Many people are discovering that the scripting language Perl is the most useful language for getting many computing tasks done. In this article Dave Cross takes a brief look at Perl Mailing Lists.
This article first appeared in the December 1999 issue of the online Perl magazine PerlMonth (which no longer seems to be online).
Note: All of the articles in the RTFM series are really old. It’s likely that many of the links no longer work. I’m leaving these articles online for historical reasons, but these days you should visit perl.org for links to the best current Perl resources.
Over that last few months I’ve covered most of the ways that you get information to help you with your Perl programming. There is one major source of information left. Mailing lists.
Mailing lists are a great way to get information about a particular area of interest. The way it works is that you send an email to the mailing list administrator asking to join the list (most of the time this will be an automated process). You’ll get a confirmation email back, explaining how the list works. One of the pieces of information in this email will be the email address where you should send emails that you want distributed to the group. Any mails that you send to this address are copied to everyone who has subscribed to the list. Anyone who replies to the mail will also see their reply copied to everyone one the list (OK, so strictly speaking this behaviour is a configuration option on the list management software, I’m just describing how most lists seem to work these days). One slight difference to this procedure that is becoming more common is the ability to subscribe to mailing lists across the Web.
Like the newgroups that I discussed a couple of months ago, one of the strengths of mailing lists are that they are focussed (although the strength of some mailing lists – like one I’m on called (void) – is that they are very unfocussed!). This means that you have to be careful that you are sending your email to the right list. Sending, for example, a basic CGI question to the Perl5 Porters list will make you very unpopular, whereas sending the same question to the WWW Scripts list will get you a far more sympathetic response.
Bearing these points in mind, let’s have a brief look around some of the most useful Perl mailing lists.
General Perl Lists
These lists will probably be of interest to anyone who is using Perl.
Perl 5 Porters
This is where you can follow the work that is going on to create new versions of Perl and fix bugs in current ones. Most of the subscribers to this list are involved in actually writing the Perl source code. Much of the discussion can be very involved, but also interesting if you want to know which direction Perl is going in.
If you want to join the list, then send an email to email@example.com
You should be aware that this is a very high volume list, so you might be better off reading the archives at http://www.egroups.com/group/perl5-porters/ or, even better, Mark-Jason Dominus’ weekly summary at http://www.perl.com/pub/q/archivep5p
There is also a Perl 6 Porters list which discusses a planned port of the Perl 5 source code to C++.
This list discusses Perl advocacy. This involves finding better ways to present Perl to the outside world. A lot of the postings are about success stories that people have had implementing systems in Perl, but the list also discusses more abstract concepts.
To subscribe to this list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an announcement list, which means that you can’t post to it. You can only receive posts from it. What you get is a daily (or almost daily) digest of the biggest news in the world of Perl. This news always includes a list of any modules that have been released to CPAN.
To subscribe to this list, send an email to email@example.com.
Perl Mongers Lists
Most of the Perl Mongers groups have a mailing list. This is a great way to keep in touch with Perl programmers in your local area. There are hundreds of of Perl Mongers groups all over the world. If you haven’t found your nearest one yet, then look it up at http://www.pm.org/groups.shtml.
I should probably point out that many Perl Mongers groups are primarily social groups, so whilst their mailing lists will occasionally veer towards Perl, you are more likely to find a discussion on which pub they want to meet in. But that’s no bad thing, right?
There are a couple of lists dedicated to discussing the documentation set that comes with Perl.
- perl-documentation is for the discussion of the text that appears in the Perl documentation.
- pod-people is for the people who are writng software that either creates or parses Perl POD (plain old documentation) files. This list also discusses extensions to the POD format.
To join either of these lists, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Operating System Based Lists
Perl will run on most operating systems. There are a number of mailing lists dedicated to getting thee best out of Perl on various operating systems.
Most of the Win32 Perl lists are run by ActiveState (the company that produces ActivePerl – the version of Perl for Windows). You can subscribe to these lists from the web interface athttp://www.activestate.com/support/mailing_lists.htm.
- Perl-Win32-Announce is an announcement only list used to announce new versions of ActivePerl and its associated products.
- Perl-Win32-Users is a general list for discussion of miscellaneous Win32 Perl issues.
- Perl-Win32-Porters is a list for discussion of the problems of porting Perl to the Win32 environment.
- Perl-Win32-Admin is for the discussion of the use of Perl in administrating Win32 systems.
- Perl-Win32-Web is for the discussion of CGI programming and other web-related topics.
- Perl-Win32-Database is for the discussion of database connectivity issues.
There are a number of MacPerl mailing lists which are run fromhttp://www.macperl.org/mpo/depts/mlists.html. You can subscribe to any of the lists from a form on this page.
- macperl is a general MacPerl discussion list.
- macperl-announce carries announcements of interest to MacPerl users.
- macperl-anyperl discusses cross-platform Perl issues.
- macperl-forum is an open forum for the discussion of anything about Macs, Apple, Perl, etc.
- firstname.lastname@example.org is about creating and using modules under MacPerl.
- macperl-porters discusses porting Perl to the Mac.
- macperl-toolbox is for discussions about the Macintosh Toolbox.
- macperl-webcgi is for discussions about CGI programming and other web issues.
Other Operating Systems
Other operating-system specific lists include:
- VMS-Perl for the discussion of Perl on VMS.
To subscribe, send a mail to email@example.com.
- Perl-MVS for the discussion of Perl on MVS.
To subscribe, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Perl-RTOS for the discussion of Perl on Real Time operating Systems.
To subscribe, send a mail to email@example.com.
Focussed Mailing Lists
These lists focus on on one particular area that Perl is used in.
Perl & XML
This list is for the discussion of using Perl to process and create XML. The authors of most of the major XML modules are on this list so you can usually get the definitive answer to your problem.
This list is administered by ActiveState, so you can subscribe via the web interface athttp://www.activestate.com/support/mailing_lists.htm.
Databases & Perl
There are a number of lists dedicated to the discussion of the Perl database interface (DBI). you can subscribe to the three lists mentioned below at http://dbi.perl.org/support/.
- dbi-announce is an announcement only list for announcements about DBI.
- dbi-users is the main DBI discussion list. If you have a question about using DBI, then this would be a good place to ask it.
- dbi-dev is list aimed at people who are developing DBI or DBD (database driver) code. Most people shouldn’t need to subscribe to this list.
There are a number of mailing lists dedicated to CGI programming. The one that I subscribe to is the WWW-Scripts list. This list was formed to support users of Matt Wright’s CGI scripts and as such can certainly get very ‘interesting’. If you’re interested in helping spread the ‘good Perl’ word into the enemy’s camp, then please join the list by sending an email containing the line
I hope that this column has given you some more ideas of where to get help and advice with your Perl programming. I look forward to meeting some of you on the lists that I’m subscribed to.
RTFM has been running for some months now and I believe that in that time I’ve covered just about all of the types of information available about Perl. Next month I’d like to review what we’ve covered and point out any omissions that I’ve made, so if you know of any good web sites, mailing lists, books, newsgroups or any other kind of information about Perl then please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.