|Just another Perl shrine|
Re^4: What sets Perl backby BrowserUk (Pope)
|on Dec 12, 2005 at 07:36 UTC||Need Help??|
For a lot (the majority) of people, computers are just a means to an end, not an end of themselves. And for a lot of people using Perl to run websites for small businesses, clubs and community ventures, who've progressed beyond what static html can do for them, their use of Perl is just one small part of the long list of tasks that they must turn their hand to, daily or weekly, to meet their overall goals.
We do not expect a decorator to have a surgeons skills and knowledge because they occasionally use a scalpel to make stenciling templates; nor a taxi driver to have a degree in mechanical engineering because he dips his own oil and tops up the radiator and screen wash. And neither surgeons, nor mechanical engineers need to be either Cordon Bleu chefs or waveguide technologists because they nuke their TV dinners.
For many people, and if they are not yet in the majority they soon will be, moving from driving their computers with the mouse to going under the hood to install perl and a few CPAN modules is the metaphoric equivalent of dipping the oil and changing the spark plugs on their cars. They are intelligent people perfectly capable of following the step by step instructions in the owners manual. They don't need or want to become certified vehicle maintenance engineers, or computer scientists.
So the pervasive attutudes that programming should be 'left to the professionals' and that 'if they cannot afford to employ one to do this work, they shouldn't be trying to do it', are divorced from the realities of very small businesses, clubs and community groups. Perl is accessible for the most part to your average non-programmer with a few tuits, but there are several areas around it that when things don't quite go as planned, land you in areas that require not just programming skills and education, but very specific sets of experience that even some of us that have extensive programming experience are lacking.
In particular, unix skills are not a prerequisite for being either in the industry, nor competent within it. That background and skill set are only one of a number of possible backgrounds you may have. I'd even go as far as saying that it is a minority of those competent people within the industry as a whole that have that background. That doesn't make them less skilled or lesser mortals, just differently skilled.
There are several areas of the Perl build process that defy my understanding. And I think that there are a good number with much greater, relevant experience that find the Perl executable and module build processes, and especially ExtUtils::MakeMaker to be 'black science'. Even Mr Swern has had some choice comments about the state to which it has evolved--and he is maintaining it!
So yes. The guys that use Perl and CGI.pm to fulfill a small part of their days activities; or Perl and BioPerl to hack at monster genome sequences as a small part of their job roles; or Perl and a few modules as a small but important part of their SysAdmin or BOFH jobs; and even Human Resource or PR department people that want to pull data from their Excel spreadsheets and munge it a little before incorporating it into their PDFs; are all Perl programmers for some greater or lesser part of their day. And the accumulation of these people into the overall pool of "Perl programmers", does lower the average CS & SE content of the pool.
In some quarters this is frowned upon as dilution or demeaning to the professional hard core of the pool, but I dispute this. It reflects on the accessability, universality and useability that are the trademarks of Perl; and that as I understand it, Mr Wall fought hard to instill in Perl 5, and continues to fight hard to retain in Perl 6. To my mind, that accessibility is a good part of what makes Perl, and it shouldn't be looked down on by those career professional programmers amongst us who have also found Perl to be a useful tool in our work or play.
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