Tuesday 3 January 2012

The Perls of 2011

Following my 2010 post, I thought I should register some of the great things that happened in the Perl programming world in 2011. Only this time instead of turning it into a timeline, I'm going to place things in topics so you can just concentrate on what really matters :)

Also, I'm only going to write about Perl 5. If you're looking for a Perl 6 retrospective, Moritz Lenz already did a very nice job with that :)

Apologies if I missed something - it's really hard to keep track of all the wonderful projects and conferences going on! Make sure to add them in the comments section below.

So, without further ado, here are the "Perls of 2011".

Some Perl & CPAN stats

According to Ohloh, over the course of 2011 there were nothing short of 5975 commits to the main Perl 5 repository. Wow! For comparison, Ruby had 3153 commits and PHP, 4461. We were a little short from our friends in the Python community, though, which had 6974 commits. Not bad, huh?

The Perl 5 bugtracking system reports a total of 915 tickets created in 2011, and 928 tickets closed in that same period. That was close, but the awesome folks at p5p once again managed to keep the stats positive :)

By the way, can you guess how many perl releases we had in 2011? 1? 3? more? 10? Try 21. Twenty one, including development and stable releases!

One of the coolest ones was, of course, perl 5.14, which brought us Unicode 6.0 support, new regex flags, the sugary "package Foo { }" syntax, improved IPv6 support and, as if these weren't enough, it uses even less memory and CPU than previous releases!

How about CPAN? 16197 distributions uploaded, of which 1873 were brand new!


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures had 5 entries tagged "perl" in 2011, of which only 2 were actually regarding perl itself (namely, CVE-2011-0761 and CVE-2011-1487). Again, for comparison, python also had 2 records, ruby had 7, and php had 36.

Perl's commitment to stability and security was showcased in late december, when Alexander “alech” Klink and Julian “zeri” Wälde delivered a very nice talk at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress security conference in Berlin, entitled "Efficient Denial of Service Attacks on Web Application Platforms". Their work builds on top of an attack vector described in perlsec and fixed back in 2003 (the long-since-deprecated 5.8.1), and shows the issue affects almost every other popular language for the web, including Python, Java, PHP, ASP.NET and JavaScript. Ruby fixed their code in 2008 and people should be fine as long as they use CRuby 1.9 and above.

The King is dead. Long live the King!

For the past two years Jesse Vincent (obra) was our beloved Perl 5 Pumpking. Back in october he passed the torch to the incredibly prolific Ricardo Signes (rjbs), who will undoubtedly make us all very proud! A huge thanks is in order to both of them for the remarkable work they did last year - and that they'll undoubtedly keep on doing.

TPF Grants & Donations

Dave Mitchell once again did an astounding work with his "Fixing Perl 5 Core Bugs". Last year alone he worked more than 470 hours, closing 29 tickets. Great job, Dave!

In the middle of the year Nicholas Clark jumped on the wagon with his "Improving Perl 5" grant, approved with praise. So far Nick reported more than 380 hours of work, and tons of code to make Perl development even smoother.

None of this would be possible without the wonderful support from several companies that are proud to use Perl, giving out not only their public praise but also donating infrastructure and money to help further develop the language. This year we saw some incredible support from Booking.com, cPanel, Dijkmat, Liquid Web, Net-A-Porter, the Oslo Perl Mongers, perl-services.de, and the Vienna Perl Mongers.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC)

Every year The Perl Foundation participates on the Google Summer of Code program, and 2011 was no exception. This time, 6 students were accepted and all of them made their mentors proud - 100% success rate! A huge thanks is in order for everyone that participated.

Google Code-in

Another great initiative from Google in 2011 was the Code-in program, aimed at 13-17 year old school/college students with the idea of getting them involved with open source. The project is still running but we can already see some impressive results, such as over 135 completed tasks.

These numbers are great, and show that there's a big niche for Perl in schools and undergrad courses. I had the opportunity to teach Perl to undergrads in a one-week course at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the receptivity was incredible! If you have the chance to give a short free workshop at your local college/university, I highly recommend you do so :)

Conferences! Conferences! Conferences!

All over the world, the vibrant Perl open-source community and their corporate sponsors filled the year 2011 with conferences showing the best modules, tools, techniques and design patterns, talking about a lot of bleeding-edge features and how to make Perl help with innovation and productivity for your enterprise.

January: Orlando Perl Workshop (OPW - a.k.a. The Perl Oasis)
February: Frozen Perl, Bulgarian Perl Workshop
March: Dutch Perl Workshop
April: Toronto Perl Workshop, QA Hackathon
May: São Paulo Perl Workshop
June: Nordic Perl Workshop, French Perl Workshop, YAPC::NA
August: YAPC::Europe
September: Italian Perl Workshop, Portuguese Perl Workshop
October: Ukrainian Perl Workshop, Pittsburgh Perl Workshop, Belgian Perl Workshop, German Perl Workshop, YAPC::Asia
November: YAPC::Brasil, TwinCity Perl Workshop, London Perl Workshop
December: Russian Perl Workshop

Only July had no perl-centric conference. Quite impressive! And we're not even counting general conferences in which we participated such as FOSDEM, FISL, OSDC, OSCON, or even Perl Mongers tech meetings. Speaking of which...

Perl Mongers

The number of active Perl Mongers group just keeps growing and growing. In 2011 alone, 15 new groups were spawned! Good luck to all our friends from AtlanticCity.pm (US), Makati.pm (PH), Bordeaux.pm (FR), HradecKralove.pm (CZ), Goiania.pm (BR), Petropolis.pm (BR), Brno.pm (CZ), Logan.pm (US), Tolyatti.pm (US), LGBT.pm, SouthernOregon.pm (US), Plzen.pm (CZ), Sendai.pm (JP), WestVirginia.pm (US) and Kerman.pm (IR).

With these new additions, our tiny planet hosts 251 active Perl Mongers groups :)

Prominent Perl People in 2011

This year we had some well-deserved White Camel Award winners: Leo Lapworth, Daisuke Maki and Andrew Shitov. Congratulations and thanks for making the Perl world better!

There are several others whom also deserve a huge praise for last year's work, amongst them Mark Keating of Shadowcat/EPO/TPF, who is tirelessly working on quality Perl marketing; Gábor Szabó who started the Perl Weekly mailing list and a series of Video Tutorials; and Thiago Rondon, who did huge things for the OpenData initiative, leading us (and Perl) into projects that added a lot of transparency to the Brazilian government and even resulted in a W3C Brazil OpenData Developer's Manual (of which I'm proud to have been a part of) and in winning the Latin America OpenData hackathon.

A couple of new, fun and downright useful websites were born in 2011, including Perl News by Dave Cross, Github-Meets-CPAN by Johannes Plunien; and PrePan, by Kentaro Kuribayashi. Important to notice that learn.perl.org was relaunched with a beautiful look and a lot of updated content. Great job, everyone!

But there are also the silent workers, the ones that are mostly behind the scenes but whose efforts were paramount for the Perl 5 ecosystem. People like Karen Pauley, president of The Perl Foundation; and Barbie, who worked really hard in keeping the incredible CPAN Testers service up and running.

In fact, a *HUGE* thanks are due to everybody involved in CPAN Testers in 2011: Barbie, Dave Golden, Chris Williams, David Cantrell, Slaven Rezić and just about everyone else. I had the great opportunity to help Dave Golden upgrade the cpan-reporter module to use metabase and I could see how intricate the whole thing is. By the way, did you know that in 2011 CPAN Testers crossed the barrier of over 1 million test reports in a single month? That's incredible!

Speaking of which, what would be of Perl 5 without its core developers? Several of them were already mentioned and praised here, but you can check the full list of contributors in the AUTHORS file, or in perldelta for a more recent list. This year we had the pleasure of seeing commits from Father Chrysostomos, Florian Ragwitz, H.Merijn Brand, Karl Williamson, Claudio Ramirez, Vladimir Timofeev, Nobuhiro Iwamatsu and many, many others. Thanks, guys!

Perl Games

The Perl gaming scene got yet another massive overhaul in 2011. Coming from all the hard work Kartik Thakore, Tobias Leich and everyone else at the SDL Perl project put in 2010, game development in Perl has never been this easy or fun.

The SDL Perl Manual was finished early in the year, and we were having so much fun we threw together the SDL Perl Game Contest in march, resulting in a total of 16 new games written from scratch in just one month!

The year also saw the coming of a Box2D wrapper for Perl, letting us add some fast physics to games and simulations.

But the best was yet to come. Construder, a jaw dropping 3D game created by Perl hacker Robin "elmex" Redeker, features futuristic settings with some nice graphics and an (almost) infinite world for you to build and play with. Make sure to check it out if you haven't already!

A Web of Perl

Perl's most widely adopted web frameworks also kept extremely busy, and 2011 marked some pretty cool releases and announcements:

Catalyst 5.9 was released back in august, incorporating Plack as its default Engine. This change benefits Catalyst significantly by reducing the amount of code inside the framework, getting upstream bug fixes in Plack, and automatically gaining support for any web server which a PSGI compliant handler is written for.

Mojolicious saw a total of 122(!) releases, including its 2.0 one, and now features updated websockets support, documentation enhancements and several asynchronous/non-blocking features. You can check out the official Mojolicious 2011 retrospective for the full monty.

The nice folks of Dancer started working on a massive core rewrite that will help the project tremendously. Among the changes being made, there will be no more globals in the core, 100% object-oriented backend, better scoping for sub-applications, and a better design overall.

Advent Calendars

The tradition remains, and the 2011 Perl Advent Calendars are filled with great content ranging from beginner tips to advanced hacks. The Japanese Perl Community once again delivered several high-quality articles in 9 different tracks, while the Brazilian Perl Community scattered their great articles throughout the two months of the Equinox.


O'Reilly has been busy in 2011, with the updated 6th edition of Learning Perl - the Llama - by Randal Schwartz, brian d foy and Tom Phoenix, and Johan Vromans' handy Perl Pocket Reference. They're also getting ready for the 4th edition of Programming Perl - the Camel - to be released in early 2012. Heck, at O'Reilly they even used Perl to pick their Secret Santa :)

Speaking of upcoming titles, Ovid's Beginning Perl and chromatic's Little Plack Book are ones to keep an eye for. Who knows, maybe I'll get to talk a bit more about them in the 2012 wrap-up? I look forward to it!

Rise of The MetaCPAN

If you were one of the early adopters, you know MetaCPAN was actually born on late 2010 (november 3rd, to be precise). The project had some ambitious goals: provide a free and open sourced alternative search engine to the ever-glorious CPAN. But in 2011 it became more. So much more.

Moritz "Mo" Onken, a student at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), applied for the GSoC and quickly became a hero. Sure, he already had several years of Perl background, but what Clinton Gormley, Olaf Alders and himself achieved in 2011 exceeded all expectations and revolutionized the Perl world.

MetaCPAN is not only a sophisticated and fast CPAN search engine, but also offers a full featured REST API that lets you build on top of it making all sorts of complex search queries for extracting data from and about the CPAN. Another (very) important aspect: an active and vibrant community that actually encourages people to send patches fixing bugs and adding new features.

Featured Perl Modules

Wrapping up the retrospective, I should go about some of the cool new modules that spawned in 2011. This is not meant to be a thorough list, just a small snippet for your viewing pleasure:

Mason 2 - The traditional HTML::Mason distribution received a major overhaul and became just "Mason". The new distribution is being very actively developed and has a much more modern architecture. Check out the changes and give it a try!

dip - this nifty new tool offers dynamic instrumentation like DTrace, using aspects. Marcel Grünauer builds on top of Adam Kennedy's awesome Aspect Oriented Programming (AOP) Perl interface (that also reached 1.0 in 2011) to provide a tool that lets you change application's behavior without actually touching the source code. Very nice!

Lucy - David Wheeler released a nice Perl wrapper for Apache Lucy, a high-performance, modular full-text search engine library that assimilated the KinoSearch codebase and community.

Data::Printer - I don't like to talk about stuff I wrote doing general retrospectives, but I'm going to open an exception here. Data::Printer provides a simple and powerful - not to mention, colorful! - way to view your data structures. It's highly customizable and if you ever used Data::Dumper to view variable contents on the screen, you should give it a try :-)

There were also some visible trends on CPAN last year:

Towards a lighter Moose: everybody loves Moose (which also reached 2.0 in 2011!), but sometimes you just want - or think you just want - the sugary OO syntax, not the full-blown object system. Or maybe your particular environment doesn't let you install it, and you still need some small piece of it to make everything better. In 2011 there were a lot of uploads for Moose and Mouse alternatives, including Moo, Mo, and Mite. This definitely shows an itch that needs some scratching.

On a somewhat related note, Stevan Little is developing a proposal and a functioning prototype for a Meta Object Protocol, or MOP, to be perhaps included in a future version of Perl 5. Comments are welcome!

Sysadmin tools: Matt S. Trout took the time to bolt some modules together and bring us Tak, a multi-host remote control over ssh. But he wasn't the only one, and new sysadmin tools and modules sprouted all over the perlverse. Some fine examples include helm, providing easy server and cluster automation, and the great Rex (or, rather, "(R)?ex"), that lets you manage all your boxes from a central point through the complete process of configuration management and software deployment. Check out rexify.org for a quick glimpse of some of its features!

Simple ORMs: another trend in 2011 was to create simple DBI wrappers providing ORM-ish features, resulting in lightweight frameworks somewhere between DBI and DBIx::Class. Among the new distributions are Teng and DBIx::Sunny.

Dependency Managers: Finally, following Ingy's "only" pragma from back in 2003, a lot of effort has been put into making new and improved dependency managers for Perl applications and distributions. Miyagawa's carton and Gugod's perlrocks deserve particular attention.

That's it for this 2011 Perl retrospective. Hope you guys had as much of a nice time reading it as I had writing it. Let 2012 be the year of the Velociraptor!!


  1. One little correction. Perl News wasn't just me. Leo Lapworth was (and still is) just as involved as I am. And we've also had a lot of help from Mark Keating and brian d foy.

  2. Great info..thanks for sharing. I have re-shared in my blog. I really liked the idea of giving free workshop at your local college/university. I feel Perl programming teaching is lacking at college level (at least here in India) so free workshop might help to generate interest.

  3. This is a great summary. Looking forward to an even more spectacular 2012.

  4. awesome! hoping for more great news in 2012

  5. A great summary. Thanks for posting.

  6. Wow. chromatic asked if anyone was interested in a Perl 2011 retrospective and I didn't think there could be that much to say, but it's been a heck of a year! Many thanks for writing it up :-)

  7. Nice information about prototype development. thanks for sharing this useful information