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Why am I giving up on Perl?

🌌 Sébastien Feugère ☔
Can opener of a 11yo cat.I love Perl a lot but would also take care of your servers. Looking at a snake.
Updated on ・5 min read

I started using Perl in 2010. After years of a passionate use, I start to plan something else. Disclaimer: this is not because of "the language".

Note: at the end of August, after the publication of this post, some very helpful persons came to me and the situation changed quite a bit. More on this later...

It is a real career issue

In my country of living, getting a Perl job is a real problem. I worked the last four years in a small team where all the projects were done using Perl and Mojolicious. As far as I know, even if I got fired for economic reasons linked to pandemic situation, all the applications I deployed there are still working well despite they are not maintained anymore (ouch).

Then, what I saw since March on the jobs market is: there is a niche of companies or organizations that still do an active use of Perl. What I notice is that they are all thinking of switching to other platform (maybe they are right, after all this is something that seem to go on since 15 years), and that there is no way new projects are developed with Perl. What I felt by talking with a CTO is that she hadn't any more trust with Perl: she was not able to recruit people. Therefore, they are hiding the Perl aspect in the jobs offers and then have even more difficulties finding people. Then, when they find some persons, they would even decide that, maybe, they should hire someone more versatile. And that person will be sad, maintaining some Perl, can you imagine this hell?

I mean, this is a kind of very sad waste.

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I missed two opportunities based on the fact that I was not a polyglot enough. I know Java, JavaScript, Perl, quite enough of various web technologies like HTML and CSS, but still, I don't know something like Go, Python, you know this stuff is real trendy! I don't value the idea of polyglotism a lot, because I prefer to focus on something, and also, I am not really able to learn a lot of programming languages. I know this is not a very popular opinion, and now I feel like in trouble. So I'll try to improve myself.

It would still be possible to switch to Raku. This is a fantastic language, and I would really like to involve myself into it, but seriously, I need to pay my bills. I mean, the probability to find a Raku job in my country is... Small?

Lack of gender equality and diversity in the communities

The Perl communities are dominated by mostly men. There are rare persons who advocate for diversity and inclusivity, but honestly, if it exists at some conferences, it is not what is spread by the communities: just check the stats of Perl Weekly contributors or other popular Perl cultural items, this is the same-old men-leaded-content everywhere with very little exceptions.

If I decide to go away from this community, I will at least contribute to reduce the gender gap. Plus, it will be one grumpy person less.

Recent communities issues are awfully worrying

Perl has a number of toxic community members, this is not new. They are armful to other, and I got very shocked of some events that happened recently. I'll focus here exclusively on the victims.

Sawyer X, pumpkin of Perl since 2016 resigned of their responsibilities after being victim of harassment. It is unacceptable that a person enduring such responsibilities are bullied by communities members.

Wendy totally vanished of the Perl communities after years of active quality work for the advocacy of Perl. I am totally sure I would have never been interested in Perl that much without Wendy. She encouraged me, her talks and the way she was engaged marked me forever. She gave me a Learning Perl book copy, and sent me to Curtis Ovid Poe to ask for a signature. Meeting her was a major event in my Perl career, and I made a very good use of this gift. From what I understood, it was partly the Raku renaming that took her away, but I suppose it is more the talks and difficult interactions that happened at this time. I don't know where you are now, Wendy, and how you are doing, but I wanted to thank you.

The Mojolicious community recently denounced a racist issue in a CPAN distribution to TPF, and after it didn't get answered accurately, pointed a conflict of interest inside TPF itself. Result: nothing.

All those, and the lack of reactions from the communities members, continuing to do their release and challenges and blog posts as if everything was going fine, all of this made me sick. And you know what? I don't even want to participate in this a lot, even if I will always love the language in itself and have a good memory of my time around Perl, and it's communities. I guess I have been marked by a very small amount of personalities, that inspired me a lot of love and motivation, but what I am seeing right now, this is not where I want to be.

Modern Perl, Perl7, Corinna

All this is very exciting, seriously, I mean it. When the Perl7 announcement came, I felt really, something will be going to happen. Then I saw all the discourse and the doubt it created, and I got afraid.

In 2021, I feel like that there are a lot of codebases that still didn't incorporate the Modern Perl ideas. It's rare to see usages of subroutines signatures, even if the feature is (experimentally) around since 2015.

Corinna, and its possible implementation, Object::Pad looks to progress real well, and I am almost sure it will be usable soon.

Conclusion

But still, I am not patient enough, and I need to get a job: unfortunately, it looks like managers and CTOs lost the confidence in Perl, and that Perl codebases should be only fixed: new code should be written in other languages. Again, this is only what I saw in France, maybe it is different in other countries, and this is not what I wish, since I have been a Perl enthusiast since 2010, and wrote new web applications 100% with Perl in the 4 last years. I wish I could find more context for this incomprehensible Perl love, but for the above reasons, I'll have to go search somewhere else. It must be a good decision, I guess...

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Note: I received lots of support and advices after posting this. I am grateful to the people who helped me.

Discussion (12)

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davehodg profile image
Dave Hodgkinson

I feel your pain. I've been tooling up and getting certified in Python for a year, and have had contracts that were tangentially python. Last job search I was about to take a python contract and then suddenly a Perl job jumped out at me at the best salary I've ever had. So don't lose hope! Perl is still out there and recruitment is still happening.

In my opinion, Perl has become a spanner. Everyone is expected to be able to bumble along in it while being expert in something else whether it's kubernetes, Docker, Ansible, AWS or something else that helps a company get their job done. I've done ruby in a Perl shop as a proof of concept.

Don't lose hope!

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brianwisti profile image
Brian Wisti

Pretty much exactly the same scenario that has been keeping me at a polite distance from the Perl family of languages lately.

The opportunities are few and far between. When they do show up you have to evaluate whether you want to be part of the Perl community as it is today. Ancient grudges have hardened into battle lines.

Then there's the tech itself. Cor is an admirable effort, and Object::Pad is an amazing test case. But even if somehow everybody got over themselves and brought it in today, would I see it in production before I retire? I'm getting old, so that's a serious question. Heck, it's still a guess whether I'll see use strict in a 2021 production codebase. The only Raku code I've seen at work is my own utility scripts, and none of those survive when I move on ^_^

Anyways, best of luck to you. If you do want the Perl jobs, you're gonna have to stretch out for international remote work. The good news is that as lesser companies drop Perl, those that remain look promising if you've got the patience.

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mschienle profile image
Mike Schienle

I just went through the same thing. I've been using Perl since 1998 and was working the same Perl-based project since 2004, more or less. I was jettisoned early this year and spent about 6 months looking for Perl and/or DB work, while [re]training in Python and adding to my DB skills. And then a Perl position came along that I started last week. This project is probably 10 years old and plans to migrate to Python and swap the underlying DB in the next year or two. So, while my Python skills aren't great now, I'll be able to grow into them as we transition.

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smonff profile image
🌌 Sébastien Feugère ☔ Author

It looks like the dream plan! Good luck and enjoy.

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mjgardner profile image
Mark Gardner

Good luck. I know Perl jobs are pretty scarce, and I wish you well.

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emilper profile image
Emil Perhinschi

don't see why you need to explain switching to other languages

I'd make it mandatory for Perl developers to get a job doing something else from time to time, we'll have a lot less complaining about "features" :)

I'm not writing Perl right now and I miss CPAN like crazy, all the fancy new languages lack good libraries like you would not believe, but I think being multilingual is worth it

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smonff profile image
🌌 Sébastien Feugère ☔ Author

don't see why you need to explain switching to other languages

You know, blues singer, they were telling their problems to others in their songs. It was a way to share issues, and to realize that those issues were actually common and to live better with difficult situations.

I don't pretend my ridiculous blog has something in common with the deepness of the blues songs. But it is maybe one of the way to express things.

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trantor profile image
Fulvio Scapin • Edited

Well, a blog post is a way to express oneself, beyond the strict confines of pragmatic need and the validation of an argument.
I do believe that your point about lacking decent libraries (hating the JS universe there, it feels as the new form of a recurrent human nightmare) is quite sound, although CPAN nowadays feels more and more like an elephant graveyard; not to mention that the libraries for many implementations of protocols and the likes are often quite far from comprehensive and bulletproof.

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trantor profile image
Fulvio Scapin • Edited

This is one of those posts that make me wonder whether it was good that my interest for Perl never became tangled with my career to the point of defining it, being a sysadmin/devop/SRE/whatever. I'been loving the language for more than 15 years, although judging from the people at Perl conferences I am still on the "younger" side of the attendees.
Attending the conferences (well, one per year actually) has been the contents of my "holidays" for several years and a place where I learnt and met several good friends, although I've grown more and more disillusioned with the steering of the language development and especially with the interactions of preminent (whatever that means) figures in the community (not all of them, mind you).
I still remember a talk in the FOSDEM Perl devroom in 2016 describing the community as mature: however, age aside, I am not that convinced that several loud members of it fit with that concept. Any volunteer-based community, especially in tech, can be extremely frustrating to deal with and be a part of, and Larry's waning presence as a respected glue-like figure has been an additional hit.
Sorry too not to have seen Liz and Wendy around as much recently, just as much as I am pained for the rift and conflict between the Perl and Raku communities, which I personally don't see as useful to either community as more than a few seem to think.
If the part of the community I've seen causing needless flames and hurt (not referring to those expressing their dissatisfaction with the current situation) with their behaviour can be described as mature, then I guess it's showing the mental disfunctions that so go along with very advanced "maturity" in actual people. Not to mention that a language that has gone through so much in this century and enjoys a not-so-stellar reputation to begin with needs anything but non-constructive drama at this juncture.
I really really wish that the language could be revitalized with more additional technical value, much like the Corinna project is striving to do (loving it and its stated principles, btw), but I've wondered countless time myself if my love for Perl would be better directed elsewhere, where it doesn't feel like watching a ship slowly sink while those aboard bicker endlessly. Climate change and watching the news grant me enough depressing thoughts as it is. It's more of an impression, a feeling, than an accurate depiction of reality, since the efforts of Curtis and Paul, among others, are concrete steps towards building something, however it does exist.
When it comes to your average tech person who loves Perl, because it just fits with their own mind well (much like myself), I remain doubtful of a growing career path there, except as a herder of legacy software much like one would find in the page of Cosmonaut Keep by Kevin MacLeod. Which, as unexciting as it may be, could also be a good way to make decent money. And my hopes for a Raku-rich future are also not that realistic at this point: frankly I don't see it pick up beyond the confines of hobby or volunteer OS projects, or of companies built by language enthusiasts.
As for your country, believe me when I tell you that here in Italy where I live there are likely to be even less opportunities than in France. Sadly, the Italian mongers groups (much like most of their counterparts elsewhere) are by now just fictional entities embellishing the pages of pm.org .
Be strong and prosper. And most importantly, keep learning :D .

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mithaldu profile image
Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community. View Code of Conduct
Mithaldu • Edited

You might want to know that part of the reasons for Wendy disappearing have to do with her trusting the individual the Mojolicious org pointed at, and subsequently finding that she was misguided in some of her disagreements with the rest of the perl community.

Similarly the sawyer story has multiple sides, and there are people who have been victims of his and have not spoken up out of fear of the person with the larger profile, as well as there were misunderstandings on his side at the time about the situation you linked to.

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wendyvdijk profile image
wendyvdijk • Edited

My disappearing is not at all how you describe it and I am intensely disappointed in you. You know very well that I have tried, with enormous investments and sweat and effort and time, to keep Perl 5 and Perl 6, and later, Perl and Raku, together. A growing number of Perl 5 people grew a resentment against Perl 6, later against Raku. And they did everything they could to hurt both. I have seen it happen, I felt the anger, the confusion, the disrespect.

I was misguided? How dare you say that. How dare you explain what I did, why I did it, in such words. I am quite disgusted. It's so difficult for me to stay calm at this utter travesty of words to describe why I left. I left because too many Perl 5 people could not get over themselves to cooperate with Perl 6 / Raku people. I left, the final straw, because of ether uttering "Free, free at last", when "Raku" was introduced as a nickname for Perl 6.

It was just that Larry Wall who proclaimed it would be acceptable to him to use Raku as a nickname to Perl 6. And Perl 5 people were happy that they were finally freed from those horrible people of Perl 6 who did not want to understand that Perl 5 was the glorious perfect thing and Perl 6 was a bastard rotten thing. Thank you very much. But it was just supposed to be a nickname.

I do not like myself to be described to be a slave-holder. Because that is what "Free, free at last" means. It was uttered by black slaves in the USA when they finally were told they were no longer slaves.

As I said, it was the final straw for me. Many straws before. I have tried often, and invested a lot of money, energy, time, effort, to get Perl 5 and Perl 6 to work together. I failed. I am a total failure. Thanks to the stubborn behaviour of Perl 5 people. So that is why I left the Perl 5 community.

I stayed with Perl 6. I continued promoting Perl. And yes, even Perl 5. I kept on selling Perl 5 books (even though more people were interested in Perl 6 books, often enough at conferences I sold ten times more Perl 6 books than Perl 5 books), give away stickers and buttons and tuits related to Perl 5.

At some point, people from Perl 6 started discussing changing the name of Perl 6 to something else, and at first, "Rakudo" was the main contender. I was against that, because I loved (and still love) Perl as a concept, as a worldwide community, as a programming language.

I told the people of Perl 6 that when they indeed would change the name to something not "Perl", my contributions would end. I have spent the better part of 15 years to reunite Perl 5 and Perl 6, spent quite some money on it, supported many initiatives, etc etc. Even got a White Camel Award for my (and Liz') work. I wrote some opinionated blogs about it.

They still went ahead and changed the name. That, and only than, was the reason I left Perl 6 aka Raku. Not because anything you said. Blah blah blah. Don't you ever again speak for me again.

And no, I do not hate people, I do not hate Matt, I consider myself still a friend of him, and would like to hang out again, but probably unfortunately will not happen soon.

I still have the camel "Meeltje" standing proudly in our hallway, next to the largest library of Perl books. I still have thousands of euros worth of swag (books, stickers, buttons, tuits, Camelia stuffed toy butterflies, etc) in my cellar, ready to bring to a new Perl & Raku Event, but thanks to covid19 it is not going to happen soon, and thanks to too many ego people the cooperation has failed.

I am terribly sad all this happened, and maybe some day I can get over it. Until then, you and many other people make me utterly sad. Oh, the anger has gone mostly, until you wrote what you wrote today.

Update:
Addition. I have to make something a bit more clear. The reason that I did not want to promote Raku, is that I want to promote Perl. As a family of languages, 5 & 6. Perl as a concept of versatility, there is more than one way to do it, as explorers of what can be possible, as fun in coding. I did not want to do all that over again for Raku. Even though Raku for me is still Perl 6, and therefore Perl. I just can't get myself to go make Raku stickers, Raku buttons, Raku tuits, Raku brochures, enthuse people to write Raku books, sponsor Raku conferences. Because it lacks the word Perl. Maybe some day.

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mithaldu profile image
Mithaldu

I said you were misguided about "trusting the individual the Mojolicious org pointed at" and found this in recent disagreements, not that you were misguided about all of your disagreements.