Friday, January 30, 2009

Perl 6 Programming

I mentioned this issue on the wiki a while back, but haven't made any kind of public announcement about it until now. I was selected to receive a "Perl 6 Microgrant" to write a book on Wikibooks about the new programming language "Perl 6". The money involved isn't whoo-hoo fantastic, I'm not going to quit my day job over this. However, I'm not really in this for the money anyway. I work on Wikibooks because I genuinely want to do it and enjoy doing it.

There are two free-culture projects that I participate in regularly. One is Wikibooks. The other is an open-source software project called Parrot. Parrot is a virtual machine, similar in many respects to the Java virtual machine. However, instead of running Java, Parrot aims to support a wide variety of dynamic programming languages like Perl, Python, PHP, and Ruby. My work on that project has inspired my work on a related book: [[Parrot Virtual Machine]]. This also put me in touch with some of the people doing work on the compiler for Perl 6, a compiler which is targeting Parrot. They asked for people to submit grant proposals, I submitted one. Waited a while. Got the grant.

On one hand we have plenty of people who get paid to do their work on Wikibooks: The teachers, professors, and graduate students who are writing and organizing some of the class projects that we host, or the researchers to receive grant money to do research related to Wikibooks. On the other hand, I'm the first whose [publicly] been getting money specifically to just write books without being part of a larger job. It's an interesting situation, but one that hasn't drawn any level of controversy at all from my fellow Wikibookians. They've all been very supportive, making vague warnings on one hand about avoiding possible conflicts of interest, but being excited about all the possibilities that this opens up on the other hand. imagine if more people were making money to write good-quality books on our site? Imagine if there were more grant money available to fund people to work on books? This happens with some regularity in the open-source software world, so it's not a big stretch to think we could leverage the almighty dollar to make things happen at Wikibooks too.

As part of the grant, I'm writing regular updates (weekly or bi-weekly, depending) on my use.perl blog. I also post some technical updates about my programming work there too, so forgive me if it's not suitable for a general audience.

I would love to hear feedback about this project. What do people think about funding for writing books? What do people think of my work on this particular book? Do people think that maybe Wikibooks could be more proactive in this area?


  1. I find it hard to see how this could be qualified in any other fashion than "totally awesome". :-) I don't think there's a fundamental problem with people being paid for free content; there's a risk of COIs depending on the funder, the subject matter, and the desired end product, but in this case, it seems clear that it'll result in useful and important free learning resources. I'm sure you will post about it when you're done, and I'd be more than happy to put a note in the Wikimedia blog about it when that happens. :-) Good luck!

  2. Perl is the best scripting language for Text processing and handle regex. I have posted few articles related to those at my blog

    Also Perl's Cpan has lots of support that I don't even need to think extra while developing project. I didn't find such help on other programming language except Java and .NET