The Story of Mel

Who is Mel? She may be an experienced C programmer, or has some working knowledge with Visual Basic, JavaScript or ASP. In any case, she does not know Python, Ruby, Lisp, Tcl or PHP. (such people will usually have little problem learning Perl). Mel got a new job: be it as a system administrator, CGI programmer, Bio-informatics engineer, hardware designer, QA engineer or whatever. She wishes to do something that seems awfully hard with what she already knows, asks around and receive a simple answer “Perl would be perfect for it. And it is spelled P.E.R.L”

So Mel goes on looking for this strange and perfect language called “perl” (without the ‘a’). Where does she go first? Google? Most probably. What does she discover? www.perl.com is the first hit. An overcrowded site with a lot of O’Reillyisms with several articles that are way over her head. Perl Mongers is the second hit. She reads on - groups of Perl users - goodie. Now if she knows how to use E-mail (she may or may not have such a good net-wisdom), she may have hit the jackpot, because most Perl monger groups are very friendly to newbies. Then she discovers CPAN (Mel says: “What is it and why do I need it?”). ActiveState (a commercial site which may or may not scare her) and Use Perl, which is a nice site for Perl News, but she is naturally interested in the Perl’s status quo.

She refines her query: “learn perl”, “begin perl”, “perl newbie” or “perl beginners”. The concentrated site for perl beginners is learn.perl.org. It contains some reviews of books (which Mel may not have time to read), a free online book (again, same issue) and no links to tutorials whatsoever. IMHO, the site’s visual side is also very lacking and she may come to believe it is a sub-standard site as a result.

OK. Maybe Mel was given the Llama book on the first day of her job as a gesture from her employer. Maybe this employer has these books online on his intranet for everybody to see. (there are also illegal or unfirewalled mirrors of these books, but let’s suppose Mel is a lawful citizen who respects copyrights.) The question still stands: why do you need a book to learn Perl? Why can’t you learn it from the Internet alone? Why kill trees, when you can simply transfer electrons from place to place to study it?