Home > Programming > Why reputation doesn’t matter

Why reputation doesn’t matter

Some of the comments on Can Perl ever regain its reputation?, as well as a response from Dave Sherohman, made me realise I may not have done a particularly good job of making my (somewhat subtle) point.

The responses were along the lines of “reputation does matter, we need to make sure people know Perl is good”. Well (just to annoyingly contradict the title of this post), I agree, we do need to make sure people know Perl is good. Dave made some really good points on how important mind-share (for both developers and management) is. If people think Perl is rubbish, they won’t use it. So, the reputation of Perl does matter. What’s important, though, is the way we go about improving it.

Here are two possible approaches:

Approach #1

  1. Make Perl good. Or even awesome. Also make all the things surrounding Perl (frameworks, tools, etc) just as awesome.
  2. Ensure that it’s easy for people to find out about the cool things in Perl, i.e. documentation, articles, blog posts, and books where appropriate.
  3. Use the first two to correct people who have huge mis-conceptions about what Perl is about.

Approach #2

  1. Worry about what everyone thinks. Respond to any negative comments about Perl.
  2. Blog about Perl, focusing on comparisons to other languages, getting bogged down on the minutiae whenever necessary.
  3. Attempt to fix all the problems in Perl that have been pointed out by others, whether it’s necessarily the right thing to do or not.

Ok, so obviously the two approaches are exaggerated to make a point. In reality, individuals (or a community as a whole) usually fit somewhere in between these two extremes. The first approach is acting from a base of self-confidence. If you know what you’re doing is good, it tends to get even better. Conversely, if you’re not confident, things tend to spiral out of control as you attempt to deal with the criticism any public project faces. (Actually, this is true of pretty much anything in life).

In my opinion, the Perl world is generally much closer to #1, but I know of other communities that are a bit more like #2. Even so, I think it’s useful to keep this framework in mind when responding to criticism of Perl. If someone thinks it’s a mistake to build large systems with Perl, simply point out the counter-examples, and let them decide whether they will change their position of their own accord. If you’re desperate to prove how Perl is great to everyone, your response may be a little more hostile, and – ultimately – self-defeating.

So in that sense, reputation doesn’t matter. Because if we do everything else right, it will come naturally.

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  1. May 31, 2009 at 8:51 am

    See http://zedshaw.com/blog/2009-05-29.html – this is what I think is missing in your two sides perspective. When trying to do #1 it is dangerously easy to close your mind to the critic from outside, you get used to the little quirks and you don’t perceive them any more, the language is working great for you, and you are continuously making it better – so how come the uninitiated masses can criticize it? They must be stupid.

    So yeah – 1# is the constructive thing to do – but it needs to be accompanied by listening to the outside world and constant evaluating of your design decisions.

    • Mutant
      June 1, 2009 at 11:02 am

      Yes, you’re right. I wasn’t really trying to suggest feedback should be ignored completely, just that trying to build something based purely on criticism is a bad idea. Some people outside a project may have very valid ideas. Others might just have a chip on their shoulder. It’s important to filter out the good from the bad.

  2. Robert K
    June 1, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    4. (And I think this is the most important) Make sure that people have an easy time installing Perl and installing from CPAN. The language that provides an excellent package deployment system is really going to take off.

    (Strawberry Perl is a *fantastic* step in this regard)

  3. February 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    I came in here thinking I’ll get some ideas for my essay on why rep doesn’t matter. Dick

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