post well reasoned and balanced posts - something that I've found to be rather unusual in most on-line communication unfortunately.

    So using Larry as a role-model is fine with me :-)