Category Archives: Community

Perl Recruitment Thoughts

Not many weeks go by when I don’t hear of another Perl-using company that has been evaluating alternative technologies. In most cases, it’s not because they think that Perl is a bad language to use. The most common reason I hear is that it is becoming harder and harder to find good Perl programmers.

On Quora I recently saw a question asking what job opportunities were like for Perl programmers. This is how I answered:

Right now is a good time to be a Perl programmer. Perl is losing mindshare. Very few new Perl programmers are arriving on the scene and quite a lot of former Perl programmers have moved away from the language to what they see as more lucrative, enjoyable or saleable languages.

But there are still a lot of companies with a lot of Perl code. That all needs to be maintained and enhanced. And many of those companies continue to write new projects in Perl too.

All of which means that it’s a seller’s market for good Perl skills. That won’t last forever, of course. To be honest, I’d be surprised if it lasts for more than five or ten years (well, unless Perl 6 takes off quickly). But it’ll do me for the next few years at least.

I’m putting a positive spin on it, but it’s getting to be a real problem. More programmers abandon Perl, that makes it harder to find good Perl programmers, which makes it more likely that companies will abandon Perl, which leads to fewer Perl jobs and more programmers decide to abandon Perl. It’s a vicious circle.

I’m not sure how we get to the root of that problem, but do have some suggestions for on particular area. A client recently asked my for suggestions on how they can improve their hit rate for recruiting good Perl programmers. My suggestions all revolved about making your company better known in the Perl community (because that’s where many of the better Perl programmers are).

I know that many of the Perl-using companies already know this. But in the interests of levelling the playing field, I thought was worth sharing some of my suggestions.

Perl Mongers Social Meetings

Do you have a local Perl Mongers group? If so, they almost certainly have monthly social meetings. And in many cases they will welcome a company that puts a few quid behind the bar for drinks at one of those meetings. For smaller groups (and there are many smaller groups) you might even offer to buy them dinner.

It’s worth contacting them before doing this. Just turning up and flashing your money around might be seen as rude. And some groups might object to this kind of commercialisation. But it’s always worth asking.

Perl Mongers Technical Meeting

Some Perl Mongers groups have technical meetings (either instead of or as well as social meetings). In this case, instead of meeting in a pub (or bar or restaurant), they’ll meet in the offices of a friendly local company and some of the members will give presentations to the group. Many groups struggle to find venues for these kinds of meetings. Why not offer your office? And perhaps throw in some pizza and beer.

Perl Workshop

The next step up from technical meetings is Perl workshops. Many Perl Mongers groups organise annual one-day workshops. There can be many talks taking place across a number of tracks over the course of (usually) a day. The organisers often like to make these events free (mainly, it seems, because charging for stuff like this adds a whole new layer of complexity). But it’s not free to put on these events so they rely heavily on sponsors. Can you help pay for the venue? Or the printing? Or the catering? Different events will have different opportunities available. Contact the organisers.

YAPC

Workshops are national and (usually) one-day events. YAPC are international conferences that span many days. They have all the same requirements, but bigger. So they need more money. And, of course, sponsors can be at the conference telling potential employees just how wonderful it is to work for them.

The Perl Foundation

The Perl Foundation are the organisation that promotes Perl, holds various Perl trademarks and hosts many Perl web sites. They issue grants for people to work on various Perl-related projects. They never have enough money. They love companies who donate money to them as thanks for the benefit that Perl brings. How much you donate is up to you, but as a guide, most announcements seem to be in the $10,000 range.

In each of these cases, the idea is really to show the Perl community how much you value Perl by helping various Perl organisations to organise events that raise people’s awareness of Perl. Everyone wins. The sponsors get seen as good people to work for and the events themselves demonstrate that modern Perl is still a great language.

So the next time someone in your company asks how they can find good Perl people, consider a different approach. Can you embed your company in the conciousness of the Perl community and make yourselves look more attractive to some of the best Perl programmers in the world?

London Perl Mongers Meeting

I thought you might be interested in a couple of events that the London Perl Mongers have coming up in the next couple of months.

Technical Meeting

24th July 2014, Conway Hall
Currently, four talks have been announced.

  • Thomas Klausner (domm) from Vienna.pm is going to talk about OX & AngularJS
  •  Alex Balhatchet is going to talk about his rewrite of Ovid’s Test::Kit module
  • Mike Francis will tell us about creating a RESTful database frontend with Web::Simple & Web::Machine and how annoying that was
  • Dave Cross will natter about Github, Travis-CI and Perl

Meetup event / Facebook event / Lanyrd event

Hackday

20th September 2014, London Hackspace
This is a new experiment for us. Do you want to hang out with some Perl Mongers and hack on one of your current projects? Or do you want to find a Perl project to hack on? Then come and join us at the London Hackspace in September.

Meetup event / Facebook event / Lanyrd event

Hope to see you at one or both of these event.

The Return of blogs.perl.org

About an hour ago we turned blogs.perl.org back on. There’s also a blog post where we explain what happened in a lot more detail.

If you have an account on the site then you will have received an email explaining what you need to do now. Basically, we’ve invalidated all of the passwords so you’ll need to ask the system for a new one.

Sorry again for the inconvenience. And huge thanks to the rest of the blogs.perl.org team (particularly Aaron Crane) for fixing this.

blogs.perl.org

It seems that last night blogs.perl.org was hacked. I first became aware of it when someone pointed me at this story a few hours ago. As you’ll see, the contents of the mt_author table have been made public.

We’re still investigating the extent of the hack. But, as a precaution, we have configured the site so that all dynamic pages return a 404 response. This will, unfortunately, prevent you from logging on to the site.

We will publish more information when we have it.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

Update:

  • As I said, the mt_author table was leaked
  • This contains both your username and password
  • The password is salted and encrypted (with crypt)
  • If you use your blogs.perl.org password elsewhere, we strongly recommend that you change it

Update 2:
Here’s a cut-down version of the published data that includes only the name columns. Hopefully you can use this to work out whether or not you have an account on the system.

Perl Search Revisited

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about a Google Custom Search that I had set up to create a specialised search engine for Perl.

Recently I’ve revisited this idea. I’ve given the search engine its own subdomain and I’ve added some new sites to the list of sites that it covers. I’ve also given it a simplified look (thanks Bootstrap) and it’s now being hosted on Github pages.

It lives at http://search.perlhacks.com/. Please give it a try and let me know what you think.

A WordPress Critter

Perl News - Powered by WordPress
Perl News – Powered by WordPress

If you were at YAPC::Europe this week you might well have seen Richard Jelinek’s talk about how to increase Perl’s popularity (update: the slides are here). As part of that talk he suggested that the Perl community needed to run more of its infrastructure using Perl and (amongst other examples) he mentioned a discussion he had with an unnamed Perl News administrator about why Perl News is run using WordPress (which is written in PHP).

I’m happy to admit that I’m the unnamed Perl News administrator. But I think that Richard’s report of our conversation omits a lot of the detail in the points I tried to make to him. So I’d like to take the time to clarify my thoughts on this. There are three points in particular that I’d like to make.

1/ Multitasking

I have a lot of projects on the go. I should probably cut back a bit. Yes, I could start a project to create a WordPress clone in Perl, but that would mean that I would need to shelve a few other projects for some considerable time. The alternative is to quickly build Perl News using an existing tool. You know which option I chose. Of course, you’re free to disagree with me.

2/ Network Effects

Even if there was a capable WordPress replacement written in Perl I probably wouldn’t use it. You see, WordPress isn’t just the software. There’s also a huge community behind it. And that means that there are a huge number of themes and plugins available – with more being released all the time. Every time I want to add a feature to WordPress site, I just find the appropriate plugin and install it. Without that huge community, I would have to implement lots of stuff myself. Which would mean that either I’d be working on Perl News full-time or Perl News would be missing lots of features (for example the social networking hooks).

Don’t forget that I’m also involved in running blogs.perl.org. That runs on Movable Type (which is written in Perl). And have you seen the list of issues that we have with that site?

3/ Patches Welcome

Leo and I built Perl News because we thought it was a useful site for the Perl community to have. You can probably tell from the frequency of updates on the site that it’s not exactly a top priority for either of us. Personally, I’d be very happy if someone else took responsibility for it. So if you think that you can do better, or if you have a Perl system that you think could be used in place of WordPress without any removal of functionality, them please let us know. I’d be really happy to give you a dump of our database (so that you have all the existing stories) and update the DNS to point the domain at your server.

If it matters to you to have Perl web sites running on Perl code, then just go ahead and do it. I would be happy to see it happen. I just don’t have the time to do it myself.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Does Saint Pierre and Miquelon mean anything to you? It’s a small French-owned territory just off the coast of Newfoundland.

Why would this be of any interest on a Perl blog? Well, it’s a French territory with it’s own ccTLD. And that ccTLD is .pm.

Ever since Perl Mongers started we’ve looked longingly at that TLD, thinking how cool it would be to own a .pm domain. But domain registration in .pm is run by the French registry, AFNIC and for at least the last thirteen years they have refused all registrations under that domain. This made many Perl Mongers very sad.

But that is about to change. It appears that from 6th December, AFNIC are going to open registrations under a number of their previously suspended domains – including .pm. I think you’ll need to be in the EU in order to register a .pm domain, but I don’t think that will be a huge problem.

And it’s not just for Perl Monger groups. You’ll also be able to have domains for your favourite Perl modules too (or, at least, the ones without ‘::’ in their names).

Which .pm domains do you have your eye on? And what are you going to do with it.

Maybe one year we should have YAPC::NA in Saint Pierre and Miquelon and YAPC::EU in Poland.

Perl Tutorial

Google Reader just showed me Mithaldu’s blog post about the falling level of Google searches for the term “perl tutorial“. The fall is, of course, more than a little worrying and we should do what we can to get more people searching for Perl. But I wondered what results Google is currently returning for this search. It’s not a pretty sight.

  • The first two results are for Nik Silver’s Perl tutorial from about twenty years ago. I know Nik and I know that he would be horrified to think that people were trying to learn Perl from this site. Nik has been responsible and left a clear notice at the top of the page stating how out of date it is and I understand him wanting to leave the page there for historical interest. But I still see questions on places like Stack Overflow from people who are obviously using this tutorial.
  • The next link is to a site at perltutorial.org. That sounds encouraging, but it’s a rather pedestrian affair teaching dated and simplistic Perl and written by someone whose first language clearly isn’t English.
  • The next result is to tiztag.com. It’s about as good as you’d expect from a site that insists on calling the language “PERL”.
  • Next, we finally get to something worth using. It’s a link to the free online version of Simon Cozens’ book Beginning Perl. That’s good – but it’s still a little dated.
  • Next we get to Robert’s Perl Tutorial. Which proudly boasts it was last updated on 20th April 1999. That’ll be up to date then.
  • The next result is BradleyKuhn’s book Picking Up Perl. This was an attempt to produce an open source Perl tutorial book. It was a worthwhile project, but it was last updated in 2002.
  • The next result is one that finally links to perl.com. It’s an article by Doug Sheppard called Beginner’s Introduction to Perl. I bet it was great when it was first published in October 2000.
  • Towards the bottom of the list there are two links to Gabor’s recent (current?) Perl tutorial series. These are probably the only links on the list that we should be sharing with people wanting to learn Perl.
  • Finally, there’s the NCSA Perl Tutorial. At least this page has realised that it is out of date and has closed down. Unfortunately the alternative sites that it suggests are of variable quality.

So there it is. The first page of results is of rather variable quality. There’s some great stuff there, some good but dated stuff and some dreadful stuff. But I’m sure there are better Perl tutorials out there. It would be great if the first link returned by Google was to learn.perl.org. But what other sites should be on the list? What good Perl tutorial resources do you know of?

Have I just given all those dreadful sites a healthy boost of Googlejuice by linking to them?

Moving Stuff Around

A few weeks ago I talked about a few domains that I was going to let lapse unless anyone wanted to do anything with them.

No-one showed any interest so the domains will go away over the next few months.

But in order to hang on to the content, I spend a couple of hours last night moving some stuff around.

The stuff from perlvogue.com is now at perlhacks.com/perlvogue and the old proudtouseperl.com content is now at proud.perlhacks.com. I’m still holding out hope that I’ll find some people to resurrect Proud to Use Perl at some point in the future.

I’ve also set up redirections from the old addresses to the new ones – so hopefully Google will work out what has happened before the domains vanish off the web.

The perlfive.com and perlfive.org domains weren’t being used for anything, so I’m just going to let them die quietly.

I’ve never let so many domains expire before. I feel I’m growing as a person.

Perl News

Remember use.perl? It’s moth-balled now, but for years it provided two valuable services to the Perl community.

Firstly it provided a hosted blog platform which many people used to write about many things – sometimes even Perl. Of course we now have blogs.perl.org which provides a very similar service.

And secondly, it provided a place where people could submit stories related to Perl and then editors would approve the stories and publish them on the front page. Since use.perl closed down, the Perl community hasn’t really had a centralised site for that.

Over the last eighteen months or so I’ve had conversations with people about building a site that replaced that part of use.perl. But there’s always been something more interesting to work on.

Then, at  the start of this week, Leo asked if I knew of a good Perl news feed that he could use on the front page of perl.org. And I realised that I’d been putting it off so too long. A few hours of WordPress configuration and Perl News was ready to go.

So if you have any interesting Perl news to share, please submit it to the site.