Commercial Perl offerings
One thing that has baffled me about the Perl ecosystem is the apparent lack of commercial offerings to both developers and the companies that have Perl as a part of their operation. In fact, when doing some digging to find examples of actual and existing businesses offerings all I could find were the odd recruiters here or there, some training / lecturers and the ActiveState Perl tools / services. Shouldn’t there be more?
When discussing these things with fellow developers I have too often heard arguments such as “Innovation and improvements would stop if a company ran it”, “Perl is open source - anyone can contribute” and “Do you really want development to be Pay-To-Play?”. My personal opinion on these arguments is that they are based on a largely misunderstood idea of what will give a project growth and popularity. It is not uncommon for people to believe that a projects success is based on technical merits, or to put it in more general terms “amount of awesomeness”. I wish it was so.
History is full of examples where the objectively “best” product ended up failing, while a clearly less well-made product ended up coming up on top. Often it is the merits of your sales team that determines your success, not the product. For us as developers wanting our favorite language to succeed this means that we need to be hard at work promoting it, and promoting it in a way that inspires confidence. Part of this is proving to the organizations in which we work that there is an ecosystem around Perl, that recruiting will be possible and that there are others who use Perl with great success. Showcasing success-stories is always a good thing.
One other important factor for a company is knowing whether or not it is possible to pay to have certain issues solved or some parts of the technical operations outsourced. In this context “outsourced” does not mean “movin’ dem jobs out of ‘murca”, but rather if it is possible to move non-core parts of the technical operations out so you can spend more time internally on what is most important for the business. An example of this is utilizing services such as Amazon S3, Travis, etc. These are services that provide answers to needs that are largely similar among their potential customers. It does not make sense that everyone should roll their own of everything.
A few years back I saw one such offering popping up. Stratopan was the name of the service, made by Jeffrey Thalhammer, the person behind the extremely cool project Pinto. Pinto is a small and very well-written piece of code that let you easily administrate your own PAN, so you have some kind of control over dependencies for your projects. Stratopan was marketed as a web-frontend for Pinto, and thought to be a pay-to-use service for those who do not wish to run their own Pinto repository.
My company signed up as users of Stratopan and found the service very well suited for our needs. Not only was it a technically very sound service, but the creator was very attentive and paid attention when issues were raised. For the last two years we have been using it a lot and have valued it tremendously. It is these kinds of services that I very strongly feel that we need more of in the Perl world. So if you have an idea for something that would make your life easier if existed as a service in the Perl world, do not be afraid to try to commercialize it. It never hurts trying, and even if you fail you might succeed in creating a little buzz around and in the Perl community.
I am a developer who enjoy the freedom Perl gives, and I would love to see Perl grow and flourish. If we all start to promote Perl as a language that gives business-sense to use, and show that there is a solid business-driven community as well as the free and open source community, then I believe that this is possible.