The full title of this talk is, Dist::Zilla – Maximum Overkill for CPAN Distributions.
Every CPAN distribution contains a significant amount of crap. It’s infrastructure used for the distribution tools.
ExtUtils::MakeMaker has been the traditional way to work on the infrastructure code. By necessity, it contains a lot of legacy, which can be cumbersome to maintain. Enter Module::Install, which can look in the expected places for the necessary information, such as the author name. But, the author still must write all the boilerplate. Module::Starter was written to address this, composing all the boilerplate on behalf of the author. There is so much boilerplate that, by default, Module::Starter also provides a boilerplate test to detect it.
Why are we doing all of this? How much repetitive work are we doing?
What can Dist::Zilla do for us? For starters, we can remove some files:
Leaving us with only our Changes file, our code, and our tests. The non-infrastructure parts. On top of that, Dist::Zilla does all of the boring distribution bits for us. It only handles the make dist command. It does not handle the make install command, which means the users who install the module don’t need all of the dependencies.
Dist::Zilla puts all of its functionality into plugins, which will be the meat of the rest of this session. It also uses a very simple INI-style configuration file.
The main command provided by the module is dzil build. This bundles the distribution, which will contain all of the infrastructure necessary for users to install the module. When building, it follows a simple work flow:
- Gather files
- Munge files
- Collect metadata
- Write out
There is no default configuration, but there is a Basic plugin bundle that will include all of the most common plugins.
What followed were examples of what the plugins can do. Of course, all of them are designed to reduce cruft—the non-code, non-documentation bits that we’re forced to maintain. The philosophy is the same one I advocate to anyone who will listen: computers are good at doing boring, repetitive tasks with derived data; why don’t we let them do more of that stuff?
I’ve followed @rjbs on Twitter for a while, and I’ve seen him talk about Dist::Zilla. I’ve wanted to try it out for a while, to simplify my distributions—both for CPAN and for my day job—but I didn’t realize until this session just how awesome the tool is. It’s a complete framework for managing Perl module distributions. Dist::Zilla will give my Laziness score a huge bump.