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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?

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  1. July 28, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Actually this attitude is what attracted me to Perl. I came with an expectation that Perl will suck. But then I talked to folks on #perl, #perl-help, and so on. In those early days I was taken aback by the general maturity and non defensiveness of the product. No one pitched me a product. I was instead simply told “Don’t use it if you don’t want to”. That statement is what made me actually want to try and learn Perl. If we stop replying to crazy comments ( like this http://bit.ly/bswCDl ), we would have more time to hack code :D .

  2. Ian
    August 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I don’t think you should completely ignore the negative comments, though. But rather than replying directly with a counter-argument, just make a separate stand-alone post/thread stating the positives of Perl.

    As I read somewhere recently, responding to the ‘Perl is dead’ crowd with ‘Perl is not dead’ still makes onlookers think about Perl in the context of death. Instead, state that Perl is alive and give some good examples. Give examples of well-written Perl used to solve interesting problems.

  3. August 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    This analogy I think is a fair and reasonable response =).

    If you were to consider all people, who in a mindless and ill-informed way scream “Perl Sucks”, to be one cohesive group of people, and that some of them occasionally fall into #perl behaving in the same deluded misguided fashion, then the logical conclusion to draw is that they are in fact Trolls.

    ( And if making wrong and inflammatory statements without any facts doesn’t pass for trolling, I don’t know what does )

    Classical IRC lore dictates the best way to treat a troll is to not feed them, and hopefully they’ll go away. Eventually they’ll tire of the lack of response and clue up, or get bored and find somebody else to bother =).

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