Perl Myths

Update: several more recent versions of my Perl Myths talk are available. These have significant updates. Slides can be found on and screencasts can be found on my channel.

I’ve uploaded my Perl Myths presentation to and google video:

“Perl has it’s share of myths. This presentation debunks a few popular ones with hard facts. Surprise yourself with the realities.”

While I agree with Andy Lester that Good Perl code is the best form of evangelism, I wanted to put together a presentation that others could refer to when they encounter misinformation about Perl. I cover these myths that I’ve heard recently:

  • Perl is dead
  • Perl is hard to read / test / maintain
  • Perl 6 is killing Perl 5

and pull in a wealth of upto date information, some of it quite surprising even to those familiar with Perl and its community. There are two versions, plus a video. I recommend the one with notes (which have useful extra detail and context for the slides) which is best viewed as a PDF. There’s also one without notes which I’ve embedded here:

I videoed an extended version of this presentation at IWTC in Dublin in February. The first 40 minutes or so correspond with the slides above. In the remaining 30 minutes or so I talk about Parrot and Perl 6. I’ve embedded the video below, but wordpress forces me to use a small size so you’ll probably prefer to view it at

30 thoughts on “Perl Myths

  1. Not trying to be blunt here, but I personally really do disagree that perl is NOT hard to read / maintain. Yes, it always depends on the guy who writes it and design decisions too, and every developer continually learns and finds better ways to do something, but i simply do not think that I will ever be able to go to Perl after having written ruby since 4 years by now. Granted, I was not using Perl as long as I was using Ruby, but I simply do not feel that Perl is in the same level of elegance as Ruby Code is.

  2. Thank you very much ! I started my new job this morning. I’m working in natural language processing domain (very exciting at my point of view), I have to learn Perl. I’m used to work with Python and I was a bit “anxious” to switch my habits from Python to Perl because of these “Myths”.

    And, you’re right : “Good developpers are always most important whatever language is used”. If I had to add something obvious : “Good habits, algorithms and datastructures are always most import whatever language is used”

  3. One vote down for I have to enable Javascript for them, then go through a a real pain of a sign-on procedure, all to view one .pdf file.

    If this is Web 2.0, count me out.

  4. #7 – Good point Jon. I’ve uploaded the PDF of the slides with notes to my blog and changed the “best viewed as a PDF” link to point to that one.

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  7. Ana Nelson was in the audience and sent me this email (which she gave permission to post here):

    Hi, Tim,

    I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your talk at the IWTC today. I was the ruby agitator sitting in the front row. :-)

    I had a pretty open mind about perl (read: I didn’t know anything about perl) before your talk, but I had never looked very closely at it. I have to say I will be paying a lot more attention in future, probably not to learn perl (although I won’t say never) but certainly to get ideas and inspiration.

    I was also really amazed by the level of detail you are able to get from devel::cover. I currently use rcov, but that can only give line-based coverage. Based on your answer to my question about how that works, I can sort of imagine how better ruby coverage tools could be developed, perhaps using Rubinius instead of MRI.

    Anyway, it was very nice meeting you. Thank you again for a very interesting and informative talk.

    Kind regards,
    Ana Nelson

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  10. I recently had an opportunity to talk to many startup founders. What they used was raging from Ruby (with Rails) to Python (with Django) to PHP to Haskel to Erlang, but not even one used Perl. The sample was not that small (on the level of dozens) and quite diverse – but there no methodology used to choose it so it is just anecdotal evidence – but it might be showing that there is something missing from the picture that you get from your statistics. Perhaps Perl while still widespread in the established business is not present at all in the new companies?

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  12. To Zbigniew: How many of those startup founders were working on web apps? I’m betting all or most of them?

    While Catalyst looks awesome (I’m going to be playing around with it in the imminent future for a project I have in mind), it still seems relatively new and a lot of people aren’t familiar with it. In the web app arena, PHP, Rails, etc, seem to be the best known and most popular solutions. Perl just isn’t considered as a first tier solution for new web apps (although hopefully Catalyst will change that).

    When you look at non-web app startups, I would expect perl to be much more common. It may not be the focus of the company, and they may not be building a single huge application in it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it showing up somewhere.

    I can say that the company I work for isn’t too far from being a startup, and while we’re currently rewriting a major perl application in Java (because our Dev manager loves all things Java), but even so, new small projects are constantly being done in Perl just because it works so well.

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  16. Outstanding slideshow! Having worked with a variety of languages on various platforms (C, Java, Visual Basic, Ruby/Rails, and Perl) I have to say that Perl is my favorite. However, one area that I feel has always held perl back is the lack of an easily integrated graphical user interface. There’s Tcl and a few others, but those I have tried were either lackluster or a serious pain to get working properly. Recently I’ve been playing with the free version of the Adobe Flex SDK and I have to say that I think it is a great fit with perl. I’ve been able to very quickly whip up some tools at our shop using perl to do the heavy lifting, Flex for presentation, and XML for the communicating between the two.

    Happy coding.

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