What the Heck is a Perl Monger?!

This an interview I did with brian d foy, the creator of The Perl Mongers. My goal here is to inform the thousands of Perl programmers who may not know what the Perl Mongers are and what their mission is.

Please note that brian prefers his name to lack any capitalization, it isn’t because of my poor typing…

What are the Perl Mongers?

brian: Perl Mongers are “the Perl user group people”!

Legally speaking, Perl Mongers, Inc., is a Type B not-for-profit corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York. Perl Mongers purpose is to start and assist Perl user groups.

Perl Monger started as a play on PM. The initial New York user group was called NY.pm to make is look like a module, especially since “use NYpm” could be a phone number (although 212-use-NYpm) was taken. We figured P stood for Perl, but we couldn’t figure out M, so we made it a regular expression: /M((o|u)ngers|aniacs)*/. Unfortunately, the State of New York wouldn’t accept a regex as a corporation name, and “Monger” seemed to fit the Bedouin motif that has grown up around Perl, so it became the part of the name of the corporation.

The term “Perl monger” is also loosely used to described any Perl hacker, evangelist, or missionary. My dictionary describes a monger as “a dealer in a specific commodity”. That certainly seems like what we are.

Why did you start Perl Mongers?

brian: I couldn’t find any Perl user groups. I thought this was strange since Perl was about 9 years old at the time, and there were thousands of user groups for that younger, caffeinated language. The New York Perl Mongers were moving along quite well and I thought other groups could do as well with just a little encouragement. I got insanely positive feedback from Randal Schwartz, Jon Orwant, and Chip Salzenberg (all of whom are involved with the Perl Institute) about the idea of a central organization to provide services to user groups, so I created Perl Mongers.

What services does Perl Mongers provide?

brian: Perl Mongers has grown quite a bit. Our initial strength was publicizing and promoting new Perl user groups. Now, thanks to our sponsors, we provide many services such as free web hosting and mailing lists to Perl user groups (we have a nice SparcStation20 on a T1 shared with Smith Renaud, Inc.) We are working on an Invite-A-Guru service that will help user groups invite speakers to their events. We also constantly working on more and better deals to offer user groups, so keep checking back to see what’s new!

Does it cost anything to join Perl Mongers and how are Perl Mongers financially supported?

brian: Perl Mongers is completely free, and we intend to keep it that way. Perl Mongers is supported by the blood and sweat of volunteers as well as the generosity of our corporate sponsors. Our main source of revenue comes from the sale of Perl Mongers t-shirts , but we won’t necessarily turn away large sums of money or other donations which we could funnel right back into the Perl user groups. Since we have no payroll, our expenses are actually quite low. Everything is done by volunteers, and we’re always looking for people to help us.

How many Perl Mongers groups are there right now?

brian: The numbers are growing quickly, but right now we’re approaching over a hundred groups with about a third of those firmly established. Once a group is established, it’s listed on the Established Groups Page. Perhaps we should have a goal of 2000 by 2000. Did I just make a bold, kennedyesque promise? Oops. I guess I’ll have to deliver now.

How many countries have Perl Mongers?

brian: So far, Perl Mongers has assisted the formation of Perl user groups in several countries spread over four continents. We’re currently working on providing services in Europe and Australia which should make the process even easier for our friends overseas. We’re looking to get Antarctica.pm started as soon as a perl hacker gets down there.

How many Perl Mongers are there currently and is there any way to track the numbers of members/groups of Perl Mongers?

brian: So far we have avoided collecting demographic or statistical information about the groups that we serve. Our mandate is to serve user groups rather than users, which is more within the mandate of The Perl Institute. The list of groups can be seen on the Established Groups Page. It’s really difficult to cull numbers from the mailing lists since many people subscribe to lists from other groups as well. Ziggy Turoff is a charter member of NY.pm and a group leader of Philadelphia.pm, and I’m sure there’s even more cross pollination. Perhaps I should ask comp.lang.perl.misc how to pull out the unique elements of the lists.

Why would people be interested in becoming Perl Mongers?

brian: People would be interested in being part of a Perl user group because they would get to interact, in a social setting, with other Perl users. We’ve found that the majority of Perl users don’t know about other users in their area, although they may know hundreds online. After work discussions over beer and pizza can sometimes be very useful, if not just plain fun. Personally, I’ve found hackers that I’ve given contract work to because I knew them from NY.pm events.

How do Perl Mongers benefit the Perl community?

brian: We build the community of Perl by bringing Perl hackers together. After that it’s up to the hackers to do the rest.

What is the difference between the Perl Mongers and the Perl Institute?

brian: They are separate entities. Perl Mongers deal exclusively with Perl user groups, while The Perl Institute’s mandate is much broader and includes almost anything relating to the Perl community. Perl Mongers is “the Perl user group people”, while TPI “keeps Perl free, usable, and available”. We were very careful to talk to TPI before starting Perl Mongers to ensure that we wouldn’t be duplicating work or causing confusion in the Perl community, and we try to keep them up to date on what we’re doing so we don’t work at cross purposes.

How can someone find out if there is a Perl Mongers group in their area?

brian: They can look at the Established Groups page, or ask someone at groups@pm.org.

If there aren’t Perl Mongers nearby, how can someone start a new group?

brian: Perl Mongers can lead one through the process. Potential group leaders should see the information at the web site. One then can request a new group through the New Group Request Form. Once we get the request, we start the process including advertising, announcement, and other services, such as free web hosting and mailing lists. Should we find the time, we’ll automate this process as much as possible to make it even easier.

Any volunteers?

Thanks brian!

Check out the site. See if there is a Perl Mongers group near you, if not - start one! It is not hard and doesn’t take much time at all, brian has made it as easy as possible so that you can get on with creating a new “Perl community” in your area.



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