New To Perl? What Do You Need?
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Friday, 08 January 2021

Developers who use Perl are invited to take a survey to provide feedback on what help and guidance they would find useful. It's a Perl Foundation initiative to guide developers in their journey of learning Perl.

The survey, titled "Coding in Perl? What support do you need?" aims to encourage, guide, and even provide mentorship to newcomers who could otherwise quickly lose their enthusiasm and motivation for Perl.

We know that support levels across the community vary and that it might not always be easy for newcomers to get help

TPF acknowledging that fact prepared a survey in order to better understand what sort of help they community would like to see.

The preliminaries of the survey include questions on how many years you work with Perl and in which role are you are embracing it - System administration, Software testing, Research, pure Programming ?

This, however, applies to general roles and not domain specific use cases such as those detailed in Activestate's The Top 10 Programming Tasks That Perl Is Used For, which include Managing Cloud VMs Or Virtual Machines, Speech Recognition, Log Management or Text Manipulation.

I think that along the general description of the role, a more specific look at the actual use of Perl would give better insight into the material that the TPF should provide. For if the use case of Managing Cloud VMs Or Virtual Machines would prove popular enough then why not focus on making a course about it.

Other questions are how much time do you spend coding in Perl (daily,couple of days each week/month,year?) and the context in which you are using Perl:


  • I'm in a team of supportive Perl experts who answer any questions I have.
  • I'm in a team of unsupportive Perl experts and need to work things out on my own.
  • I'm in a team of inexperienced Perl developers.
  • I'm on my own (at least, in regard to using Perl)


As far training and helping teams of Perl developers and taking care of the onboarding process,I know of the excellent GeekUni who are specialized into this kind of job. They've even worked with, a use case that was detailed in this study and which contains valuable insight on what a new team member needs, Perl wise.

The problem, of course, is that Perl developers are hard to find, so there just isn't enough talent available out there to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding company. In order to stay ahead of the game, realised early on that it would have to hire developers in other languages and give them a chance to learn Perl while onboarding.

GeekUni's successful approach came down to :


  • interactive online Perl training
  • projects that come together as a fully fledged application
  • training that is tailored to individual needs while at the same 
    time retaining clear baselines and criteria for checking progress
  • continuous reporting


all that are nicely summarized in the following:

New developers need to take ownership of their learning to stay motivated. This means giving them real-life, hands-on tasks while offering feedback and positive reinforcement so they can check their progress. Managers require the right information and knowledge to identify challenges faced by developers and offer the most effective support.

So with the exception of the tailored training, the TPF could reflect on those general guidelines in order to provide a generalized solution of value.

But the most to the point question of the survey is:

With my kinds of questions, I'd like to be able to get answers from
(Almost/ always/ Often/ Sometimes/ Rarely/ Never)


  • Online courses
  • Search engine
  • A one-on-one professional mentor
  • Video tutorials
  • Discussion forums (e.g StackOverflow, mailing list, Facebook)
  • Real time chat (e.g. Slack, Discord, or IRC)
  • Books


which I guess it means more like "what is your preferred way of learning?";through Online courses,Searches,mentoring?
One could answer "all of the above" or "whatever is available" or "give me the choice".So a superset would be the most desirable anyway.

As the state currently is, Discussion forums like Stackoverflow or Perlmonks are already in place and active, and so are Real time chat Perl channels on Freenode. But this is totally based on volunteering and is not a coordinated attempt. One approach that the TPF could employee can be driven from the paradigm employed by Udacity. On its Nanodegrees programs, there are forums where newbies ask questions on the projects at hand which get answered by hired people called "Mentors", who mostly are students having already graduated and who take advantage of their experience for extra income. So a dedicated team that could act under the official TPF umbrella guiding and answering questions might be a good idea.

But that would also require a paradigm shift in mentality, as I ponder in .NET On QA, whether it's time for a new Stackoveflow:

I wonder how Microsoft is going to approach this problem. One way they're going to tackle it is by throwing a dedicated support team of MSFT employees behind moderation as well as having MVPs and Product Managers answering questions. Imagine someone on the C# team answering your question. Well something like that happens on SO as well. For example, in the past Eric Lippert, a member of the C# compiler team, was in the habit of answering relevant questions. But it's one thing doing it in ad-hoc fashion and another to make it an organized policy. It comes down to the difference that on Q&A they regard you as a Microsoft customer and not as just a random user. At least that's the intention.

The key point here is "to regard you as a customer", not just some valueless user.

As far as online courses and video tutorials go, aside from presentations found on Youtube, I'm not aware of any other coordinated attempt other than those of Gabor Szabo who has recently even done a course on Dancer. Even on Udemy, where I know that quality varies a lot, there are only a few outdated video courses on Perl; while look for Python and you get hundreds. I think that video is a format that should be endorsed by the Perl community. Imagine a sponsored by TPF online class hosting one of the big names of the Perl world in onboarding beginners and showing them what Perl can do. It would work much better than a book.

Talking of books, well I think that's the only area that Perl is well covered and with top quality books.I've reviewed many of them and I always find the quality outstanding. Apart from books that teach the language,there should also be books in parallel that bring a Perl user up-to-date with the newest developments, since we all know that learning is a lifelong experience. d foy's brand new book Perl New Features, for example, goes through Perl's new features from version 5.10 to version 5.32. It's an ever-updatable book that the author promises to extend whenever a new Perl version comes around that requires expansion.

Apart from the book's usefulness it's also a testament to the evolution of the language towards post-modern features going from version to version, something that proves one point; That Perl is alive and kicking ...
So book-wise I don't know how TPF could help. Maybe sponsor books on domain specific subjects, like the 2015 defunct attempt of publishing the very first Dancer book?

Whatever the case, the more people fill the survey the better the insight and the better the outcome. So take the survey now!


More Information

Coding in Perl? What support do you need?

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 January 2021 )