As I write this I have served my first 100 days as president of TPF. There’s another 631 days to go in this two-year term.
This is a role that I relish, and in these two years I want to ensure we focus on initiatives that can be delivered and sustained. And if I am invited to continue my term after two years, and as long as I feel I can continue to add value, then I will stay in post for another term.
Although I have been part of the Perl community for over 20 years, my focus has been on the development of businesses and customer projects so I have not had a great deal of direct interaction with the wider Perl communities. However, I have been close by, maintaining a team of Perl developers and never too far away from the technical detail.
To inform my TPF role, I have made time for as many conversations and meetings with members of the community as I could. These have been at the Perl 5 summit, London Perl Workshop (LPW), and also via the phone, email and video calls over the last three months. I'll be making time to have more conversations as I want to learn what you think the Perl community needs and how you think we can develop it further.
As an organisation, one of TPF's goals is to promote Perl through communications and marketing campaigns. We have provided the community with communications support, building the image of our brand, creating marketing initiatives, managing messages and making announcements on behalf of the community.
There is a great deal more to do. We need to increase our efforts to lift the reputation and demonstrate the capability of our languages. This is high on the TPF agenda for the coming year.
## Meeting the Walls
What I have always found special about Perl is the way it enables me to express what I am trying to do, and through various conversations, I found others who share the view that it can capture their thinking. What seems to be behind this is that, unlike many programming languages, I discovered that Perl and Raku are designed by a linguist, not a computer scientist.
This really struck me when I met Larry and Gloria Wall in October at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park (TNMOC).
Larry is still deeply engaged in technical activities but has been less at the fore mainly due to the feeling of overwhelming responsibility for the community and for the languages. This is far too much for anyone to expect a single person to take on.
Larry has a vision to deliver, and we need to look at how we support Larry to focus on the development of Raku, and support the Perl communities without overhead and distraction.
Gloria is well aware of how non-technical issues can impact anyone in the community, having supported Larry first hand for many years. She has a great deal of insight into the communities and surrounding challenges and would like to see it develop in a safe and progressive way.
Gloria's guidance to the community is that we must "*help people make mistakes, learn to be better, deal with each other and help us improve*".
Larry's closing remark relating to Raku and Perl was that "*We are still all Perl people for good or ill*".
## Perl 5 & Raku
Perhaps most recently, the rename of Perl 6 to Raku has been in the minds of many. It caused a stir and this was inevitable whatever the outcome.
I think it's great that we have now concluded this change. We can now focus on supporting the development of the language and implementations. We have an opportunity to help build what could have as much impact on the next generation of developers as Perl had. It is good to know that Raku will be represented at FOSDEM 2020 and TPF will be supporting this initiative.
It is likely that a demand for larger and more complex programs will be answered by Raku as developers discover its organisation and structures. People have commented on the power of its grammar and how this can enable concepts to be articulated to the computer in a structured way, in far less lines of code.
Larry said: "*It provides solutions to the problems that we haven't yet found. It operates at the the next level, addressing tomorrow's issues*".
Renaming Perl 6 has helped us focus on what Perl 5 is and that it is alive and kicking. It is stable and mature, there is copious documentation, a significant install base and a well-established community.
Talking to people who have seen Perl 5 exited from organisations, it is easy to conclude that the users have found something that better meets their needs.
However, when one explores the background and environment, it is not all as it seems. Almost without exception, Perl 5 implementations have been iteratively developed over decades alongside the customers' business, and this naturally leaves a legacy of unstructured code.
What many don't realise is that this evidences Perl's unparalleled flexibility and robustness; it allows the application to be built on the fly and without a strategy.
As an unfortunate result, an inbound developer will find undocumented and convoluted code which can be hard to engage with - not the fault of Perl or the last developer, but the lack of specification and direction from the customer.
Often Perl (and the Perl dev) are seen as the culprit and an alternative solution is sought.
I propose that the solution to this is to replace Perl 5 with Perl 5 - just implemented in an organised way as one would when approaching a new project.
At the Perl Summit in October we saw that new features are being developed, there's greater stability and structures are maturing. From the conversations that I have been involved with, we can expect positive progress over the coming year.
## TPF initiatives
> Working to build a strong, cohesive community
Over the last few months we have seen friction in our community and this is something I am keen to work on. Although it may not bring much comfort, it is apparent from discussions with other community leaders, this does not affect just the Perl communities, but most technical communities with a global reach are dealing with similar challenges.
Although the majority of our community is very positive, we do need to encourage supportive behaviours throughout. Every single member of our community is valuable in their own way and we need to use each other wisely. We need to understand our strengths and where we can help each other.
To support a sustainable community, I am working on a proposal for the formation of a Community Affairs Team (CAT) which will be led by volunteers from the community. This team would be responsible for maintaining standards of conduct and provide mediation and reconciliation support not only at TPF events, but also year round. Funding for expenses and training will be provided by TPF. As a community member, your positive and constructive thoughts are welcome - let's look at how this can work for all of us.
To help TPF catch up on a backlog of activities, I have proposed taking on extra outsourced administrative support which will help the volunteer board get more done - we will see how this works in the first quarter 2020.
We need to know what the community wants so we will be conducting a series of surveys, aimed at everyone in the Perl and Raku communities. These will be simple surveys with very few questions that can be answered in just a few minutes. You may be pleased to know that the survey application is Open Source, developed in Perl (Catalyst) and you are welcome to help make it better.
With the change of Treasurer, we will be looking for a volunteer to help TPF support our sponsors. If you feel that you have great communication skills and can manage key relationships on behalf of TPF, please get in touch. An important part of the role is to be able to understand what sponsors need from Perl and Raku, and to keep them updated on the various activities.
## The future
There is no question that Perl has enabled many digital businesses who have gone on to great success over the last few decades. I am excited for the future and look forward to seeing how we can enable Perl to continue as a global leader both technically and from the community and open source perspectives.
The one purpose of TPF is to ensure that the Perl family of languages and associated projects are sustainable. To do this TPF will continue to support the community with the essential administrative work outside of the technical and development activities of the wider community.
TPF has experienced various changes in the last six months and I am pleased to say that we seem to have found our feet and are developing ourselves into an effective and committed team. Building on this foundation, we expect to make measurable progress in 2020.
Looking forward, the 2020 objective set out for TPF is to increase the profile and value of TPF and the Perl family, to support the community and develop relationships.
Do get engaged, share your thoughts and visions and we can take these on board as we set out our plans for 2020. We will be deciding these late January.
Finally, I’d like to thank all those who ‘work’ for TPF. I am in awe at the amazing minds of all the people volunteering throughout our global community, who bring life to Perl and Raku, enabling so many other projects to be successful.
Stuart J Mackintosh
President - The Perl Foundation