What is "the Perl community"?

community Sun 21 September 2014

Prompted by RIBASUSHI's blog post, several discussions, github issue threads, and a long IRC chat with MITHALDU (pro tip: don't get him started! :-), I've been thinking about Perl community. I realised that one of the things I was reacting to was the suggestion that for Perl, "IRC == community". So, what is "the perl community"?

Caveat: this is not complete, nor should be taken as even an accurate record of what I think. I'm just dumping down some thoughts, as writing them down general helps organise them, and will prompt me to mull some more. And everything here is "IMHO", not a statement of incontrovertible fact.

My first thought was: "if you feel part of the Perl community, then you are", which means that the Perl community is the set of people who think they're part of the community.

Here's a definition of community I found online:

a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals

To identify whether you have these shared things, you need some kind of interaction. Which made me think about the different ways you can interact with people, related to Perl:


Many of these end up becoming sub-communities within the greater 'perl community'. So, you might feel like you're part of "the Perl IRC community". I think that still makes you part of the community, but GENEHACK disagrees:

There is no #Perl community. There are a bunch of Perl communities. TIMTOWTCommunity

By that definition, though, I don't feel part of any perl community.

Maybe my perl community is just the set of people I've made some kind of connection to / with? No, that doesn't feel right to me, but I'm still thinking about that tweet.

I think a risk of the above picture is that the things nearer the centre are seen as 'better', or 'more valuable'. Some of them are better suited to some problems / activities than others:

For example, I have have a personal perl blog, but also post on blogs.perl.org. I use the former more like a journal, when I'm trying to record / organise my thoughts, and the latter for things where I'm explicitly trying to engage the community, as with CPAN Day.

Another way to look at it:


Any of these could be someone's first interaction with the Perl community. And we can definitely improve how we inform people of the available options, so that on discovering one, you learn the others, and are naturally 'drawn in' to the community (I'm thinking discover rather than forcing or proselytising). Almost in the style of a decision tree:

But some of it is just about making people aware that all these things exist.

In the Perl Weekly, SZABGAB asked:

Why does it matter?

I didn't write this because I thought it was mattered, but because the question occurred to me (ie curiosity). The question popped up because I talked to a few people about community and realised that we had some quite different ideas. If we want to think about growing and improving the community, we need to make sure we're talking about the same thing.

The trouble with this sort of blog is that you bash something down; then you read it and think "no, that's not quite what I meant". So you write some more, refine a bit. Repeat, repeat. I ended up thinking "sod it, just post the damn thing!". See the second paragraph above :-)

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