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From Neil Gunton <n...@nilspace.com>
Subject Re: Some philosophical questions
Date Tue, 26 Jul 2005 15:53:54 GMT
Ed Grimm wrote:
> Incidentally, another stratigic issue that is looming over the Perl
> horizon causing some people to look elsewhere is Perl 6.  While it is
> supposed to be a good thing, there's enough issues surrounding backwards
> compatibility (it'll be there, sometime.  But my impression is, this is
> the big bit that is holding up release.) that several people I know have
> stated they don't feel safe in investing time learning Perl right now.
> 
> Long term, I don't believe Perl has a big problem.  Short term, however,
> is another matter.

That's a very good point, but I would go further and posit that it *is* harmful long term.
I am 
feeling that any technology needs younger programmers to be buying into it, if it is to survive
long 
term. Otherwise it is living on borrowed time, because all those existing, experienced programmers

will eventually retire. Of course you can always say that experienced programmers influence
younger 
programmers and determine how projects are implemented, but that is swimming in smaller and
smaller 
pools, and you cannot overestimate the "perception" effect. If younger programmers aren't
drawn to 
the tool, then it will have a limited life.

Perl 6 looks to me like a huge white elephant. It may work, eventually. In fact, when it does,
it 
may be a beautiful, finely crafted virtual machine (Parrot?) that can run multiple languages
with 
aplomb. However, it will likely do all this to a largely empty room - everyone will have left

already to go do stuff using other languages such as Ruby. The big bet is that people will
use 
things like Ruby under Parrot. Maybe, maybe not. Don't know yet. All I know is that right
now, my 
experience (and resume) seems to be getting more and more marginalized. The geeks in charge
seem to 
have rewrite mania, with no regard for the huge pre-existing user base that is left wondering
where 
to turn while the new version is getting stable. Do you use the old version, which is, well,
old? Or 
do you use the new version, which doesn't really work yet? Over the last few years, people
started 
using this stuff for *real* projects, which have *real* users. It's not just for hobby use
any more. 
I certainly don't want to put this experimental code on my production server.

The reason Microsoft was so successful with Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 was that MS went to
great 
lengths to make them able to run earlier DOS programs. They even went so far as to "fake"
some 
memory quirks that some popular programs happened to depend on. Nowadays, Microsoft appears
to have 
lost that attitude (see: .NET, Longhorn), and I feel like the Open Source crowd is doing the
same. 
It doesn't matter how many people were using the old version, this new version is "better"
and 
that's all that matters, right? That's a supremely geeky, insulated, closed attitude that
ignores 
the real users, and risks alienating people wholesale.

I thought that learning Open Source technologies would be safer than going the proprietary
route 
(read: MS Windows), since nobody could force me to upgrade. The community is in charge, right?

Wrong. The developers in charge of the projects are in charge. If they decide to stop developing
the 
old version and focus instead on an incompatible new version, then what can we do? Nothing
much, 
unless you want to take the fantasy route and fork all these projects yourself. There does
in fact 
seem to be just as much pressure to upgrade from the Open Source projects, since apparently
I now 
have to abandon the old, reliable, tried and tested versions (apache 1.3, mod_perl 1.x) for
new, 
completely rewritten, untested and buggy versions if I want to continue developing the same
project 
that I started a few years back. It grates on me how I trusted these projects, they told me
that 
nobody could force me to upgrade, but there is now this attitude of "just upgrade, it's no
big deal, 
and the old code isn't being developed any more so you don't want to get left behind do you?"...
how 
is this any different from Microsoft saying that you have to upgrade or else they will stop

supporting you? I feel like I invested a lot of time learning about some stuff, and I apparently
now 
have to spend a whole bunch more time re-learning new APIs for the same tools, just because
somebody 
thought it would be cool to rewrite everything to "get it right this time". I guess I thought
that 
Open Source would be more stable than that.

/Neil

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