There Are Fates Worse Than Death: The OPW2013 Keynote


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There Are Fates Worse Than Death: The OPW2013 Keynote

  1. 1. there are fates worse than death: the OPW2013 keynote John SJ Anderson » @genehack » #OPW2013Not to suggest that giving this keynote _is_ a fate worse than death...
  2. 2. And so do my slides.
  3. 3. who i amSo, who am I?
  4. 4. who i am • 10-15 years of Perl • couple modules on CPAN • DCBPW organizer, beginners list listmom • that guy that takes a lot of pictures of food. • team lead/consultant, infinity interactiveJust this guy, ya know?
  5. 5. I get to work with rock stars.
  6. 6. keynotes, man.Perigrin asked me to do this keynote at the beginning of December. Five weeks trying tofigure out what to talk about.
  7. 7. keynotes are different.Different because they’re not supposed to be technical, but instead big picture/inspirational.Plus there’s the pressure of all the great keynotes we’ve had in the Perl community. Thequestion facing every keynote speaker: “What am I telling you for an hour that’s worthkeeping you from beer?”
  8. 8. keynotes are difficult.So keynotes are hard. I struggled with this talk _far_ more than I usually do.
  9. 9. For about a week, my plan was giving this talk, dropping the mic, and walking off stage. Thatwas a pretty happy week.
  10. 10. keynotes are awesome.But then I realized that, no, this might be my last chance to get to address the communitylike this.
  11. 11. Plus, giving the keynote gave me an excuse to use this image.
  12. 12. how i think of myself: i’m a perl programmer.So I said to myself, you’re a perl programmer, what do you want to hear about? And then thelittle asshole voice I’ve got inside my head said, “Oh, really, you’re a perl programmer, areyou?”
  13. 13. in 2012 i coded in... • AppleScript • Lua • (ba|z)sh • Perl •C • Python • Groovy • Ruby • Javascript • Scala • Lisp • SQLLittle asshole said, “What did you code in last year?” So I made a list.
  14. 14. i shouldn’t self-identify as “a perl programmer” anymore.And I had to admit, the little asshole voice in my head had a point. I’m not a Perlprogrammer.
  15. 15. how i think of myself: a programmer who uses perl a lot.So I said to myself, “Okay, you’re a programmer who uses Perl, what do you want to hearabout in a keynote?” And then the little asshole voice said, “Oh, you’re a programmer, areyou? “
  16. 16. in 2012 i also “coded” in… • HTML • Jira • CSS • Email • Linux • Managing my team • MacOS X • Managing my bosses • Git • Managing my clientsLittle asshole voice said, “What else did you do last year?” So, I made another list.
  17. 17. maybe i shouldn’t self-identify as “a programmer” anymore either.And I had to admit, the little asshole voice in my head again had a point. I’m lucky if I spendhalf my time programming.
  18. 18. a manager.So what am I? And the little asshole voice said, “Dude, you’re a manager.”
  19. 19. a manager. who gets to code a little, sometimes, maybe.Little asshole voice continued: “Hell, look, you’ve even got a Macbook Air, the laptop ofmanagers everywhere. Developers need more RAM than that thing has.”
  20. 20. a manager.Little asshole voice is a big asshole, really.
  21. 21. how i want to think of myself: generalist & problem solverAfter thinking for it a bit, I realized that this is really the best description for what I do. Iknow a little bit about a whole lot of things, and I’m good at dropping into the middle of amessy situation, figuring out what’s up, and coming up with a solution for whatever theproblem at hand is.
  22. 22. In other words, in my head, I’m this guy. At least, on my good days.
  23. 23. I HAVE PEOPLE SKILLSOn my bad days, it sometimes feels a little bit more like this.
  24. 24. But, let’s ignore that. If I’m really Mr. Wolf, figuring out a keynote talk shouldn’t be that big ofa deal, right? You’d think.
  25. 25. Luckily, before I ran out of time, this article was published -- on Perl’s 25th birthday, no less.
  26. 26. fuck that noise.I had a pretty strong reaction upon reading the title.
  27. 27. And then I few days later, I saw another article.
  28. 28. fuck that noise.And I had another reaction.
  29. 29. there are fates worse than death.The good news was, I had the theme I needed to tie together the points I wanted to make inmy talk.
  30. 30. Fates worse than death: (a) being a non-coding manager, (b) being the new Cobol, (c) beingthe go-to comparison when somebody wants to call something old, crufty, and overripe forreplacement.
  31. 31. so, what do we do about this?Okay, Mr. Wolf, how are you going to fix this?
  32. 32. maybe we can start over!Well, since languages are just code, and since everybody knows codebases have a finitelifespan, maybe we could just start over.
  33. 33. wait, shit, we tried that.Whoops.
  34. 34. well, how about if we talk up the language and blog about it and ...Okay, maybe what we have is a marketing problem. I bet it’s just that people don’t knowabout all the cool stuff people do with Perl and how many people are still using it and stuff.
  35. 35. wait, wait, hold up, we tried that too. how’s that going?Oh, right, we’ve been marketing the hell out of Perl for a couple years now. That’s doing_something_, right?
  36. 36. It is. The good news is, people now aware we’re still around, and so we get to be the subjectof their pity.
  37. 37. (This isn’t to run down the efforts of all the people that have been out there plugging the hellout of Perl. I think that was totally necessary, and it did make a difference -- but I also thinkit’s done about all it’s going to do.)
  38. 38. fuck. that. noise.I don’t want to be the new Cobol, or the default example of “crap that should be replacedwith something that doesn’t suck so bad”.
  39. 39. The whole situation made me sort of sad, mostly because I was starting to feel more like thisguy than Mr. Wolf.
  40. 40. I even felt a little bit like this guy.
  41. 41. I…I…I could burn down Reddit.WE DON’T NEED NO WATER.
  42. 42. Maybe Perl is dead.And then I said it.
  43. 43. Maybe Perl is a dead-end.And then I talked to Stevan about it.
  44. 44. Why do I care?I care because I needed something to talk about for this keynote.
  45. 45. Why do we care?Really, why does it matter? Perl has had a good run.
  46. 46. After all, programming languages are just tools.If we buy the conventional wisdom that “Programming languages are tools”, shouldn’t we_expect_ Perl to go away at some point?
  47. 47. Tools aren’t as interesting as what they enable us to create.Plus, tools aren’t really that interesting in and of themselves. Tools are cool because they letus build stuff.
  48. 48. Crazy stuff.
  49. 49. Initial Reactions • “WHY?” - most people • “COOL!” - some people • “Hey, that gives me an idea…” - a few people • “What brand of wrench did you use on those bolts?” - NOBODY, NEVER.But the cool thing about the crazy stuff is the thing that got made, not the things that wereused to make the thing.
  50. 50. The languages we “compete” with the most are really just different dialects of the same Ur-language.I mean, it’s not like there aren’t a bunch of languages that have ripped off^W^Wbeen inspiredby Perl’s design.
  51. 51. Perl, Python, Ruby, ... PHP. All just different kinds of hammers, at the end of the day.
  52. 52. What has Perl created?Maybe we don’t care about Perl as much as we care about what Perl has built.
  53. 53. The Perl community.If Perl the language disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss the language much, if at all. If thecommunity evaporates, however, I will be crushed.
  54. 54. So, what’s my “generalist and problem solver” take on avoiding that?
  55. 55. Stop talking about Perl.This may sound counterintuitive given all the marketing talks we’ve had. Here’s the thing.
  56. 56. The only guy who enjoys you talking about Perl is the one waiting for you to stop talking…I just started a new “dynamic languages” group in my town. First meeting, about 20 peopleshowed up. Some Rubyists, some PHPers, a few .Net developers. I was the only person usingPerl.
  57. 57. …so he can deliver the “Is Perl6 done yet?” joke he read on HN.And as soon as I said, “I mainly code in Perl”, somebody across the room said “When’s Perl6coming out”, and everybody laughed.
  58. 58. Stop talking about Perl.Talking about Perl at this point doesn’t help.
  59. 59. Quit talking to the echo chamber. (This is actually an anechoic chamber. No sound gets *out*of it. See what I did there?)
  60. 60. If you start out talking about “Perl”, people flip the bozo bit on you. You get negative fucks.
  61. 61. Start talking about cool shit.My extensive research supports this. (Data not shown.)
  62. 62. Cool shit is the hook.
  63. 63. We do a lot of cool shit.The Perl community does a lot of cool shit. We have better, more affordable conferences than*anybody*. Other communities are catching up as far as module repositories and install tools,but they can’t match stuff like CPAN Testers.
  64. 64. Start talking about cool shit.Point #1: talk about cool shit. Use social media like Twitter, or blogs. Don’t lead with Perl,lead with cool shit. Once you have them hooked on the cool shit, then reveal the Perl if youmust.
  65. 65. Aside: we don’t do a great job with talking about conferences on Twitter. 5 tweets in 4 hours?Sad.
  66. 66. Stop talking shit, period.Point #2. Stop wasting your energy on shit that doesn’t matter.
  67. 67. Rather than use specific examples from the community, here’s a clip from “SLC Punk” thatmakes the same point. (Used without permission under the Fair Use provision -- if you’relooking at the PDF version, the clip is at
  68. 68. The Perl Community: Faster, Harder, With MoreI <3 the Perl community.
  69. 69. Stop talking shit, period.So, please stop wasting your time.
  70. 70. Instead, just go and do a thing.
  71. 71. Don’t read the comments.
  72. 72. Don’t write the comments, either.Corollary to not reading them.
  73. 73. When you read the comments…Everybody always says, “Don’t read the comments.” Really, that’s a sort of a lie, because weall do it, and we’re all going to continue doing it. It’s a natural thing. Just do it behind alocked door, wash your hands afterwards, and understand that we don’t talk about it.
  74. 74. Stop talking shit, period.“Somebody is wrong on the Internet” #ohnoes
  75. 75. Start doing shit.My research also shows that doing shit gets more shit done than talking shit does. (Data alsonot shown.)
  76. 76. Important subpoint: when you do shit and then talk about it, make sure you do it in termsthat make sense outside the echo chamber.
  77. 77. Go outside. • Start a “Dynamic Languages” group • Attend a Python users group, or Ruby, or Scala, or Clojure... • Start an “Oddball Languages” group • Visit your local hackerspace • Mentor a high school student, or a DIYerHere are just a few things to consider doing.
  78. 78. Don’t talk about Perl.And remember, when you go outside the community and do these things... don’t talk aboutPerl. At least not at first.
  79. 79. Talk about cool shit.Talk about cool shit instead. Once people are interested, _then_ explain how Perl makes itpossible.
  80. 80. DO cool shit.Even better, try doing something in a language that isn’t Perl.
  81. 81. Maybe Perl is dead.And hell, maybe Perl is dead, in which case, you’re gonna need some new skills.
  82. 82. Maybe Perl is a dead-end.Unless you’re happy being the guy supporting the “new COBOL” system that they’re onlykeeping around because it’s not worth replacing yet.
  83. 83. Here’s the really cool thing about tools…Tools aren’t cool.
  84. 84. …their creations survive their passing.But the things we build with them -- they are cool.
  85. 85. The Perl DiasporaI think at this point, one of the best ways to save Perl -- or at least the Perl community -- isfor everybody in the Perl community to start making a strong and concerted effort to turnoutwards, towards all the other communities.
  86. 86. This is a band called The Hold Steady, one of my favorite bands. If you ever get a chance togo to one of their shows, I highly recommend it, it’s the closest thing to a truly ecstaticexperience I’ve ever had. Their frontman, Craig Finn, closes all their shows with a littlespeech that I’m going to steal, because I think it fits the Perl community well.
  87. 87. There is so much joy in what we do.It goes something like this: “We’ve come to the point in the evening where I only have onething left to say. And I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t said it before, but it could not bemore true. There is so much JOY in what we do...”
  88. 88. Thank you. John SJ Anderson » @genehack » #opw2013“... I’m John Anderson, you’re the Orlando Perl Workshop, and I FUCKING LOVE YOU!”
  89. 89. Spread the joy. 2nd DCBPW » 4.20.2013Thanks for coming to OPW (or looking at these slides on the web), thanks to Perigrin forputting together another great OPW. Hope to see you all next year.Share the joy.