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In an recent thread, Abigail and I have traded ideas about Baby Perl. Chromatic later sent me a /msg suggesting that Larry himself talked more about Baby Perl in "State of the Onion 2." In turn, this led me to all of the "Onion" addresses (along with another) which I dutifully read. While I'd seen a couple of them previously, it was very interesting to read them sequentially.

Besides reinforcing my opinion that Larry Wall is a very smart and wise person (not to mention a little strange--in a good way), this led me to ponder a number of recent (and some not so recent) discussions about Perl Culture, our community, and some of the various, um, reactions we've had with each other.

As far as I can tell, Larry doesn't specifically outline how he'd like us to respond to Baby Perl specifically. He doesn't seem to be the type of person to be so dogmatic. In these talks, he tends to speak (write?) metaphorically and leaves you to draw your own conclusions.

So, here are some conclusions I've drawn, expressed in the form of out-takes:

  • [A]sk yourself whether your belief system is closed or open when it comes to Perl. Can you think new thoughts about Perl, and about Perl Culture?
    -- Perl Culture.

  • [W]e really ought to emulate the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, who invented what they called "potlatch". In that culture, you were valued not by what you acquired, but what you gave away.
    -- Perl Culture

  • It's a natural human trait to look for patterns in the noise, but when we look for those patterns, sometimes we see patterns that aren't really there.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • [C]omplexity is not always the enemy. What's important is not simplicity or complexity, but how you bridge the two.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • We can debug relationships, but it's always good policy to consider the people themselves to be features. People get annoyed when you try to debug them.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • Of course, in Perl culture, almost nothing is prohibited. My feeling is that the world already has plenty of prohibitions, so why invent more?
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • People understand instinctively that the best way for computer programs to communicate with each other is for each of them to be strict in what they emit and liberal in what they accept. The odd thing is that people themselves are not willing to be strict in how they speak and liberal in how they listen. Instead, we're taught to express ourselves.


    You may feel better afterward, but consider the poor guy next to you with the ruptured eardrum.

    Ruptured eardrums should be prohibited.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • [M]ost people see the outside of the onion, not the inside.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • People realize the power of a simple idea. We don't need software patents or trade secrets. All we need [is] another simple circle. A circle with a 'c' in it....The 'c' in the circle should stand for civility.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • I can't predict whether Perl's road ahead will be bumpy or smooth, but I can predict that the more perspectives we can see things from, the easier it'll be to choose the perspectives we like.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • Most of you are familiar with the virtues of a programmer. There are three, of course: laziness, impatience, and hubris.

    These are virtues of passion. They are not, however, virtues of community. The virtues of community sound like their opposites: diligence, patience, and humility.

    They're not opposites, because you can do them all at the same time...These are the virtues that will carry our community into the future, if we do not abandon them.
    --2nd State of the Onion

  • Look at the big picture. Don't focus on two or three things to the exclusion of other things. Keep everything in context.
    --Perl, the first postmodern computer language

  • More than that, we're required to make individual choices, the assumption being that not everyone is going to agree, and that not everyone should be required to agree. However, in trade for losing our monoculturalism, we are now required to discuss things. We're not required to agree about everything, but we are required to at least to agree to disagree.
    --Perl, the first postmodern computer language

  • Modernism oversimplifies. Modernism puts the focus squarely on the hammer and the nail.
    --Perl, the first postmodern computer language

  • Perl is humble. It doesn't try to tell the programmer how to program. It lets the programer decide what rules today, and what sucks.
    --Perl, the first postmodern computer language

  • True greatness is measured by how much freedom you give to others, not by how much you can coerce others to do what you want.
    --Perl, the first postmodern computer language

  • Perl was the first computer language whose culture was designed for diversity right along with the language.
    --Perl, the first postmodern computer language

  • You need people who are willing to be partisan on behalf of their chosen culture, while remaining sufficiently non-partisan to keep in touch with the rest of the world.
    --Perl, the first postmodern computer language

  • ...Perl is a bit like those early chemistry sets. You didn't have to understand what you were doing in order to do interesting things. you might blow yourself up, but more likely, you'd have a great deal of fun.
    --3rd State of the Perl Onion

  • [I]t's important to be the right person today, and not put it off till tomorrow.
    --3rd State of the Perl Onion

  • [W]henever you synthesize something, people will find a way [to] misuse it.
    --3rd State of the Perl Onion

  • I expect people to make Perl mean opposite things, both good and bad.
    --3rd State of the Perl Onion

  • In terms of our culture, it means that sometimes we attract each other, and sometimes we repel each other, but more importantly, it means we're there for each other to attract or repel as necessary. Look for balance in your attractions and repulsions. Look for equalibrium.
    --3rd State of the Perl Onion

  • The key to equalibrium is to balance out all your reactions.

    Don't overreact. Don't underreact.

    Don't overact. Don't underact.

    But do act. And act passionately, with balance.
    --3rd State of the Perl Onion

  • It's easy when you hear two people arguing in a public forum to think that the entire forum is bogus, but if you look carefully there's usually still a background of nonfighting going on as well.
    --State of the Onion 2000

  • How does this play out in Perl culture? Well, we have to be willing to let people fake it for awhile. If Perl is getting their job done, then that's fine, but we also have to find ways of encouraging people to upgrade their abilities when they're ready for that step, and we don't do that by beating them over the head. We do it by showing the positive benefits of learning Perl for real.
    --State of the Onion 2000

  • [W]e've already started a redesign of Perl culture, trying to keep the good aspects and leaving behind the nonproductive aspects."
    --State of the Onion 2000

Yes, these quotes are taken out of context and, as we well know, context is very important--especially to Perl. Even so, I believe that they illustrate the intentions that Larry has for the Community and how he'd like it to operate. Even if I've mis-stated, misunderstood, or am otherwise mistaken, I think there are interesting observations to make regarding effective community practices by reviewing Larry's other writings.

I also believe that these ideas might apply to a number of current and (in some cases, thankfully) dormant discussions (including a certain non-public one currently in progress).

I invite you draw your own conclusions, after investing some time into the original material. For the really industrious, I also recommend Larry's own Perl page. Let's use these as a starting place to discover how we want to handle--and maintain--our little online home.


P.S. Please understand that I'm not trying to canonize Larry as a role-model. However, I do believe that part of the success of Perl lies in his personal vision of how things should work. Since many of us agree that the technical vision has worked reasonably well, it seems worthwhile to see if similar success can be found in his expressed ideas regarding Community and Participation.

Edited: 28 Jun 01, 15:08 (PDT)

In reply to Virtues of Community by footpad

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