Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Gaming Ironman Perl

I subscribed to Planet Perl Iron Man in order to read posts relating to perl.

From the original announcement:

The rules are very simple: you blog, about Perl. Any aspect of Perl you like.

And ironman makes some effort to enforce that by subscribing, I will get what I am after by filtering out unrelated posts.

Of course it is very easy to game. But in traditional perlish style, we trust people not to game the system because we asked nicely, not because we have shotguns.

Frankly I have no idea how does this relate to Perl but I need it in the text so the IronMan will pick up the post.

I haven’t either. So why did you force this post which is completely unrelated to Perl onto Ironman Perl?



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Finding Useful Posts

One of the weaknesses of many blogs, including my own, is the difficulty of finding old, useful articles. There are a few ways to find articles written previously, such as the Archives, the categories and the tags. But to be honest, a lot of the stuff I write is only relevant (at best) at the time of publishing. And even I have difficulty finding my useful posts again.

There are several possible solutions, e.g. I could tag pages within delicious as curiousprogrammer/useful. For the moment, I’ve decided to keep a blog highlights page, and list the posts which are useful for me. Later on I might try a more comprehensive index.

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…anytime soon at least.

Searching with Google

So, I’m looking for something I’ve written on my blog. This happens quite frequently – a lot of posts I write are where I’ve figured something out that is useful to me. I write it down in case I need it the information again. Blogs are not generally well indexed so I reach for everyone’s favourite search engine and type…

curiousprogrammer sysread

I’m looking for the post I did on unbuffered reading with perl (back in May it turns out).

And the top link is:

Did you mean: curious programmer sysread  
Search Results

      Read Stream of Input With Perl << A Curious Programmer
      14 May 2010 ... A Curious Programmer. Leveraging Perl and Emacs ... Okay, quite cool, but there is a better solution. sysread is unbuffered. ...
      curiousprogrammer.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/read-stream/ - Cached


Let’s try Bing.

Searching With Bing

We didn't find any results for curiousprogrammer sysread.
We're showing results for curious programmer sysread.

      Sysread - Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress

      Blogs about: Sysread ... output irregularly. First it sends "hello ", then waits 5 ... more   A Curious Programmer
      en.wordpress.com/tag/sysread . Cached page
      Perl Streams - Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress

      ... output irregularly. First it sends "hello ", then waits 5 ...
 more   A Curious Programmer ... p ... more   Tags: Perl Programming, unbuffered input, input stream, sysread
      en.wordpress.com/tag/perl-streams . Cached page

Okay, not really. It’s only even picking up the links on wordpress.com because I tagged it so well. Maybe it needs a bit more help.

site:curiousprogrammer.wordpress.com sysread

Er, no.

We did not find any results for site:curiousprogrammer.wordpress.com sysread.
Were you looking for: sys read site:curiousprogrammer.wordpress.com
Search tips:

    * Ensure words are spelled correctly.
    * Try rephrasing keywords or using synonyms.
    * Try less specific keywords.
    * Make your queries as concise as possible.

Why Does it Matter?

My website is pretty small. I get 3000-6000 readers per month, and I doubt that many of them are uniques. I probably have a core of around 200 regular readers. I don’t get a lot of referrals from google. To be honest, I think I’m okay with that – I like the conversation from regulars and I can’t be bothered to moderate a lot of spam or put the effort into getting popular.

But, and it’s a big but, my website has a lot of useful stuff on. And there are tens of thousands of other small ‘unpopular’ sites with lots of useful stuff on. If I’m searching with Bing, what am I missing?

You might say that this only happens because sites like wordpress notify google when there has been an update so it knows to come along and update it’s cache. Well, sucks to be Bing, but in that case it doesn’t even look like the gap is going to close.

I’m going to stick with google.

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Caleb Cushing has spilled a lot of virtual ink writing about the obligations that come with releasing open source software.

Yes, I think I’ve proven that volunteering to do open source comes with a responsibility or obligation.

(emphasis mine)

I kid you not. That is what he thinks.

And people have responded reasonably. In my opinion.

What is Caleb’s End Goal?

HUH? you people need to READ what I SAID and STOP reading INTO it.

I can think of three possibilities.

  • He likes getting comments on his blog (I can’t blame him)
  • He want open source authors to do more than they are already doing
  • If something is released [on CPAN?] that isn’t up to a certain standard, he would prefer that it wasn’t released.

More Comments

He has started closing commenting on his posts so this can’t be the reason. He could still be deriving satisfaction from high numbers of visitors though.

Open Source Authors do More

This is unrealistic. If we1 wanted to do more, we would be doing it already. If we had the time and the inclination to improve the quality, improve the documentation, fix the bugs…

Basically, someone whining, isn’t going to make people increase the amount of effort they put in which is probably already at the limit of what they want to do.

Don’t Release Imperfect Code

Or when is nothing better than something?

Chromatic mentioned one case in the opposite of modern. When an example is actively bad it reflects badly on Perl. But I think that a programmer who is motivated enough to release code to CPAN will be good enough to not write bad perl.

When a novice writes poor perl examples and others learn from those examples, it reflects poorly on perl. With CPAN, the natural barrier means that a novice is unlikely to be able to upload a module before they become more adept.

Of course, as Dave points out, a lot of what is on CPAN is not exemplary despite the fact that the authors are not novices. However, a certain amount of bad perl is certain to make it onto the internet. Should we exclude all imperfect code and lose perfectly adequate modules?

edit: edited for clarification.

I consider the cases of Authen::SASL, POE and AnyEvent that I’ve relied on recently. Now, in all those cases, the documentation has varied from pretty good to excellent (and they also have handy test cases). However, even if they had no documentation at all, it is surely better to have a working example that you can trace through with the Perl debugger than it is to have to write it yourself from scratch.

In the worst case, if the code is completely unusable I have to write to myself from scratch, but I would have had to do that anyway if the code had not been released. And if I’m not a developer I still wouldn’t have been better off without the code.

So Caleb, consider what you’re asking for. You might think that it would be great if you don’t get perl modules released to CPAN that are a bit rough around the edges, but I assure you that you’re wrong.

1. Yeah, I said we rather than they, even though my own contributions are limited.

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Removed from Planet Emacsen

Now that I write mainly about p.erl I had considered not publishing this post, but I’m curious to know the reason if any and email to the planet emacsen maintainer, Edward O’Connor, has gone unanswered.

A couple of years ago when I started blogging about emacs I asked to be included in planet emacsen. And now I have been removed. What can be the reason for that I wonder.

Well, I have just come back from a blogging break. Between my post on sorting records with emacs in August 2009 and my post on Enablers and Obstructors in March 2010, there were almost 7 months. But the latest post in Amortized Analysis (a blog that hasn’t been removed from planet emacsen) was 4th January 2008. That is more than 2 years ago.

Maybe I’m not that relevant anymore. I have posted mainly P.erl posts since my break. But I do still do emacs stuff, e.g. Directory Aliases Revisited and Programming with Types. And Alexandre Vassalotti’s most recent Emacs post was September 2007.

Or was it the back and forth with Ian Eure (and to a lesser extent, Aaron Hawley) about my Emacs Database Mode. Did someone ask for me to be removed?

Anyway, whatever the reason, it has been done. What solution do I have? I have created a yahoo pipe called Better Planet Emacs which you can subscribe to. It filters a lot of the non-emacs related posts out so for me at least it is better than stock planet emacs. If you want to copy it and customise it for your own use you should go here.

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Ask and you shall receive it seems. The commenters have arrived with some great comments. And (possibly this is connected), yesterday was my first 200+ day since my 7 month hiatus. I even got some referrals from planet perl due to Gabor mentioning my post on his [aggregated blog].

Foo pointed out that I haven’t got my tone quite right for irony. Any suggestions how to do that better without being too obvious?

And in another comment, Gabor has given me an idea for my next post – which Emacs features I’d need to switch to Padre.

Overall, I’m very pleased.

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Hang on, that should be Vim vs Emacs right? No.

I have been blogging for the Perl community I have been writing Perl blog posts for around 6 weeks now. Prior to that, I wrote mostly Emacs related blog posts for around 18 months. My vast experience puts me in a great position to compare them.

Emacs blogging

Back when I wrote about Emacs I averaged a couple of posts a week and around 200 visitors a day. Better still, I got several comments for each post, pointing out things I had got wrong, things I could improve or alternative techniques.

200 visitors isn’t many, but it was plenty for me. I was paid for my blogging effort in comment currency.

I suspect the reason I got the comments was that I never had much competition in the emacs hints and tips space. The main ones were:

Of these, only emacs-fu kept grinding out the handy tips, week in week out.

Interestingly, emacsblog reports 3379 readers by feedburner which indicates a decent level of interest in emacs hints and tips.

There was only one real place to pick up emacs news – Planet Emacsen. My posts would hang around for a week or more and I would pick up pretty much all the readers who were interested as well as probably quite a few who weren’t.

Perl blogging

With my Perl blog posts, I struggle to keep 100 visitors a day and I need to post every other day to get that many. Why the difference? I suspect it is a combination of things.

  • If you want to read about perl, you can read the gurus in the community – the Miyagawas, the Tim Bunces, the Curtis Jewels. And there’s hundreds more perl gurus blogging. Okay, maybe 10 more.
  • There are multiple perl news sources. I listed a few here.
  • If you want to improve your perl-fu there is IRC or Perl Monger groups. Emacs in contrast had fewer options.
  • There are more perl bloggers, so your post disappears off the Ironman aggregation pretty quickly.
  • Six weeks may not be enough to build up a following.
  • There are more areas of perl to be interested in. Maybe no-one else wants to know about writing AnyEvent TCP servers.

It could also be that the quality of my writing is poor. But one of you guys would tell me, right?

Why does this matter?

Blogging has to have some value to me, otherwise I might as well watch TV. I do get something out of it even if there are no readers – I’m able to find my fantastic code snippets as long as I have access to the internet. But the lack of input means this doesn’t really offset the effort to write a story around each post. And these days with github et al there are easier and better ways to get your code out there.

Okay, no worries, you’re thinking, if Jared stops blogging about perl (not that I’m thinking of doing so) no-one loses anything. But maybe my experiences is why the level of blogging activity is low compared to the relative size of the community.

And maybe it just doesn’t matter.

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