Hip vs. Useful

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While agreeing with everything Su-Shee wrote about talking about all of the great things we do in and with and around Perl, it's important to keep one thing in mind: hip isn't always the same thing as useful.

I used to work for a company which used to be great but has now staggered along half-dead for several years now because of mistaking hip for useful.

Every six to twelve weeks a new shiny thing would come along to create a lot of noise among a few dozen early adopters. This frequent fashion show would produce a lot of grand plans about the founder demonstrating his prowess as a kingmaker, of flexing his muscle as eminence gris of the relevant community. Meanwhile the bread and butter projects, the work which had built the company and made it great, were old and dingy because they had the patina of proven use and not the electroplating of "No one's ever heard of this before!"

By all means, some new inventions are novel and some new developments are useful and any serious professional should pay attention to the state of the art (or at least the state of the craft). Yet the relentless assumption that the only way to succeed in our business was to jump out in front of an oncoming train and hope it was a high-speed maglev instead of a wind-up HO scale kid's meal giveaway has gutted a once-promising business.

By all means, do show off the amazing things you create. Show the world that Perl programming is a joyful, creative expression. Yet also remember pragmatism. People use things because they are also useful. There is no shame in failing to convince a sizable herd of the twitterati to recover from its regularly scheduled six-month swoon of the language du jour or to consider that the hundred line lump of spaghetti Perl 4 they wrote back in 1999 has little to do with good Perl as written then, let alone today.

Remember that the bizarro bubble of the Silicon Valley is not the sole determinant of what's worth using, and that half of those companies won't exist next year for reasons completely unrelated to their choice of technology.

By all means, brag for the right reasons. Yet remember always that there is craft in our craft, that for all of the beauty and joy in our creations, we build useful things.

(For example, CPAN has value not solely because it's the largest language repository of free software libraries but also because of its testing, bug reporting, dependency tracking, documenting, reviewing, mirroring, DarkPANning, and archiving ecosystem.)

1 Comment

Great points, except..

If I were to jump in front of a train, I'd actually prefer that it was a toy, and not a high-speed maglev!

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This page contains a single entry by chromatic published on January 10, 2011 1:16 PM.

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