Time for some old man’s reminiscence. Or so it feels when I realize that
I’ve spent more than 10 years involved with the Perl 6 community.
How I Joined the Perl 6 Community
It was February 2007.
I was bored. I had lots of free time (crazy to imagine that now…), and I spent some of that answering
(Perl 5) questions on perlmonks. There was a category of questions where
I routinely had no good answers, and those were related to threads. So I
decided to play with threads, and got frustrated pretty quickly.
And then I remember that a friend in school had told me (about four
years earlier) that there was this
Perl 6 project that wanted to do concurrency really well, and even
automatically parallelize some stuff. And this was some time ago, maybe
they had gotten anywhere?
So I searched the Internet, and found out about Pugs, a Perl 6 compiler
written in Haskell. And I wanted to learn more, but some of the links to
the presentations were dead. I joined the #perl6 IRC channel to report
the broken link.
And within three minutes I got a “thank you” for the report, the broken
links were gone, and I had an invitation for a commit bit to the
underlying SVN repo.
The Early Days
Those were they wild young days of Perl 6 and Pugs. Audrey Tang was
pushing Pugs (and Haskell) very hard, and often implemented a feature
within 20 minutes after somebody mentioned it. Things were unstable,
broken often, and usually fixed quickly. No idea was too crazy to be
considered or even implemented.
We had bots that evaluated Perl 6 and Haskell code, and gave the result
directly on IRC. There were lots of cool (and sometimes somewhat
frightening) automations, for example for inviting others to the SVN
repo, to the shared hosting system (called feather), for searching SVN logs
and so on. Since git was still an obscure and very unusable, people
tried to use SVK, an attempt to
implement a decentralized version control system on top of of the SVN
Despite some half-hearted attempts, I didn’t really make inroads into
compiler developments. Having worked with neither Haskell nor compilers
before proved to be a pretty steep step. Instead I focused on some
early modules, documentation, tests, and asking and answering questions.
When the IRC logger went offline for a while, I wrote my own, which is
still in use today.
I felt at home in that IRC channel and the community. When the community
asked for mentors for the Google Summer of Code project, I stepped up.
The project was a revamp of the Perl 6 test suite, and to prepare for
mentoring task, I decided to dive deeper. That made me the maintainer of
the test suite.
I can’t recount a full history of Perl 6 projects during that time
range, but I want to reflect on some projects that I considered my pet
projects, at least for some time.
- In early 2008 I started to contribute some patches to
perl6.org. Over time I became frustrated with
the outdated content on many Perl 6 websites, so I created
perl6-projects.org, which only contained links to up-to-date
resources. Over time, people with an actual sense of design contribute
a nice layout. Later we switched perl6.org over to the content from
perl6-projects.org. Its structure today is still mostly that of a link
- In September 2008 I started with the Perl 5 to
6 blog series, which was the
de facto resource for learning Perl 6 for some years.
- In 2009 I wrote JSON::Tiny, the
first pure-Perl 6 JSON parser. I mostly did it to become familiar with
grammars, and because the book “Real World Haskell” also developed a
- May 2010 kicked off a program to make contributing to Perl 6 more
- September 2010: the Pugs SVN repository became unmaintainable. It had
accumulated the official Perl 6 test suite, some documentation,
modules, at least one IRC bot and a proverbial metric ton of other
stuff. In coordination with #perl6, I split it up into a collection of
git repositories and put them on GitHub. A decision we haven’t
- In 2012 and 2016 I was part of the organization team of the German
Perl Workshop in Erlangen and Nürnberg, which both featured several
Perl 6 talks.
- 2012 saw the birth of the documentation
project. Initially I was nearly the sole
contributor, and I’m very happy that, over time, others have taken over.
- Between 2014 and 2015, our community server “feather” EOLed, so the
Perl 6 community funded a new
which my employer, noris network AG kindly
hosts for free in their data center in Nürnberg, Germany.
- In 2016 I started writing Perl 6 by Example,
which Apress later adopted and published as Perl 6
- Currently I’m working on a treatise on Perl 6 Regexes and
Grammars, which Apress will also
It is not quite clear from this (very selected) timeline, but my Perl 6
related activity dropped around 2009 or 2010. This is when I started to
work full time, moved in with my girlfriend (now wife), and started to
plan a family.
The technologies and ideas in Perl 6 are fascinating, but that’s not
what kept me. I came for the technology, but stayed for the community.
There were and are many great people in the Perl 6 community, some of
whom I am happy to call my friends. Whenever I get the chance to attend
a Perl conference, workshop or hackathon, I find a group of Perl 6
hackers to hang out and discuss with, and generally have a good time.
Four events stand out in my memory. In 2010 I was invited to the Open
Source Days in Copenhagen. I missed most of the conference, but spent
a day or two with (if memory serve right) Carl Mäsak, Patrick Michaud,
Jonathan Worthington and Arne Skjærholt. We spent some fun time trying
to wrap our minds around macros, the intricacies of human and computer
language, and Japanese food. (Ok, the last one was easy). Later the same
year, I attended my first YAPC::EU in Pisa, and met most of the same
crowd again — this time joined by Larry Wall, and over three or four
days. I still fondly remember the Perl 6 hallway track from that
conference. And 2012 I flew to Oslo for a Perl 6 hackathon, with a
close-knit, fabulous group of Perl 6 hackers. Finally, the Perl
in the beautiful town of Perl in Germany, which brought together Perl 5
and Perl 6 hackers in a very relaxed atmosphere.
For three of these four events, different private sponsors from the Perl
and Perl 6 community covered travel and/or hotel costs, with their only
motivation being meeting folks they liked, and seeing the community
and technology flourish.
The Perl 6 community has evolved a lot over the last ten years, but it is
still a very friendly and welcoming place. There are lots of “new” folks
(where “new” is everybody who joined after me, of course :D), and a
surprising number of the old guard still hang around, some more
involved, some less, all of them still very friendly and supportive
I anticipate that my family and other projects will continue to occupy
much of my time, and it is unlikely that I’ll be writing another Perl 6
book (after the one about regexes) any time soon. But the Perl 6 community
has become a second home for me, and I don’t want to miss it.
In the future, I see myself supporting the Perl 6 community through
infrastructure (community servers, IRC logs, running IRC bots etc.),
answering questions, writing a blog article here and there, but mostly
empowering the “new” guard to do whatever they deem best.