Perl 6 and the “Vaporware” Label

Perusing Perlbuzz, as I tend to do on a rainy saturday afternoon, I was intrigued by Andy Lester’s latest post “Perl 6 isn’t exactly vaporware” in which he comments on the vaporware label that is often used around Perl 6.

I must say that I found it quite interesting to see Andy calling for an early adopter’s release of Rakudo because as he notes,

but the fact still stands that Perl 6 is vapor enough for most organizations wanting to do anything useful.

A while ago I moved this blog to my own site on perladmin.oreally.co.uk. Posting about the move I tried to explain what I was hoping to achieve with the blog – to do my part in building attention to Perl. As part of this I made the observation that I believe one of the reasons that industry interest has turned away from Perl is because, in part, that we keep being promised that P6 is coming, but there is no usable implementation.

The comments I received about the post concentrated only on this part of the post and it was noted that by “bashing” Perl 6 in this way I was only adding to the problem. I suppose that a comment such as this from someone who claims to support Perl could be construed as in-fighting, but this was not the intent of my comment. Rather I was pointing out what I believe to be a very simple flaw in our collective front; that by talking about how great this language will be, but never having anything substantial in circulation, we look bad. Think about the disparaging comments that circulated about Microsoft and its repeated resetting of release dates for various versions of Windows and Office.

I’m not, of course, knocking Perl 6, its hard working designers or developers, or any such thing. Indeed quite the opposite I’m trying to say how I think Perl can be improved after all more interest in Perl means more, and sustained, interesting in Perl 6. Having tried to explain my thoughts, I was amused to read Andy’s post stating exactly the same point that I was trying to get across – that I think Perl is already the best solution to many problems, and that the descriptions we get of Perl 6 make me curious and want to use it, but that I cannot because it isn’t yet available in a form which is stable enough for general use.

Of further interest to those in the Perl community who have a similar view to mine are some of the comments posted in response to Andy’s posting. Indeed the second commenter asks

Have you actually looked at the November source code? It’s full of ugly workarounds and quirky hacks to work around Rakudo bugs

This is a rather disconcerting comment is further strengthened as the author makes mention of some of the issues and while supporters can easily wave off most of them the comment author provides one example as:

3. List assignment. my ($x, $y) = 1, 2; doesn’t work right now

If something like this doesn’t work then it seems to be a long way from being usable. Now your definition of usable may be different from mine, but in my definition it means I can write my apps using it. It doesn’t, of course, mean that I don’t want/like Perl 6 or its designers or developers. I don’t have anything against it, I just don’t think that it is ready and both Andy’s post and the associated comments appear to emphasize that point.

So while it is being developed IMO that the rest of us can help rebuild the love for Perl by concentrating on what Perl can do right now and just accept that Perl 6 isn’t going to be in a cinema near you soon. So lets go Team Perl! :)

Colin.

Incidentally, this is being posted here rather than on my own site, perladmin.oreally.co.uk, because its currently being moved to a new server. It was previously hosted on a box thrown together from junk in 1999. As you might imagine it was slow when receiving any real level of traffic but it was finally withdrawn from service due to its power usage. As a sign of the times, RedBus – the London, England, data center in which the box was hosted – has recently changed its billing calculations to include power consumption and as such a 9 year old box was not a good thing to have around for free and so it needed to be pulled. As a comparison cabinet space and bandwidth, the usual billing metric for data centers, is all but free. The migration has yet to be completed due to various complicating factors. Until then I’ll likely be posting through wordpress again.

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One Response to Perl 6 and the “Vaporware” Label

  1. chromatic says:

    C doesn’t have list assignment, but it seems to work pretty well for developing Parrot. That seems like a strange complaint. Yes, Rakudo isn’t finished, and yes, November has workarounds… but it took me ten minutes to add a feature November needed a couple of weeks ago despite never having used NQP. I challenge an experienced Perl 5 hacker to add a similar feature to Perl 5 that quickly. (Having added a couple of features to Perl 5 myself….)

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