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From Ed Grimm <>
Subject Re: Some philosophical questions
Date Tue, 26 Jul 2005 15:25:37 GMT
On Mon, 25 Jul 2005, Neil Gunton wrote:

> This may be a little off the usual topic (bug reports, howto etc) but
> I am genuinely curious to know what other list members think about it.
> Back in 2000 or so, when I started using apache, mod_perl and Embperl,
> it was a really dynamic scene and quite exciting with all the
> possibilities for cool app development. There were other languages
> (Java, PHP) and other competitors within the perl universe (Mason,
> Template::Toolkit, AxKit) but in general the mod_perl/Embperl world
> seemed like a bright place to be. Now, a few years later, I am not
> really seeing all that much in the way of people "out there" talking
> about mod_perl, or even Perl. When they do, it's often in the context
> of legacy applications, or "old fashioned CGI". Somehow, people have
> forgotten about mod_perl and how capable it is.

To be good at Perl programming, one needs to understand quite a few
broad programming concepts.  One also needs to be (relatively) adept at
parsing concepts described with symbols other than alphanumeric, and
handling alternate meanings to alphanumeric symbols in specific
contexts.  Most of the Perl programmers I know already knew several
languages before learning Perl.  I'm only recalling one programmer who
started with Perl, and he quickly left for greener pastures.

By comparison, many of the more 'in' languages today are much more
alphanumeric oriented.  They also tend to more allow users to make use
of them to a limited extent without really knowing how to program.  The
difference is fairly slight, IMHO, but the apparent effect is
significant.  I know a number of programmers who started with PHP and
Python, and stuck with them.

Many of the other languages have stressed certain features; for example,
Python and Java both tout their exception handling capabilities.
Regardless of whether these languages have superior exception handling
capabilities to Perl (I feel they do not), the management impression is
that they do.

Perl has the reputation of being relatively difficult to understand.
Between its dynamic execution, its regular expressions, and its
syntactic quirks, it is very easy to write code few others can
understand, and management impression has gotten to be that it is all
this way.

By contrast, Python claims it enforces legible coding, by using indent
level as the block indicator.  While this does not to my eye improve
upon a reasonable formatting standard (for example, the Linux Kernel
programming style), management impression appears to be that it does.

I believe most of Perl's issues in the marketplace are mere marketting.
I do feel that the legibility issues are significant, and should be
addressed; I also feel that these issues are mostly a discipline issue,
and not a language issue.

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.


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