Phillip Smith

Perceptions of Perl

Cross-posted from the New Internationalist tech blog

For those visitors coming from the Planet Perl Iron Man site, I want to quickly preface this post with a call-to-action to pull the threads of this "perceptions of Perl" and "promoting Perl" conversation together. I've quickly bookmarked as many of the relevant posts from Ironman that I could find on delicious and tagged them with "perlceptions" so that there is a list of them and an RSS feed here. Maybe others could do something similar -- on whatever tools you use (Twitter, etc.) -- and we can thus make the conversation more findable. If you have other suggestions, or if I've missed any posts, please post them in the comments, or send me an e-mail to my first name at newint dot org.

Given the active conversation unfolding around the perceptions of Perl, I wanted to follow-up with what was originally part of my previous post on the Perl community's multiple personality problem.

Though I feel strongly that the Perl community's online visual identity (or lack of one) poses unnecessary friction or drag when trying to appeal to potential adopters, there are also some very positive currents in the Perl community that deserve to be highlighted.

  • At the most visually exciting end of the spectrum are newer projects like the Mojo Web Framework. Clearly, Sebastian Riedel has a well-developed visual sensibility (or -- at minimum -- a good friend who does), and understands that compelling graphic design and well-considered copywriting can influence people's first impression of this young framework. (It did for me)

  • Following on Mojo's heels are the Catalyst framework. Move between the different Catalyst sites -- the wiki, the planet, etc. -- and the logo and colour palette remain relatively consistent. Several of the people blogging about Catalyst also use the Catalyst logo and, for me, that helps to keep Catalyst in the front of my mind.

  • I was also immediately drawn into KiokuDB by its striking logo and thoughtful typography (with lots of white space), which all helps to make a solid, easy-to-read, first impression.

  • Unfortunately, in the Perl community proper (i.e., any sub-domain of, the only stand-out for visual appeal was the previous version of Unfortunately, the recent redesign seems to have gone in the direction of dark-and-trendy over the previous site's easy-to-read and easy-to-use layout. (But it's still a far cry better than most.)

My biggest complaints are directed squarely at those Perl Web properties that -- on the outside -- appear to thumb their nose at the very mention that visual presentation, or thoughtful copywriting, has anything to do with the concerns of a real programming language. Unfortunately for Perl, other languages don't appear to have this hang-up and are likely winning over new users purely on the initial impressions they give. (Have you ever bought something simply because it looked better? Call it "hype," call it shallow, but people do it all the time.)

The worst offender?, of course. The flagship of the Perl online ecosystem presents an image of a programming language stuck in the year 1999. And, even worse -- putting complaints about good visuals and copywriting aside -- is that the site appears stale and lifeless. There's so much going on in the Perl community -- jobs, discussions, questions and answers, books, modules, and so on -- so I ask "How can this site appear so lifeless?" It's the biggest shame of all.

So, enough complaining! There are several ideas that are starting to bubble up in this conversation that could use further exploration. Let's keep talking about them publicly, pulling the threads together, and making a plan.

Cross-posted from the New Internationalist tech blog


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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