Parallels Between Perlmonks.ORG and Religious Cults

I was a perl monk before there was a perlmonks.org. I spent large amounts of time trying to learn the intricacies of Perl and bought lots of books to support my efforts. I was sure that Perl was the best language and that I only needed to master it. To that end, when I saw the website perlmonks.org, I was immediately hooked.

However, since then, several things have happened to me at this site that have caused me great pain. Some of them are clearly my fault, others have to do with certain aspects of the site which are handled in a cult-like fashion.

It should be stated from the outset that this is not an attempt to prove that perlmonks.org is a cult, but rather to show that certain aspects and events on the site are cultish in nature and probably should be removed or curtailed.

All of the actual material cited from Perlmonks.org can be found by using their Super Search option (that is unless it gets deleted from the site as other material has, which is exactly why I am preserving it here for all iniquity). Simply type super search into the search bar on the upper left and then search for any of the words in the quotes I reproduce below.

All information on cults and their practices was culled from the AFF website: http://www.CSJ.org .*


In a cult, their way is right and all other ways are wrong. Rational, independent-thinking is frowned upon and heavily criticized. In a recent thread entitled "Apparent Inconsistencies in Perl Function Naming" I launched an attack on some aspects of the Perl language that have shown themselves to be unintuitive to my co-workers.

The following post strongly exemplifies an unwillingness towards dissenting viewpoints:

would you go to a church service, stand up and ask everyone about the inconsistencies in the Bible? Would you sign up for a poultry cooking class and spend every session criticizing people for eating meat? There is a time and a place to be so heavily critical of something, but coming to a place dedicated to it is not one of them. No one here mind an occasional discussion of problems with Perl, but a full-scale assault on the language is another thing. I'm sure you don't view it that way, but I can't help but wonder what you hope to accomplish by this.

Now I have in fact done things similar to what he speaks of. I LIVED at a Zen Buddhist Monestary in Los Angeles. And during my residency there, I asked one of the priests if Zen Buddhism were less evolved than Tibetan Buddhism. After a brief period of discussion on the subject, he got angry and changed the subject.

In all fairness, I don't think the person who wrote this is cultish, and in fact, I am supremely grateful to this person, namely Ovid, because he has shown tremendous tolerance to some of my completely unacceptable sexist and profane comments in the past.

What happened specifically is once during a heated discussion with merlyn, Ovidinterrupted and told me to calm down. My reply was: "find someone else to play pussy for you." His next reply was: "I don't respect you because you used profanity." My next statement was: "You are casting judgement on me by a single point in time. And this point in time is during a heated debate. I flew off the handle." And he was gentlemanly enough to reply: "You're right. I see your position." .*


Perlmonks.org is run by Timothy Vroom. On more than one occasion, he has made it clear that he will do whatever he wants with this site. The primary example of this came when I first joined the site. I wanted to have my picture in the upper right corner like some other people. His reply was that you needed to be level 6 before getting a picture up.

Then one day, I learned that a person named dibona had no experience and yet his picture was up there. When I questioned his motives for doing so, Vroom stated: "as long as something makes sense to me, that's reason enough for it to be on perlmonks." This post of his was strongly supported by the community.

When I actually made level 6, I again requested that my picture be put in the rotation for the upper right corner. This time his response was:

"I don't believe I've ever said that if you get to level 6 you get a picture up in the corner period end of story. I maintain creative control over perl monks and can choose and change policies as I see fit. I think one of the requirements for having your picture up top should be being respected by the community at large. I also think it's clear from some recent threads that you have yet to gain the respect of the community at large. I hope you can understand my point of view and reasoning. I don't think it would be appropriate to add your picture into the rotation at the current time. Give it a month and I'll reconsider then. If you feel the need to respond please do so over e-mail."

Looking at this statement, we again see the element of unquestioned authority. Most users of the site do see Vroom as unquestionable authority, on the grounds that perlmonks.org is "his website." While he does own the domain name and he did develop the site, these elements are the skeleton and without user-contributed content, the site would be useless.

The second cultish element in this statement is his attempt to mold my behavior patterns so that I am "...respected by the community at large." In other words, rewards within perlmonks.org are not based on freethinking, but same-thinking, in other words, brainwashing, which leads into the next topic .*


The chief means of controlling user behavior on perlmonks.org is the voting system. How many posts are preceded with the words "I know I'm going to lose a lot of points for this..."? And of course, how many posts never show up for fear of downvoting?

And finally, when one actually receives a huge downvote, one becomes upset and feels like an outcast.

At this point (and I am at this point), a member of perlmonks may do any number of things. He may submit to the mind control by trying to fit in with the crowd. He may resort to some form of escapism such as leaving the site, suicide, or changing his name. He may engage in attempts to subvert the organization, by hacking passwords or overloading the system with false web requests. Or he may simply continue the downhill depression for awhile longer. .*


In the driest sense, Perl is a programming language. Others, including myself have made it much more. To us, it is art, religion, linguistic perfection. Hence the popularity of a site named perlmonks.org. Unfortunately, this has led to an us-versus-them mentality, with the "them" being other programming languages.

The chief competitor to Perl is Java. And many threads focus around this issue. All in all, I would say that there is very little hate towards Java, simply discussion. .*


This issue hardly needs to be discussed further. But regardless of the reason, there is no system of checks and balances in place at perlmonks. The chief means of mind control, downvoting by one's peers is shrouded in secrecy. Those who downvote you have full anonymity and do not have to justify their voting.

Further, there is no system of appeals for downvotes. And in some cases, systematic downvotes are heavily correlated with an act disliked by the community at large.

For example, once I had obtained a rather large and infamous reputation as princepawn, I wanted to see if it was my personality or the content of my posts that led to such a low experience to writeup ratio - princepawn gets roughly 2 points per writeup. So, I created the user metaperl and posted as normal, but admittedly with much less sarcasm and bratty theatrics. As metaperl, I went through the first 3 levels with no downvotes earning 6 points per writeup.

Upon announcing that I was in fact metaperl, my entire suite of posts to date all uniformly dropped in reputation.

To those who claim that there are no conspiracies executed via the voting system, this serves as proof to the contrary. .*


The fact that this post earned a reputation of -11 within minutes of posting shows the fervor with which the members of perlmonks resist relatively innocuous information about programming languages which learned from the pitfalls that Perl fell in:

More FYI than anything else, there is a language called RUBY whose stated intent is to replace Perl. It is certainly very popular in Japan where it originated (the Ruby book is #6 in Sales on Amazon's Japan site). And, in Ruby, everything is a method call. But from looking through the book, this does not lead to cumbersome code. Ruby is quite clean.



One of the replies to my recent criticism of certain Perl core functions led to this statement:

"The true purpose of perl is to serve others, but it can only do this if you humble your mind. But much like enlightenment, I suppose that needs to be experienced, not explained."

Instead of suggesting that I think clearly and logically and question the design decisions that lead to some aspects of Perl being counter-intuitive, I am told to "humble my mind." This post, by tedv, received a high upvote. My response, quoted in part below, netted a zero reputation after a rollercoaster ride of upvoting and downvoting:

Hmm, well the over 200 submitted RFCs and the fact that Larry Wall is planning a complete rewrite of the language from the ground up should tell you something: even Larry Wall thinks that the current Perl has problems serious enough that they cannot be reconciled within the framework of evolution that occurred from @perl = (1..5);



Perlmonks.com is a fun place. You can hang out, chat with people of similar persuasion, and in the process, learn some things about a topic very dear to you, Perl.

However, everything in the above sentence could apply to a mind-controlling cult.

Breaking free of a mind control situation is very difficult and painful. Vroom, whether consciously or not, has created a website with several cultlike elements. The use of a voting system means that those with high reputations are those who speak words of pleasure, not necessarily words of truth. To further coerce like-minded behavior, the reward of picture rotation is reserved for only those who please the sitemaster, based on a policy which changes at the whims of the site owner.

The lack of a non-vested third party appeals system deepens the means by which the members of this website strengthen their possibly short-sighted convictions.

I am now a hated person at this site. Further, my self-esteem and sense of community are next to zero due to my participation at this site, which admittedly in many cases was very bratty. In the interest of my mental health, I now declare my accounts metaperl and princepawn at perlmonks.org completely inactive until further notice.

In reply to Parallels Between Perlmonks.ORG and Religious Cults (Retirement Announcement) by princepawn

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