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Archive for the 'The Perl Foundation' Category

Perl Needs Students

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I’ve been reading about Google’s Summer of Code.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects.

The students who successfully complete the program will receive $4500 but the experience of taking part can be worth so much more than that.

When I was at university I applied for a summer scholarship in order to get £1000 (about $1400) for 10 weeks work.  I still remember how nervous I was applying.  There were only 10 places and the university had hundreds of eligible students.  My senior lecturer sponsored me to continue working on my final year dissertation project.  This was an application for the Apple Mac written in HyperTalk that showed connecting pathways in metabolic systems.

I got the place, finished the project, and decided against a career in biochemistry.  I spent the next four years working full-time and studying at night and just before I completed my  Masters I finally got the job I wanted – Junior Analyst Programmer.  It all seems like such a long time ago but I know that getting that scholarship made me realise that I had a chance at succeeding in computing.

One of the computing related things I do now is work for The Perl Foundation (TPF). TPF is hoping to take part in GSoC this year and  Jonathan Leto has posted a request on his blog asking the world-wide Perl Monger groups to encourage students to take part.

It’s impossible to know how many students use Perl.  But there is no doubt that we want to encourage students to both use and help develop the language.

Thinking About Perl

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

I’m thinking about Perl related things tonight. I’ve recently joined TPF and volunteered to be part of the crew at YAPC::Asia. I’m considering submitting a talk for YAPC::NA as they have extended the deadline.

I am not coming up with any decent talk ideas this year. I’ve been reading a lot about organisations and communities and considered putting together a semi-serious talk called “The Bluffers Guide to the Perl Community” – but I can’t decide if anyone is interested in organisational theory and whether I want to put together a talk that will need to use humour to get the point across. I also considered writing something about the reasons why we hate managers but really need them – this would be based on the writings on Charles Handy and an analysis of the sort of people who are involved in open source projects.

Hopefully I get inspired soon.

Problems with Managing Volunteers

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

I am reading Gods of Management by Charles Handy. I am just over half way through and so far I have found it both fascinating and depressing. He adequately highlights the differences in culture within organisations and then complicates this by pointing out that knowledge of the culture surrounding the organisation, such as the country it’s in, is also important.

I have just read a section on voluntary organisations:

“…it needs to be emphasised that voluntary groups are always harder to run well than more ordinary organisations.”

He describes three different types of voluntary cultures and the problems that they face. The first type of organisation is fellowship. In the Perl community an example would be a Perl Mongers’ group. It’s a group of people who come together for mutual support and enjoyment. Anyone is welcome to join and management would never be spoken of – even though there is management involved in organising meetings and the group may have a leader.

The second type is service. This happens when people realise that it isn’t enough to organise meetings and that more community needs could be met. It gives rise to structured organisations like The Perl Foundation. This is a natural progression but can be a problematic one. The service will be run much more like a standard company as it needs to be managed, controlled and directed.

Why is this problematic?

Handy states that the biggest problem is a change in ethos. Anyone was not only allowed to take part in the fellowship – they were encouraged to do so. But the service only wants specific people with specific skills. In the case of Perl anyone can join the Perl Mongers but not everyone can become part of The Perl Foundation.

The Perl Foundation is looking for new members and I am applying for the role of Steering Committee Chair. Over the next few weeks I will discover whether I have the specific skills required to manage a group of culturally diverse volunteers.