Jesse Vincent (Best Practical)
This talk could be titled something along the lines of “Lessons Learned from Project Management.”
Jesse Vincent is the current Perl 5 pumpking, which for the moment can be thought of as the project janitor.
People who say “Perl is dead” or that Perl hackers are “desperate” are behind the times.
There are a lot of exiting things happening that are not in the Perl core. Audrey Tang has said that “CPAN is the language, Perl is the syntax.” Like Piers in the previous session, Jesse enumerated a handful of things that make Perl awesome:
While some of the coolest new things happening in the CPAN world, it merely scratches the surface of what is available.
About three months ago, Jesse uploaded Perl 5.12. Amazingly, no one has reported any critical regressions.
Jesse has been assured that Rakudo * will be out next week, on 29 July. However, Perl 6 will not replace Perl 5, which has paid Jesse’s mortgage for many, many years. Also, thanks to Perl 5.12, Perl 5.10 is no longer “too new to use.”
Perl 5.12 marks the latest release in the process of cleaning up the inernals and adding much desired features. Some of the highlights:
- Deprecations warn by default
- suidperl is dead
- package Foo::Bar 1.0; – better version import syntax
- Y2038 compliant – thanks to Schwern
- Unicode improvements; upgrade to 5.2
- Pluggable keywords
- Overridable function lookup
- Dtrace support
- Deprecated modules – Class::ISA, Pod::Plainer, Shell, Switch (but still on CPAN)
- Yadda, yadda, yadda operator
Jesse believes the best new thing in Perl 5.12 is the release process, including him as the pumpking. Twenty years ago, Perl didn’t use version control. He recommends learning from this mistake.
It took five years to release Perl 5.10, after burning through two pumpkings.
Before 5.12, maintenance releases contained all sorts of bug fixes and updates, but could not break binary compatibility. Doing so was a huge task, was very difficult, and, contrary to its name, is unmaintainable. Even without all this work, the pumpking’s job is a lot of work. Jesse really doesn’t want to burn out after a release of Perl.
Traditionally, the process of turning someone with the necessary skills to be the pumpking involves preventing them from using those skills and replacing them with management skills. It’s a shame.
The system is broken and Perl 5 isn’t going anywhere, so how can it be fixed? We can reinvent it, but that’s already being done by Perl 6. Alternatively, we can refactor it. There is no reason many of the skills and duties required of the pumpking can’t be delegated out to people with those skills. In effect, the most important skill and duty for the pumpking is project management.
The 5.9 releases, leading up to 5.10, were haphazard. The 5.11 releases, leading up to 5.12, have settled into a new release every month on the twentieth, with a couple of exceptions. The 5.13 series has followed suit. One of the reasons this was possible was documenting the entire release process.
Releases in the 5.12 series are on a fixed schedule, every three months. A release schedule has been created for 5.14, too.
One of the things I’ve learned working in an enterprise and my observations of the Fedora Project is that good project management is vital. Jesse Vincent is exactly what Perl needed and he continues to demonstrate that, with regular, high quality releases of Perl. What’s more, he is a good spokesman for the project, being able to come to OSCON and give a session on all of this detail in a cojent and interesting format.