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The Final Day at The Perl Conference

Free Software Goes Mainstream by Netscape

Open source is something that Perl programmers knew was a great idea years ago, too bad corporate America is just starting to open their eyes. In many cases they have been using open source software and just didn’t know it thanks to the people behind-the-scenes, namely us.

As we all know, or at least we do now, Netscape released the source code to their Navigator 5.0 browser back in January. Prior to its release, Netscape had been losing the market-share in the browser wars. Since Netscape released the source, their market-share has increased by about 10% according to Netscape’s measures.

Netscape’s decision to release the source code of one of their premier products has had a profound effect on the computing world. IBM, Corel, Informix, and Oracle are now starting to experiment with open source. I said experiment because I haven’t seen any major products source-code released from these companies yet.

Netscape also spoke about PerLDAP. PerLDAP is a native Perl interface to LDAP. PerLDAP allows Perl developers to write directory enabled applications. Many major corporations are looking into LDAP solutions to solve many of the problems with having multiple directories in a company. With PerLDAP, Perl programmers can leverage these new LDAP directories and make incredibly powerful directory applications.

Netscape closed with a challenge. Since the open source movement is increasing, largely because of developer support, they urged us to help other companies “catch the wave” of open source software.

Perl Style by Tom Christiansen

Tom put on another great presentation. Perl style presented us with several tips and tricks about how to write your Perl code. As Tom pointed out, these are not necessarily the right way, and they are definitely not the only way to do it. Remember, there is always more that one way to do it in Perl. Tom presented us with his ways of programming Perl.

Tom said the most profound statement that I had ever heard about programming. Think, hack … throw away. That’s right, create your program – and then throw it away!

Now, if you really think about this statement, it makes total sense. As Tom pointed out, from the time we started writing papers in school, we have been taught to write a rough draft first. The same can apply in programming too. I recall several programs where I think of better ways I could have written them, but I don’t fix them because they are “done” and they are doing their job. The most likely reason we don’t throw out our rough drafts in programming is because time is money and we are paid to solve problems. If the code solved the problem, then we did it good enough, although if we had taken what we learned from writing it once, and then rewrote it - we might have been able to do it better. Writing it the first time allows us to get our creative juices flowing, writing it again allows us capitalize on those creative juices and do it better.

Tom also said that if we need comments in our code, then we didn’t write it properly. He wasn’t saying that we should never comment our code, rather if we write our code properly, any other Perl programmer should be able to come behind us and read the code that we wrote. He did suggest that if we are going to comment, try to limit the comments to blocks and data.

Also, instead of writing your variables with leading caps for all of the words like this: MyVariableForLoop. We should instead use the underscore and write it like this: my_variable_for_loop. He gave several good reasons, including the fact that Perl is now a global language and it can be hard for those who speak English as a second language to read the variables. Also, we are used to having spaces in words so it makes it more readable for us too.

Winding Down

Sadly, today was the final day of The Perl Conference. I had a fantastic time at the conference and I learned more about Perl in the past four days than I thought possible! Unfortunately, I was unable to stay the entire fourth day so I wasn’t able to talk about all of the events of the day, I am sure some other profound statements were made before the day was done.

The Perl Conference allowed us to do many important things like to put faces with names. I saw many of these people on the Usenet, but I never met them in person. The Perl Conference let us come together and meet them in person. In many cases, the people I met were nothing like I imagined them. This was not a bad thing, it just shows that I have a bad imagination ;-).

If you were able to make the conference, you know how much fun it was. If you were unable to make it, you missed hearing people like Randal Schwartz, Lincoln Stein, Tom Christiansen, Jeffrey Friedl and who could forget, Larry Wall.

The amount of knowledge that proliferated the air over the past four days was remarkable. Even when we were out on the town and maybe even having a little too much fun, the Perl discussions continued and knowledge was shared. Although at some points the discussions were a bit slurred ;-)

The networking, human networking - not computer networking, was also a great benefit of the conference. The Perl Mongers more than doubled in size and The Perl Institute was able to have a meeting, in person, with many of its members and the Perl community. These types of meetings are important to keep the organizations going.

Perl is getting stronger and stronger every day and the momentum gained by this gathering of “Perl people” should be enough to keep many of us busy until the next Perl Conference.

If you made it this year, I know I’ll see you next year. If you didn’t make it this year, come next year! The value of the conference far exceeded my expectations. The conference also it gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the Perl community. Let’s keep the momentum going. And remember, Perl is the “duct tape” of the internet.

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