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.
On Thursday we had the first London.pm tech meeting for a rather long time. But it was well worth the wait. We were at Net-A-Porter‘s very nice offices above the Westfield shopping centre. There were four interesting talks. Pete Sergeant talked about High Level Web Testing, Zefram explained the New Extensibility Features Coming in Perl 5.14, Dave Hodgkinson talked about using Perl, Hudson and Selenium together and finally James Laver introduced us to his form processing tool, Spark.
What impressed me most about the evening was the size of the turn-out. I’m told that eighty people signed up for the meeting and it seemed that most of them turned up. Perl is certainly thriving in London. In fact it seems that there are a number of companies who are struggling to find all of the Perl programmers that they need. A couple of the speakers ended with “we’re hiring” adverts.
And from a couple of conversations I had during the evening, it seems that the scarcity of good Perl in London is starting to push Perl rates up. Seems that it’s a pretty good time to be a Perl programmer in London.
Been a while since I’ve had time to post anything here, but I’ve just got time for three quick announcements.
1/ Last week I ran some public training courses. I’ve just put the slides online.
2/ There’s a London.pm technical meeting in two weeks time. It’s at Net-A-Porter (above the Westfield shopping centre) on
October March 10th. A good line-up of talks. If you’re interested, please sign up.
3/ I was going to explain how the context examples in my last post worked. If you haven’t worked it out yet, I recommend a close read of the documentation for reverse.
A couple of years ago I thought that one thing the Perl community was missing was a network of blog sites about Perl. I’m not talking about the individual blogs that are being shown off to such good effect by the Iron Man project, I’m talking about a set of multi-author blogs that covered particular facets of the Perl world. Something like a Perl-specific version of LifeHacker or BoingBoing. To that end, I registered a number of domains and set about installing Movable Type.
That bit was easy. That bit I can do. The next bit is harder.
The next bit involves getting authors interested in writing for the blogs on a regular basis. That bit I didn’t do so well at and none of the blogs florished.
One of them didn’t even get going. That was Cultured Perl. The idea behind Cultured Perl was that it would discuss Perl culture. That’s all the non-technical bits of the Perl world. Perl Mongers, Perl conferences, things like that. I had a few authors signed up, but nothing ever really happened.
So why am I telling you this? Well, the Cultured Perl domains are up for renewal. And I’m trying to work out whether it’s worth keeping them.
Would you be interested in reading a Cultured Perl blog? And would you be interested in writing for it?
In The “M” Word, I listed many of the things that have happened in the Perl marketing world over the last year. I wanted to end the year by mentioning a few people without whom this project would not have got off the ground at all.
- Curtis “Ovid” Poe started writing about Perl’s image issues on his use.perl journal back in July. But he didn’t just write about it. He chaired the Marketing BOF that we held in Lisbon and he was the driving force behind setting up the TPF marketing committee. He has also been instrumental in getting the blogs.perl.org site up and running.
- Gábor Szabó wasn’t very far behind Ovid in starting to blog about marketing. He has also been vociferous in TPF marketing committee discussions. He always has another idea for projects we can take on and often does those projects himself before anyone else has a chance to volunteer. I particularly want to draw attention to the clean-up he did on pm.org (a site full of links to dead Perl Monger groups isn’t great advertising) and his work trying to increase Perl’s visibility at non-Perl conferences.
- Matt Trout and Mark Keating set up the Iron Man Blogging competition. To my mind this has been the single biggest success in marketing Perl this year. I’m still astonished daily by the number of people out there who are blogging about Perl. They have somewhere around two hundred blogs in the competition.
- Leo Lapworth has done some amazing work dragging Perl’s web sites into the 21st century. Not many weeks go by without Leo announcing that he has redesigned another web site. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of his announcements, but for a sample of his work see www.perl.org, learn.perl.org, dbi.perl.org and lists.perl.org. Thanks should also go to his employers, Foxtons, who donated some of his time (and some time from a web designer too).
Of course it’s true that the recent resurgence of Perl is due to the new and improved modules that you can find on CPAN. Moose, DBIx::Class, Catalyst and Plack (to name only four) are what enables Perl to retain its place in the forefront of modern programming languages. But it’s the people listed above (and dozens of other who also work on marketing projects) who enable Perl news to break out of the echo chamber.
We owe these people our thanks. And, on a more practical level, we owe them beer. If you see them at a Perl Mongers meeting, at a conference or even just on the street, it is your duty to stop them and say the magic words:
“Hi. Thanks for your work. Can I buy you a beer?”
It’s ten days since we announced blogs.perl.org and it still doesn’t work properly.
Our mistake was to launch it on a really underpowered server. It worked fine when there were half a dozen of us testing it out, but when the entire Perl community descended on it to take a look at the site (and to sign up for accounts) the server collapsed under the strain.
All of the problems that I’ve been told about so far have been down to memory allocation issues. The server has 512 MB (corrected from KB – it’s bad, but not that bad!) of RAM and it really needs four times that.
Things have calmed down over the last few days though. I suspect that’s largely because people have lost interest in the site and have given up trying to register. We’ve also switched all of the MT processes to using FCGI. I see that a few people have registered successfully and are posting entries on the site. I salute their persistence.
We have a plan for fixing the situation, however, and that will be put in place over the next week or so. The site will be moving to a new server with a more appropriate hardware configuration. We hope to minimise the amount of downtime whilst this happens.
I can only apologise, once more, for the problems. I hope that once the new server is up and running, you’ll all consider giving blogs.perl.org another try.
I hope it’s obvious, but none of these problems should be taken as a reflection on the quality of Movable Type or the work that Six Apart have done for us on the site. The problems all come down to capacity planning on the part of the people running the project.
Which reminds me – if you’re ever looking for someone to do capacity planning on your web site, I’m not the right person for the job!
It’s quite possible that over the last year or so you’ve heard me muttering about a secret project that I’ve been working on. Well, this morning I can finally reveal what it is.
Do you ever wish that the Perl community had a centralised blogging site where anyone could set up a blog for free? Something, perhaps, that allows you to use modern blogging features like images in your posts or tags.
If you’ve ever wished for something like that, then can I suggest that you take a look at blogs.perl.org. I think it might be just what you’re looking for.
The site is built using Movable Type and we were lucky enough to get some people from Six Apart to build it for us. I’d like to particularly thank Steve Cook of their professional services division who has done a lot of the actual work. Thanks also go to Jeremy King who designed the site and David Jacobs who is their manager and allowed them to work on the project on company time.
From the Perl community I need to thanks Aaron Crane who is hosting the site and Curtis Poe and Aristotle Pagaltzis who have both been involved in planning this project. Many other people have given invaluable advice or have been early testers of the site. Thanks to everyone who has been involved.
All that remains now is for you to try it out. You should regard it as a beta test version, so some of you will find problems. When you do, please just let me know and we’ll fix them.
I hope you enjoy the site and find it useful.
Update: Yes, there seems to be one quite glaring problem with it. That’s the web server errors that are generated occasionally when someone tries to log in (or out). Seems to be a resource allocation issue with the server. We’re looking into it. Please bear with me.
One of the nice things about the Perl community is its friendliness. I’ve met up with Perl Mongers on three continents. It’s easy, if you’re going past a city you just look for local groups on the pm.org web site and drop them a mail. There are hundreds of cities in the world where I can be guaranteed finding someone to share a beer or a pizza with.
And over the next few days I’m going to see both sides of that equation.
Tonight there’s a london.pm emergency meeting. The emergency is that there are a couple of visitors in town and it would be rude if we didn’t entertain them. The visitors are David Adler (dha) from New York and Gianni Ceccarelli (dakkar) from Italy. We’ll be in the Star Tavern from about 6:30pm.
Then over the weekend I’ll be in Edinburgh. And that means spending an evening with edinburgh.pm. I’ll be meeting them at the Cumberland Bar at about 7pm on Sunday.
You would, of course, be most welcome at either of these events.
And the next time you’re travelling the world (or even just travelling round your country) why not give it a try. Get in touch with a Perl Monger group and let some locals show you around,
It’s coming up to ten days since my last post and if I don’t post something soon my Iron Man status will drop back to paper. And we don’t want that to happen, do we? But I don’t have anything new to write about. My spare time recently has been largely taken up by preparing the training courses for later this month.
What I do have is a bit of a teaser for you. A project that I’ve been involved with for over a year will be launching in the next few days. I think it’s something that the Perl community is really going to love. I’m so excited!
Are teasers considered cheating in the Iron Man challenge?
It seems that the Perl Monks database has been compromised through some kind of security hole on the server that hosts it. That would, of course, be bad enough. But it seems that the user passwords in that database were stored in plain text. So whoever got the database, got access to the passwords of every user. Some of those passwords (those belonging to the saints and the janitors) have been shared publically. And changing your password might not help as the original vulnerability hasn’t been plugged yet so the same people could grab any password that you change it to.
More details will probably appear on Perl Monks once they’ve worked out what they are going to say. But there is some discussion starting up here.
I’m astonished that I still have to repeat this, but please take this advice:
- If you’re running a site, do not store passwords in plain text
- If you’re using a site, do not use the same password as you use on other sites