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What makes a contributor to Perl?

by petdance (Parson)
on Mar 28, 2012 at 19:59 UTC ( #962248=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

A recent thread touched on the question of what counts as contributing to Perl. I feel strongly that contributions to Perl, or any open source project, come in all shapes and sizes. This is a pet topic of mine, to be sure. I wrote an article a few weeks back on the topic, on how to contribute to open source without being a rock star, and I'll be giving a talk at YAPC::NA about it. The article is condensed from some ideas I have for a website that will help people who want to contribute to find ways for them to pitch in.

The obvious contributors to Perl are those who do the work on perl5-porters, adding new features to the core language, and making the regular releases. That's huge. But there is so much more.

So I ask my fellow monks to meditate: What makes a contributor to Perl? Who contributes to Perl, either in the abstract ("People who write CPAN modules") or the specific ("Bob Smith wrote the Foo::Bar module that I used all the time")?


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Re: What makes a contributor to Perl?
by moritz (Cardinal) on Mar 28, 2012 at 20:16 UTC

    People who ...

    • publish or contribute to CPAN modules
    • answer Perl questions
    • improve documentation
    • translate documentation
    • act as release managers
    • submit bugreports
    • submit reports to cpantesters
    • organize conferences
    • speak at conferences
    • donate money to TPF or developers
    • volunteer for administrative/legal stuff
    • maintain websites and services (,,, ...)
    • blog about Perl
    • solve problems in Perl, and publish their programs
    • reach out towards non-Perl programmers
    • run programs like Google Summer of Code, Google Code-In, TPF grants, ...
    • write books
    • write tutorials
    • create development tools (IDEs, syntax hilighter, ...)

    (in no particular order, and no claims on comprehensiveness).

    And of course there are those who support the Perl contributors. Many of us have families that support them, and without which we couldn't do what we do.

    I'm afraid that I know too many individual people whose code, websites and services I use nearly every day to even start listing them.

      Perfectly put.

Re: What makes a contributor to Perl?
by pemungkah (Priest) on Mar 28, 2012 at 22:21 UTC
    I'd add in "those who contribute toward a positive perception of the Perl community by being temperate, welcoming, patient, and helpful". You may not believe it, but it makes a huge difference to people who are not "in" one or another of the Perl groups.

    Other contributors include those who are graceful when in error. The phrase, "You're absolutely right! Thanks for the correction" makes a big difference too. Insisting that you are technically correct just makes you look like a weasel.

      Indeed. I'm reminded of this post from a few days ago: I will not learn Rails

      "I'd rather use the (framework) with the smallest number of unwelcoming members."


        Having read the aforementioned post, and finding it merely to be a rant, I have a Rhett Butler response to it.   It says nothing of value about the value of (e.g.) the Ruby/Rails language system as a vehicle for earning my daily keep.

        That, to be quite frank, is the only reason why I care about Perl, too:   it is the concern that is properly given to a fleet of freight locomotives.   The thing might be ugly and noisy and loud (or beautiful and graceful, depending on your sentiment), but, it moves the freight that pays the bills.   I am going to reach for the thing that you have built and I am going to make of it an integral part of a thing that feeds my family.   I therefore do not particularly care about you.   We have never met, and it is highly unlikely that we ever will.   But I do care about the thing that you have made ... in the manner of how one cares about the quality of the bolt that supports the kingpin of the bridge that is carrying one’s spouse and children.

Re: What makes a contributor to Perl?
by grantm (Parson) on Mar 28, 2012 at 23:48 UTC

    A few more ...

    • People who run user groups to support Perl users (e.g.: Perl Mongers)
    • People who present at user group meetings
    • People/organisations that fund beer/pizza at user group meetings :-)
Re: What makes a contributor to Perl?
by jeffa (Bishop) on Mar 29, 2012 at 00:34 UTC

    Someone who facilitates the desire for free market corporations to start or continue to use Perl in their corporate framework either by advocating its specific advantages for the tasks at hand or simply by leaving behind a good legacy of robust and maintainable code with an active knowledge base.


    (the triplet paradiddle with high-hat)
Re: What makes a contributor to Perl?
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Mar 29, 2012 at 14:22 UTC

    Perl is more than a language.   In fact, “a language” is only a small but necessary enabling part of it.   Perl is the sum of its thousands of contributions.

    7481 Uploads, 24540 Distributions 104967 Modules, 9606 Uploaders.   (

    Which one of those uploads, distributions, modules, or uploaders is “most?”   None of them.   The one thing that gives us what we all have use of today, is synergy.   The whole.   Not the sum, not the parts.

    The rugged, reliable, constantly self-tested strength of the Perl contributions is beguiling.   You don’t realize what you have ... until you don’t have it.

Re: What makes a contributor to Perl?
by Xiong (Hermit) on Mar 28, 2012 at 21:54 UTC

    I believe I made my position clear on this topic. There is no objective or abstract standard possible that determines whether one has or has not been of service to others. Particularly, I deny the validity of claims made by some who believe they may determine by themselves alone whether they are or are not making a contribution.

    One may be certain of the usefulness of one's work by the criticism it receives from others. This may come in many forms: cash, a kind word, bug reports, formal recognition, and so forth. It may be long delayed, as illustrated by innumerable examples of great work only recognized as such some centuries after the creator's death. Nor can the absence of feedback prove lack of value. But it only when others tell us that we have made a contribution that we can be sure we have indeed served.

    Death only closes a Man's Reputation, and determines it as good or bad. —Joseph Addison
      It seems that you're taking my post as somehow related to your thread (Rewards of Service). It's not. I've never read that thread until just now. I'm sorry for the inadvertant confusion.

      You say "it only when others tell us that we have made a contribution that we can be sure we have indeed served," and that's what I'm asking you to do: To tell us who you see as being contributors.


        Sorry; I misread your post; you appeared to seek an objective standard. You want specific instances. You did not intend to relate your post to mine; they merely approach the same question from different directions.

        Um, anyone can throw together a list of stuff he likes somewhat. My vote for top Perler is Michael Schwern; for top contribution, Test::Simple. I consider Test::More the most important module extant. And yes, I've sent him fan mail.

        Death only closes a Man's Reputation, and determines it as good or bad. —Joseph Addison
Re: What makes a contributor to Perl?
by JavaFan (Canon) on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:24 UTC
    It's easy to come with dozens and dozens of things that "contribute" to Perl. The problem is, where do you stop? Has HP contributed to Perl, because I've written many patches to Perl from an HP computer? Has my spouse contributed, because of their supply of tea and cookies during my Perl hacking nights, and coping with my late nights, and week long absences when I go to conferences? Have $WORK, $WORK-1, $WORK-2, $WORK-3, $WORK-4, $WORK-7, $WORK-8 contributed by giving me time and/or money to do Perl related stuff (even while some of them hardly use Perl themselves)? Do people who appear to do a lot of activity, but all with the motive to promote their own training classes contribute to Perl? Someone who makes code emitted by gcc faster, does he contribute to Perl? After all, a perl compiled by such a patched gcc may be faster. Do people/companies who hire Perl developers contribute to Perl? What if he hires a sysadmin with Perl knowledge?
      That's what I'm asking you. I want to hear your answers of ways that people contribute to Perl.


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