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Alive, unless proven otherwise

Posted by brunorc on August 16, 2009

After publishing my YAPC::EU recap, I’ve received the following response by email:

However, I think you may have missed the point of the closing keynote slightly. Cog gave 3 examples of how it’s easy for us to give out the wrong impression about Perl, and I noticed that you’ve tagged your YAPC recap with “Perl is d34d” and “Perl is not d34d”.

As a community, we really need to stop using negative words to describe our language. (…)

That’s why I slightly changed tags in the quote – no, Google, you won’t feast on our flesh :-)

Anyway, I recalled the well-known article of Paul Graham about eating the beverages (or something similar). And I thought about the Blub metaphore, that it still can be useful. Here it goes:

I recently got back from the Blub conference. I met there a lot of other Blub programmers, some of them I knew before, as we – Blub folks – often find it nice to organise and meet once a month or so. Well, we enjoyed the conference, as we were able to discover new interesting extensions of our language, new ways of using it – and, last but not least – hear some news about the next minor and major versions of Blub!

I’d like to mention that lots of those folks are actually using Blub in their work, sometimes even because most of their job concentrates on writing, maintaining and extending the code written in Blub. And – believe me or not – some of them are even paid for writing, maintaining and extending the Blub code itself!

So it shouldn’t be surprising, that some companies went to the conference to recruit some talented Blub developers; and we were pleased to notice that O’Reilly keeps providing our community with good books about Blub. Thus, it’s possible to work with Blub and earn good money, that could be then spent to get even more Blub!

It could have been written by some Python afficionado, who went back from PyCon 2009 in Atlanta; or some PHP passionate who just jumped off his plane from Berlin after attending the International PHP Conference; or maybe it was JSCONF or JavaOne? In November we’ll notice a lot of such news from Rubyists attending the RubyConf, so get ready.

Anyway, whatever the Blub is, it appears it has a strong, vibrant community; it is a tool of choice for a lot of people – thanks to its capabilities. Blub developers will keep being busy with their work and will keep having fun with their work. Certainly no reasonable person would call Blub dead. And what can a Blub programmer say, when some troll starts to yell “Blub is dead”?

Yes, trolls shouldn’t be fed. But they feed Google.

Counter target black spell

Counter target black spell

It’s relevant to us, so let’s take a look. First of all, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat – which means, the burden of proof rests on who asserts, not on who denies. Ah, the first probable shot, waiting for the Perl 6.0… great, let’s take a look at the counterexamples:

  • Ruby: version 1.0 released December 25, 1996; current version: 1.9.1; no new major version in more than 12 years
  • Python: version 3.0 released 3 December, 2008; after 8 years from 2.0
  • Java: version 1.0 released in 1995; after 14 years we’re on 1.6, dubbed “Java Standard Edition 6.0”
  • PHP: version 5.0 released 13 July, 2004

Seriously, no offence, just numbers and dates. I especially respect Python folks for the courage of introducing some backward incompatible changes. I would argue that PHP 5.3 should be the real 5.0 version, but let’s put it aside. And yes, Perl 5 was released in 1994. We could have used the Java Standard Version Numeration and shout that we already have Perl 10, but what’s the point? Preparing the next major version of the language takes a lot of time – even more if such release has to change something more than numbers (oh, and by the way – the virtual machine of our next major release will be able run the code written in other languages; does the opposite is also true?).

So, to summarize. There’s a language. There’s a new minor (5.10) and the next one is close enough. There’s a schedule for the next major (Rakudo Star). There are jobs, people, conferences, books… Perl lives, being a living proof itself :-) And what arguments are on the other side?

Honestly, Perl is alive – unless proven otherwise.

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2 Responses to “Alive, unless proven otherwise”

  1. chromatic said

    I agree with the sentiment, but playing the magic version numbers divination of all meaning from the placement of decimals and relative sizes of integers game can produce arbitrary conclusions.

    • brunorc said

      Well, I’m quite happy using Perl 5.8 and 5.10, and juggling the version numbers doesn’t appeal to me at all, but this topic seems recurring in the context of Perl aliveness. I just looked at some pages and was quite surprised with the results. Personally I find features and capabilities defining the usability of the programming language and its status, and if we look at version numbers as the milestones on the road to better usability, those digits may actually mean something. Also, there’s a lot of interesting things happening in Perl (namely Moose and Devel::Declare), which looks rather orthogonal to version numbering. Sadly, it is so common just to read some number-based whinings, which – as you said – bring mostly arbitrary conclusions.

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