Ignore the haters
I spend a fair bit of time (probably too much) browsing Reddit. And I always have to laugh when a Perl-related post is made to the Programming sub-Reddit. Although the post will often get up-voted, the majority of the comments are usually negative about Perl, not to mention completely un-related to the original article. Masak’s recent post about Perl 6′s birthday (and the ensuing post on Reddit) was a good example.
Although the post itself got a lot of up-votes, and although most of the negative comments eventually got down-voted, there were still a lot of them, and for quite a while they were ranked highly. Many people felt the need to voice their opinions on how much they hated Perl, how it hasn’t been relevant in 10 years, how it’s unreadable, how the OO sucks, etc. etc. It’s hard not to respond to such criticisms. I know I did, along with several others from the Perl community. There were also a couple of responses I made but (fortunately) didn’t post, which I seem to be getting quite good at doing in my old age.
Whether or not you frequent Reddit, I’m sure you’re familiar with this scenario. Whenever someone posts something Perl-related anywhere on the internet, but outside of the Perl community itself, you can be sure to find haters. I’m sure all popular languages have this problem to some degree, but Perl (maybe along with PHP) seems to have it worst than most.
And it’s our natural reaction to leap to the defense of Perl. Not just because it’s dear to our heart, and we’d love more people to use it, but also because we hate to see people so badly misinformed about anything. But it’s important to remember the kinds of people who make these posts.
Some of them have been so badly burnt by terrible Perl code, that they will never come back. Some of them simply don’t like Perl, for their own, legitimate reasons. Some of them have a vested interest in seeing Perl fade, even if it’s just that they see Perl as competition for their favourite language. And of course, some of them are genuine trolls, simply fishing for a reaction (although probably not as many as you might think).
These people are Darth Vader, and we are Luke Skywalker; desperate to turn them to the “good” side, even though it’ll never happen, until the very end of the movie at least (oops, spoilers). The point is, as much as we want to correct these people who (to us) are clearly wrong, we’re fighting an unwinnable battle, and wasting time and energy. More importantly, to neutral onlookers (who may be future Perl users), we might come off looking bad.
So I’ve decided on a new policy. I don’t want to stop reading (or even posting) Perl related stuff outside the Perl community. The echo chamber is comfortable, but it’s important to get out once in a while. But I will simply ignore anyone who posts negative responses, unless they do so in a constructive way, or make a reasonable argument. I hope that not only will I save time and energy, but I’ll begin to worry about these people a lot less (yes, I’m sorry to say that I do worry about them).
And maybe if we all started doing the same thing, and continue to make Perl awesome, these people would begin to disappear. And we could all make Perl posts to r/programming without fear of retribution….
… well, maybe not… but it’s OK to dream, right?