25 Years On: The Perl Community
Mon, 28-Jan-2013 by
Twenty-five years ago, Larry Wall conceived of a way to make his work a little bit easier by combining the UNIX tools he found most useful into something more like a general purpose programming language than the various shells available to him. This modest act started the chain of events that lead Perl to be one of the longest-standing F/OSS projects we have today.
An unavoidable side effect of this gift to the world of practical computing was the formation of the conceptual gravity well of Perl. This strange attractor pulled, inevitably and inexorably, so many interesting and clever people into Perl's orbit, forming what we would come to know as the Perl Community.
Almost concurrent with Perl's 25th anniversary, TPF has established a new rôle: the Community Advocate. I am very pleased to be the first of these, and to have the opportunity to help foster the community that has given me livelihood, friends, and much enjoyment over the nearly 20 years I have used Perl.
The Community Advocate rôle is not entirely new, however its scope and goals are. Previously, TPF's community work was focused on liaison to the Perl Mongers groups (the basic unit of the Perl Community) all over the world, through the capable agency of my proto-predecessors. What is different today is the comprehensive mission (from the community perspective) of the Community Advocate, and of the associated Community Advocacy Committee, of which I am chair.
The CA committee charter reads, in part:
The Committee shall support the following specific tasks:
# Advocating for TPF in the community, and for the community inside TPF
# Supporting Perl Mongers and other perl-related community groups
# Community building at YAPC and other perl-related events
# Establishing regional community-building efforts
# Supporting the community "identity" to foster a sense of belonging
# Increasing communications within the world-wide Perl community across national and language lines
To accomplish these goals, we need several things. Principal among them is understanding just what the Perl Community is. This is not so easy. The idea of community may seem straightforward at first glance. But, when you try to pin it down it appears to wiggle this way and that until, if you manage to get it to stand still, it vaporizes in a cloud. This leaves you wondering if you were imagining the whole thing to begin with.
I've done considerable thinking about this, and come to some conclusions with I will recount here in abridged form over the next couple of weeks. I will present an analysis of "community" and what it might be; trace the growth of it, and its "maturity; and propose a "technology" to help build and strengthen the community so many of us consider our technological and social home. While I will start out generically, I will also focus in on the special case of the Perl community, its attributes, and how they lead to both our great strengths and sometimes frustrating weakness; and how both can be employed to strengthen and grow the community that gives rise to them.
I look forward to a dialogue with you, an integral part of the community. This is an interactive project, and it is in service to the community and its members.