Perl Teach-In

by Dave Cross

Yesterday was the Perl Teach-In at the BBC. People have been saying for months (years probably) that Perl is dying. If that's true, then I'd like to know why the fifty places on the course were fully booked in less than two days and why another forty people signed up to be on the waiting list.

Perl certainly isn't dead. On the contrary, the demand for Perl programmers in London is greater than I've seen it for many years - just take a look at the archives for's jobs mailing list.

So that's why fifty or so Perl programmers were willing to spend one of the hottest Saturdays of the year hidden away in a BBC conference room listening to me talking about Perl. It was particularly gratifying to see that most of them were people that weren't already involved in or any part of the Perl community. It's always been my belief that the majority of people who use Perl regularly aren't part of the Perl community - so it was good to be able to reach out to some of these people and encourage them to join us.

The day seemed to be successful. Pretty much everyone told me that they enjoyed themselves and that they found it useful. That makes it very likely that something similar will happen again in the future. But no firm plans have been made yet.

I've put the slides online and they're under a Creative Commons licence so that anyone else can use them to run a similar course in their city. The presentation was also recorded (well, until the microphone batteries ran out twenty minutes before the end) and those recordings will go online at some point in the next week or so.

All in all, I'm very pleased with how it all went. It was an interesting experiment and I'm glad that it all worked out so well. Thanks to all the attendees for turning up and to and BBC Backstage for their help in organising the event.


2007-06-04 05:49:36
Do it again, please.
2007-06-04 07:35:03
Great stuff, I'm curious, after you go on for like 10 pages in the OO section about the dangers of mistyped attributes, and using a hash as the underlying data structure of an object that you don't mention Fields. Moving the object transparently to an array with named attributes that are verifiable at compile time is almost a must in production level code (where the test case doesn't hit the one subroutine with the misspelled attribute name).

Never heard of Devel::Cover, going to look into it thanks to you!

Simon Hibbs
2007-06-04 11:32:09
Many thanks for the session Dave, I enjoyed it very much.

A few things are hurting Perl's image right now. The fact that Perl 6 has taken so long is understandable, but frustrating. Also there are a number of other dynamic (P|R) languages around that have matured a lot in the last few years. Back in the 90s Perl was the only realy viable scripting language, but like many other people I picked up some Python and have been using that a bit recently.

In my new job several people use Perl, so I'm dusting off my Perl skills and the training day was agret way to bring me up to date with best practices in modern Perl and re-contact the community. I look forward to using Perl productively again.

Joe Cumming
2007-06-05 01:32:52
This was a great initiative and one that should be supported. Well done again to Dave for making it happen.

I'd like also to bring up again the issue of perl "dying". It's true that perl is not dying but it is also true that it is in decline. To ask a similar question to Dave, if Perl is in such rude health why do we have to give away free training sessions? As Simon rightly says, there are other dynamic languages which have stolen a march on Perl in recent years.

It could be that the long wait for Perl6 means that people have been reluctant to invest in something that they see as uncertain or bound to change. Certainly, the meandering state of Perl6 makes me feel that it is more in the realms of an academic exercise than a working language.

So what to do?

I don't think it is realistic to try to push for a Perl6 release. I think somehow the profile of Perl in general needs to be raised. Dave has done a good job of this with his course. How can we build on this? Hackathon, perlathon, what?

More importantly the profile and reputation of Perl has to be raised in the corporate arena. I once spent a year pleading with an old employer to replace a 10000 line slow, clunky java system with 100 lines of Perl. No dice, it was not an 'accepted' language.

That's what we need to change. When business is back on board we will have the drivers and momentum to grow the language and community. But, how to do it?

Aaron TEEJAY Trevena
2007-06-06 03:41:56
Joe Said :
"I'd like also to bring up again the issue of perl 'ying'. It's true that perl is not dying but it is also true that it is in decline. To ask a similar question to Dave, if Perl is in such rude health why do we have to give away free training sessions? As Simon rightly says, there are other dynamic languages which have stolen a march on Perl in recent years."

I think the need for the teach-in is due to the nature of Perl and the Perl community. Perl is grass-roots driven rather than top-down - Perl has always been the cinderella of programming languages, so the community steps up to the mark where commerical languages have vendors to back them and python and ruby have sugardaddies like Google and 37signals.

I think you are mistaken to claim that it is in decline :
* CPAN usage and growth has accelerated, while "quality" has improved at the same time, with increased use of unit tests, documentation/test coverage and extra features like cpanrantings, rt, etc that no other language repository comes close to.
* The number of perl packages and applications in linux distributions has exploded
* The number of jobs advertised is the highest it has been since the boom at the turn of the century (but with viable companies, more experienced developers, and better tools) .. In fact the teach-in was a direct response to people trying to recruit more senior developers - the community stepping in when business didn't (although you can get commerical Perl training from many Perl luminaries like Dave Cross, StoneHenge, TheDamian, MJD as well as general training companies like gbdirect and learning tree (who have been recruiting additional Perl trainers)).

As for Python and Ruby stealing a march on Perl - the numbers don't back it up - the combined number of jobs doing either is less than the month to month variation of languages like Perl, PHP or Java, there are very few Python or Ruby user groups in the UK, a small fraction of the number for Perl or Java.

2007-06-07 01:22:34
I dont believe its dying there are a few people using it. But those few are really knowledgeable