On the importance of supporting Perl events

18/07/12 03:05 by Salve J. Nilsen (‎sjn‎)

This hackathon wouldn't be possible without our sponsors! We have several of them, each of them giving us both reason and means to Make Stuff Happen. Thanks go out to Renée Bäcker and Perlmag, to Reini Urban and cPanel, to Matthew Horsfall and Dyn, and most importantly to the people at NUUG Foundation who matched's initial donation to the project.

But with that said, we've had some important considerations to take into account — of which the most important is that the goals of this hackathon probably don't match the goals of our sponsors. We can't say "come to us to hire new Perl people" or "come to us to show yourselves off to the Perl community". We can only say "help us improve Perl."

This hackathon is a very small event and its topics are most likely too narrow to make it a good candidate for traditional "marketing money" where visibility is the main goal. Instead, we concern ourselves with some very advanced stuff. Tasks and topics that might not be available for run-of-the-mill developers for years.

Forming an idea about the consequences of having an efficient RDF stack in Perl? Figuring out how an in-core Meta Object Protocol might influence Perl developers in general? These are very difficult considerations, and probably well beyond the hiring requirements for most people who get to decide which events to sponsor.

What does this mean for the Perl community? Should we stop organizing events that have non-obvious consequences? Or only long-term consequences? Should we only focus on creating marketplaces for finding competent developers? Should we only help regular @businesses find their next employees?

My personal opinion is "no", and here's how I think about it.

Everyone has to consider their long-term viability and ability to survive in their market. Hiring professionals, companies in growth, students looking for a job and anyone else trying to just do their business – they all know their immediate needs. To match supply with demand. To match competent people with workplaces where they can thrive and create value. To do what's necessary to get the job done.

I think we should also look beyond our immediate needs — but to consider the long-term viability of the field, we need to be aware of the ideas and issues that are important in that field. We have to be aware of details and trends and people and needs. Why should an individual choose technology A above technology B? Why should some student stake their future on a specific programming language instead of another one? Why do some people leave, some stay and some come back? Self-awareness questions like these are deeply necessary for the health of the Perl community, and they deserve our full attention.

Our full attention means the full attention of the Perl community members — we just can't expect anyone else to do it for us. Kudos to the Perl shops out there who try to make a difference, but I just don't think "the commercials" out there can do this on their own. They don't coordinate, so the Perl community has to coordinate themselves.

And my own gut feeling on how to take this further?

People, students, developers choose to spend their time on things that are fun, exciting, and powerful.

As far as I know, the qualities that draw people to any language are almost always about touchy-feely stuff. Stuff that make people go "wow, is that really possible?" and "holy crap, that's soooo cool!" or "I've got a friend/teacher/family member who learned it, so I'll learn it too."

The hard part of this, is that we have to make this happen. Expletives like "holy crap!" don't come all by themselves. They need a reason to appear, and someone has to create that reason. Create it with care and afterthought, and perhaps even with support from highly talented people who have the vision and foresight and discipline to create things that might not become "universally cool" for several years.

This is hard work, and probably quite unsexy. And certainly not exciting for most managers with a sponsorship budget.

This is why is so immensely grateful for the support we've received for organizing the Moving to Moose hackathon. We believe we're organizing something that might lead to something very valuable, and we hope lots of developers eventually will agree with us. But we wouldn't be able to do this without the trust and support from our sponsors. So that's why we say the following:

Dear sponsors. Thank you very much! We really wouldn't be able to do this without you, and I hope that you appreciate your role in shaping the Perl community and it's future.

And the rest of us? We're an Open Source community without a commercial backer. That means we'll have to make cool stuff happen ourselves, and then be the ones that tell about it.

Go for it! :)

Tags: perl moose p5-mop rdf hackathon preikestolen sponsors