http://qs321.pair.com?node_id=1107342

Perl Monks has become a big part of my life, so I thought it would be fun to discover how it came into existence in the first place. In particular, I was eager to learn about its earliest users.

Please note that I only joined Perl Monks in 2002 and have not met any of the major players from the early days. The content of this node therefore is derived only from independent research and speculation, not first-hand knowledge. So, if any folks who actually witnessed these early historic events are listening, please respond away.

Perl Monks Origins

After some random googling on the history of Perl Monks, I hit upon this nugget from oostendorp.net, the home page of nate:

Everything2.com was my own creation after Slashdot was acquired by Andover.net. It and its sister site, PerlMonks were developed in a CMS I designed called The Everything Engine. The Everything Development Company ran from 1999-2001, and consisted of Ryan "dembones" Postma, Darrick Brown, Tim Vroom, Chromatic, and Robo.
Apart from using the incorrect case of chromatic, nate may have forgotten some other Everything developers, or at least interlopers, who appear to be among the first ten registered PerlMonks users, as we shall see later.

After finding that gem, googling for Slashdot uncovered Rob Malda:

Rob Malda (born May 10, 1976), also known as CmdrTaco, is an American Internet content author, and former editor-in-chief of the website Slashdot. Malda is an alumnus of Hope College and Holland Christian High School. In 1997, Malda and Jeff Bates created Slashdot while undergraduates of Hope College. After running the site for two years "on a shoestring", they sold the site to Andover.net, which was later acquired by VA Linux Systems. Malda ran the site out of the SourceForge, Inc. office in Dexter, Michigan.

and Jeff Bates:

Jeff Bates, also known as hemos, is the co-founder of Slashdot along with Rob Malda ("CmdrTaco"). Bates graduated from Holland Christian High School in 1994 and received a Bachelor's degree in History from Hope College in 1998.

and more, including Jonathan "CowboyNeal" Pater.

Holland Michigan

Holland is a coastal city in the western region of the Lower Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is situated near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan on Lake Macatawa. Holland was settled in 1847 by Dutch Calvinist separatists, under the leadership of Dr. Albertus van Raalte. Dire economic conditions in the Netherlands compelled them to emigrate, while their desire for religious freedom led them to unite and settle together as a group.

-- Holland Michigan (wikipedia)

It seems that most of the major players in the formation of Perl Monks hail from this picturesque and charming city, an outpost of Dutch culture and tradition in the American mid-west, with a population of just 33,000!

Hope College is a private, residential liberal arts college located in downtown Holland, Michigan, United States, a few miles from Lake Michigan. It was opened in 1851 as the Pioneer School by Dutch immigrants four years after the community was first settled.

-- Hope College (wikipedia)

Slashdot, and the Everything Engine, were the brainchild of a bunch of creative Hope College students. In particular, Rob "Commander Taco" Malda, Jeff "Hemos" Bates, Nathan Oostendorp aka nate, Everything Engine architect Darrick Brown, and Tim Vroom all attended Hope College in the late 1990s. I'm pretty sure they also attended Holland Christian High School.

I gleaned this information only from browsing the internet, so if anyone knows different -- or knows of other influential players from the early days who also hail from Holland Michigan -- please let us know.

Blockstackers Inc

In particular, I don't know where early PerlMonks developer chromatic resided in the late 1990s; though he lives in Hillsboro, Oregon nowadays, he may have lived in Holland Michigan back then while working for BlockStackers, joining "late summer 2000".

BTW, nate refers to this company not as BlockStackers, but as "Blockstackers Intergalactic (BSI)". This node indicates that the perlmonks.org domain was owned by "Blockstackers Inc, 116 E.18th Holland MI 49423". Curiously, Block Stackers Inc still seems to be in business in Holland today, filing Tax Returns. No idea if this is the same BlockStackers Inc that founded PerlMonks however.

When I was moving to Amsterdam, pschoonveld advised me to demand a certain clause in my contract that translates to "pants not required"

-- Ovid from (Ovid - be careful around pschoonveld!) Re(3): Favorite Slacking Activity

Back in the heady Dot-com bubble era, Blockstackers Intergalactic (BSI) certainly seemed like a cool company to work for, located in a beautiful and historic city, with a name derived from Block Stacking Theory, and where wearing pants was optional.

Top Ten Countdown

For fun, and using the background information above, let's try to identify the first ten Perl Monks, counting down from ten to one.

No 10: cinder_bdt

Node id: 1336; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 22:49 UTC; last here: Jun 15 2005; Experience: 8; 1 post.

I noticed a cinder_bdt use.perl.org account. This tenth PM user could be Bryan D Thomas based on this twitter account. If anyone knows more, please let us know.

No 9: yiango

Node id: 1335; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 22:29 UTC; last here: Mar 01 2000; Experience: 27; 6 posts.

I suspect yiango is an early Slashdot or Holland Michigan person because in RE: The computer I use most runs... he says "Hey Tim" in response to vroom, indicating he may know vroom personally. Moreover, slasholic is a Perl script written by "yiango" to query slashdot for new articles. I found a circa 1999 yiango everything2 account, yiango sourceforge account and a yiango twitter account. The name "yiango" is obscure to me, but may be related to Cyprus, based on random googling.

yiango is almost certainly the first "non-insider" Perl Monk, beating cinder_bdt to that honour by just twenty minutes.

Update: No 8a: dem bones

Node id: 1329; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 21:49 UTC; last here: Dec 12 2000; Experience: none; 0 posts.

Ryan "dembones" Postma, one of the early Everything developers.

No 8: nate

Node id: 1316; user since: Dec 23 1999 at 03:36 UTC; last here: Jan 24 2009; Experience: 572; 24 posts.

Too easy. This is obviously the father of the Everything Engine, Holland Christian High School and Hope College alumnus, Nathan Oostendorp.

No 7: pschoonveld

Node id: 1027; user since: Dec 02 1999 at 11:56 UTC; last here: Oct 01 2010; Experience: 695; 29 posts.

His home node says he is from "Utrecht, The Netherlands". This may well be Patrick Schoonveld, who's linked-in account spookily lists his education as Hope College, Holland Michigan. His CV further lists a stint at SourceForge/Slashdot and indicates he has worked in the Netherlands. Finally, his "pants not required" advice to Ovid above suggests he was part of the Blockstackers (BSI) culture.

No 6: sgtbaker

Node id: 1012; user since: Nov 19 1999 at 02:42 UTC; last here: Feb 18 2000; Experience: 4; 1 post.

This one is quite a mystery. I found this library link where user "sgtbaker" recommends a couple of Perl books. Apart from that, nothing, nada, zilch. If anyone knows, please let us know.

Update: Found a sgtbaker user on everything2.com where his school is listed as Hope College and his company as Everything Development Company. It seems he worked closely with nate, so closely that his nickname was "the hands of nate" (a pun on the hands of fate, one of the worst movies ever made) ... so it remains a mystery why he was not listed as an Everything employee by nate above.

Update: Heartbreakingly, it seems that sgtbaker was not a real person, just a vroom (or perhaps nate) test account. Still, the mystery remains, why sgtbaker? Was vroom a keen fisherman, naming his test account after the Sergeant Baker fish?

No 5: vroom

Node id: 979; user since: Nov 12 1999 at 05:53 UTC; last here: Jul 04 2013; Experience: 1007430; 607 posts.

This is obviously Tim Vroom, primary founder of the PerlMonks web site. Kudos for that, but how on earth did he manage to accumulate over a million experience points?

Update: No 4a: DiBona

Node id: 942; user since: Nov 03 1999 at 05:05 UTC; last here: Never; Experience: 0; 0 posts.

When interviewed by jdporter (see below) about his early involvement at PM, Chris DiBona replied: "My interaction was limited to a teeny bit of stuff and a photo for the monk pictures".

No 4: dbrown

Node id: 859; user since: Oct 28 1999 at 07:37 UTC; last here: Oct 18 2001; Experience: 15; 2 posts.

This is almost certainly Darrick Brown, Hope College alumnus, outed as an early Everything Developer above by nate.

No 3: CmdrTaco

Node id: 857; user since: Oct 27 1999 at 04:21 UTC; last here: Nov 03 1999; Experience: 9; 0 posts.

Though hardly a prolific Perl Monks user, the nickname indicates this is the famous Rob "Commander Taco" Malda, co-founder of Slashdot.

Update: The Rob Malda Rule:, posted by gods on Sep 08 1999, was probably authored by CmdrTaco. Strangely, CmdrTaco's home node says "Writeups: None" yet if you click on "None" you find the one node authored by CmdrTaco namely Counting Substrings in Strings - curiously, this node was created on Oct 27 1999, two months before Perl Monks opened its doors to the public!

No 2: CowboyNeal

Node id: 850; user since: Oct 27 1999 at 02:31 UTC; last here: Jun 28 2000; Experience: 8; 0 posts.

This is indeed Jonathan "CowboyNeal" Pater of Slashdot fame.

No 1: paco

Node id: 846; user since: Oct 27 1999 at 01:12 UTC; last here: Oct 27 1999 at 02:16 UTC; Experience: 754; 1 post.

We have saved the best for last! 754 experience points from just one post! Amazing! The highest rated node of all time! (Update: oops, only 2nd highest after camel code, thanks tye ... but it is the most upvoted node in Perl Monks history).

The mysterious paco spent a total of just sixty four minutes at this site, incomprehensibly vanishing fifteen minutes before the second user arrived. paco achieved more in sixty four minutes than most of us do in a lifetime. A living legend. Like many others, I patiently await his return. During my research, there were indications from some that paco may not be a real user. Don't listen to those heretics. paco will return!

References

Everything2 References

Background References

Updated Nov 17 2014: Minor corrections and wording changes; Nov 22 2014: Added Everything2 References plus minor update to "Blockstackers Inc" section (no pants required) and mystery sgtbaker user; Nov 23 2014: Added a bit more detail to top ten section, added more References; Nov 30 2014: Added more references; Aug 5 2017: Added Perl Monk No. 8a dem bones, clarified Perl Monk No. 6 sgtbaker. May 2019: Added Background References. July 2019: added extra Paco reference from footpad, added user 4a Chris DiBona unearthed by jdporter.