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Perl.com: Turning the Tide on Perl's Attitude Toward Beginners

Jun 02, 2001, 16:00 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Casey West)

This column maintains that the culture surrounding Perl has been brutal where newbies are concerned. There are broader lessons to be found here: "It has been the general opinion of the open-source community that, if you can't find the answers yourself, you're lost. Read the documentation, if there is no documentation, read the source. If there is no source, you've stepped out of the world as we know it. If you're a greenhorn and you can't figure it out from the docs or the source, goodbye. And not just goodbye, but a plague on your house as well."

"The Perl community has held tight to a "zero tolerance" policy for beginners. The transition to a more accepting, responsible community has begun. The past is behind us and the future looks brighter.

As far back as I can remember, asking a question that has been answered before is one of the many deadly sins of the Perl community. The general attitude revolved around, "If the docs are good enough for me, they're good enough for you. RTFM." One first-time programmer could easily accumulate 10 flames in his inbox after asking a question about why this code didn't print anything out:

                         my $input    = ;
                         my $username = chop( $input );
                         print "$username";
After said programmer has been flambe'ed to perfection they have to endure five more messages concerning the use of chop() and its evils, not to mention a handful of warnings about why putting double quotes around $username will cause famine in the land. Granted, these last few messages contain good information, but it's unlikely the beginner will even read these messages. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to more abuse when it's easier to delete the messages and move on to another programming language?"

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