How to spread knowledge: Just start talking

by Andy Lester

Not everyone has the time to write a book or a blog, or speak at conferences, but you can still help spread what you know. Just start talking.

Last night's Chicago Perl Mongers meeting was a good one. We had a bunch of new folks show up, and we had pseudo-lightning talks, so there was a lot of good interaction. In the strict sense, lightning talks are 5 minute talks, where you're given exactly 5 minutes and at the end of that time, you're done. When you only have 5 people doing lightning talks, you get lax with the timer.

My lightning talk was supposed to be talking about ack, my grep replacement for large heterogeneous source trees, but as other people did their talks, I kept adding little notes of things I wanted to mention.

I try to remember that not everyone who does Perl sits immersed in it 24/7, or maybe even do it as their primary programming activity. I try to do as much as I can to let people know cool things they can do that they might not have known about, just by mentioning them.

I discussed all of the following to some degree, and in every case, it was new information for at least one of the dozen people around the table.

  • ack
  • Why the CPAN is better than PEAR

    • Because the PEAR is regulated and you can only put stuff on it if it's approved and works well.
    • The CPAN thrives because of the unfettered uploading of shit, not in spite of it.

  • How to use Carp and $SIG{__WARN__} to dump stacktraces in modules you don't own.
  • Damian Conway's Perl Best Practices
  • Who's Damian Conway anyway?
  • Module::Starter
  • Writing Perl Modules For The CPAN, Sam Tregar's excellent book now available for free at
  • The CPAN shell

Next time you're at a group, speak up. If you talk about something that might not be universally known, ask. "Anyone here not heard of" The hands go up, and you can spend ten seconds saying "It's a public bookmarking site that lets you post your bookmarks where others can see them, and see what other people are bookmarking."

It's easy to do, and there's no better way to help spread knowledge.


james governor
2006-06-07 10:04:54
Excellent excellent advice. if you share knowledge it can spread.. simple.

i had been meaning to write a piece explaining a new concept - The Synchronised Web... i talked to a couple of people (and one adopbe developer audience) and they started writing pieces about it before i did...

2006-06-10 21:07:29
This is good advice. It's easy to worry about looking foolish for volunteering to explain something you think is obvious, but it's almost always worthwhile.
Ben Tremblay
2007-12-13 20:40:32
"because of the unfettered uploading of shit, not in spite of it"
heh ... nothing like stating the case w/o ambiguation! *grin*

Andy, for years my motto was "Speak your peace!" ... and it served the purpose. Not that I'm happy with the way forums and blogs have panned out, and not the the republic (and civil society) is safe, but if there's one thing that's gotta be said, that's just about it.

To spread knowledge ... since the days of cave-man TV (Yes, I mean the camp-fire.), that's what's woven us together: the sort of knowledge that's in-formed by personal bias and preference. (That's the foundation of my "participatory deliberation" ... a whole other kettle of fish.)

see you in LJ