Unless you are just getting back from vacation, or some sort of surgery, you've already heard that Raduko Star has been released to the wild. No matter where you sit on the Perl5/Perl6 fence, I think we can all agree accomplishing this tremendously complex project deliverable is a powerful milestone for open source in general and our community in particular. We should feel terrible proud that a group of mostly iconoclastic, anarchistic meritocrats (basically the Perl community) was able to come together long enough to pull this off. Perl has no big company behind it paying people to do all the grunt work it takes to organize and complete projects; all this has to be community driven. That means not only the cool sexy bits of Perl6, small details that nobody likes to do (even if they are paid to do it) also have to be volunteer time. This makes Perl one of the most purely open source / free software projects around, since our community and language is not beholden to corporate whims (in the way that some other important open source projects are.) Again, tremendous kudos all around.
This milestone brings with it several other positive developments for our community. First of all the past year has seen big improvements in the respect and coordination between the Perl5 and Perl6 communities. I think we are all much better focused on Perl as a whole and in growing our overall ecosystem, which includes not only the language we use, but all the support necessary for it to be useful, from CPAN to the various blogging projects, IRC developed communities, job networks and all that. I have to personally confess that there have been times in the past where I was annoyed and frustrated by Perl6 since the lack of well communicated progress appeared at times to add to the whole “Perl is (Not Alive)” meme. This is a serious matter for me because I have dedicated my career to Perl, have been programming in Perl since 1995, and my Perl work enables me to support my family (pay bills, put food on the table, all that.) So any threat to Perl functions as a threat to my livelihood and an indirect threat to my family, which is a matter I take very seriously. However I think now that both ends of our community are more effectively helping each other, and they we are all 'stealing' ideas and benefiting from cross promotion. Positive Perl press, whether it is for Perl5 or Perl6 is good Perl press for both. People that are drawn to either language get inspired to investigate the full community. For example, a lot of the people that came to Perl via the Pugs Perl6 project are now doing awesome work on Perl5 projects. Their energy and ideas have definitely enriched Perl5. This change is very positive and can only make us stronger as we continue to develop Perl for the next 20 years.
Another vitally important development for Perl has taken place in the past year or so. Our ability to communicate the value of Perl is definitely better than ever. I know 'marketing and branding' projects are very difficult for Perl programmers because as a lot we are very individualistic and pragmatic, which makes us disdainful of 'appearance matters'. We are distrustful of marketing in general and I think in our gut we feel that if something is great, well, that greatness should just shine through and anyone with intelligence should be able to see it. As a result we have historically failed to use our community size and network to good advantage in getting out the word, and we have seen much smaller communities out-communicate us in terms of the value of our language and software ecosystem. Given how important Perl has been to many large and well off companies this is a terrible shame and we can't doubt that it has hurt us perception wise in the world. There remains a big (but diminished) gap between how most Perl programmers view our language (studies show we are amongst the most happy programmers) and how the IT world in general views us.
The good news is we are better than ever in regards to communicating value. I think although there's still a lot of distrust of marketing matters (many people do wonder if the effort is meaningful) more and more of us are getting savvy in the ways of explaining and defending Perl's inherent value to the wide world. More of use now know that value is not something that pops out of Perl without any effort on our part to nurture it; value IS communicated value. I personally would not have started programming Perl if back in 1995 when my boss asked me to setup a way for people to email comments via our web site I hadn't found a pile of examples and documentation on how to use Perl to solve this very problem. I did a quick search on the (much smaller then) Internet and saw that everyone was saying you could do this job in Perl, and here's how you do it. And not only that, Perl, the email code and documentation was all free software. That was really cool and was a total game changer for me in how I viewed software development. I do believe we are getting back to that 'wow this is cool' communication of value and that is probably one of the top positive developments for us in a long time.
This ability to communicate value better is having direct positive effect. This effect is two fold, and I noticed both directly while reading some third party articles which picked up the news regarding Raduko Star. For example, Slashdot reported the release here: “http://developers.slashdot.org/story/10/07/29/2046242/Perl-6-Early-With-Rakudo-Star”. Typically this would make me cringe a bit, since this would inevitable lead to an onslaught of trolls and misinformation. Ok, so there was some of that, but if you go read that article there were a number of “Hey, I don't use Perl myself, but why do we think its cool to attack someone's language of choice?” There were also a number of “I don't use Perl but Perl6 seems to have some cool features, I don't think it's fair to dismiss it.” Also, our ability to respond the the misinformation is much better. There were quite a few Perl programmers that managed to step up and correct people carefully and rationally. I really think the efforts we've gone to in the past few years to improve our ability to communicate is 1) affecting people outside our community in a positive way and 2) improving our ability as a group to write well, to speak up rationally and to coordinate a defense when required.
That's why today I feel so positive about the next 20 years of Perl Programming. Because:
“This is Our World and Perl is My Choice!”