advocacy advice

Discussion in 'Perl Misc' started by Larry, May 13, 2005.

  1. Larry

    Larry Guest

    I work in a Unix support organization for a Federal agency. Over the
    past few months (with the aproval of my division's management) I have
    rewritten some legacy shell scripts in Perl, which has given me the
    opportunity to improve their functionality in many ways, as well as to
    make the operation of the scripts more consistent with each other and
    to "factor out" a lot of repeated code into a custom module.

    Now, another division in my agency that is involved with the same
    project has discovered this rewrite and raised a challenge to my
    division's management and has even asked us to revert all the scripts
    back to the old shell versions. I'm now being asked to prepare a case
    before a review board to defend the use of Perl.

    Does anyone have any advice for this situation or can you point me to
    some resources for such a presentation?

    Thanks!
    Larry, May 13, 2005
    #1
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  2. Larry wrote:

    > I work in a Unix support organization for a Federal agency. Over the
    > past few months (with the aproval of my division's management) I have
    > rewritten some legacy shell scripts in Perl, which has given me the
    > opportunity to improve their functionality in many ways, as well as to
    > make the operation of the scripts more consistent with each other and
    > to "factor out" a lot of repeated code into a custom module.
    >
    > Now, another division in my agency that is involved with the same
    > project has discovered this rewrite and raised a challenge to my
    > division's management and has even asked us to revert all the scripts
    > back to the old shell versions. I'm now being asked to prepare a case
    > before a review board to defend the use of Perl.
    >
    > Does anyone have any advice for this situation or can you point me to
    > some resources for such a presentation?
    >
    > Thanks!


    What Unix are you running? It almost certainly came with Perl. Why
    can't you use a language that came with the box?

    --
    Christopher Mattern

    "Which one you figure tracked us?"
    "The ugly one, sir."
    "...Could you be more specific?"
    Chris Mattern, May 13, 2005
    #2
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  3. Tad McClellan, May 14, 2005
    #3
  4. Larry <> wrote:

    > I work in a Unix support organization for a Federal agency.



    The Federal Bankruptcy court has a large committment to using Perl.


    --
    Tad McClellan SGML consulting
    Perl programming
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Tad McClellan, May 14, 2005
    #4
  5. "Larry" <> writes:
    > Now, another division in my agency that is involved with the same
    > project has discovered this rewrite and raised a challenge to my
    > division's management and has even asked us to revert all the scripts
    > back to the old shell versions. I'm now being asked to prepare a case
    > before a review board to defend the use of Perl.
    >
    > Does anyone have any advice for this situation or can you point me to
    > some resources for such a presentation?


    The most important thing to consider is /why/ they want you to revert
    back to the shell scripts. If you know that, then you know how to
    prepare your response.


    If they're worried that you have a very complex system, and that your
    rewrites might change some subtle third-order effect that people have
    been relying upon since 1983 to make sure nuclear missiles don't fall
    on Dubuqe, then you want to be very careful in pointing out how your
    code does precisely and exactly the same that the shell code did, and
    is more readable and maintainable to boot!

    If they are worried that you're the only Perl guy, and if you get hit
    by a bus, they're screwed, try pointing out the vast number of Perl
    consultants available to help them. Also, I don't know how your
    agency is, but I know some people that have worked for DoD, and they
    were required to take X hours of training every year-- you could
    suggest a Perl class for people that might need to understand or
    maintain your code.

    Another thing to remember is that just because other people know Perl
    doesn't mean they know it well enough to pick up after you if you get
    hit by a bus. Probably one of the best things you can do to justify
    your use of Perl is to point to a number of other people on your team
    (or even the other division's team) that know Perl well enough to pick
    up after you. Offer to host a brown-bag or more formal presentation
    to familiarize anyone who wants to know with how your code works.

    You will probably also want to present to them with the required level
    of Perl knowledge someone would need to understand your code. I have
    run into experienced (I do not say proficient) Perl coders who are
    uncomfortable with the use of even basic constructs like map(); I'm
    just the opposite, sometimes running to more succinct constructs that
    could be expressed in a larger number of more easily understood lines
    of code.

    Remember, just by using Perl alone, you have set a standard of "you
    must be this high to ride this ride"; the constructs you use, be it OO
    programming, or even simply breaking code out into modules, raise the
    bar incrementally higher. None of this is inherently bad, mind you,
    but it is something people who aren't comfortable with Perl will want
    to know. Do they need to hire Larry Wall, or will some snot-nosed
    teenager with a copy of "Learn Perl in 21 Days" be able to figure out
    what you're doing?

    If you can, you might even walk them through a shell script mess and
    then through the happy sunlit cheery Perl version of it, and contrast
    how much simpler and more maintainable the Perl version is compared to
    the horribly nasty ugly doom-laden shell script.

    Above all else, remember: they're probably not inherently being
    assholes. They're objecting to Perl for what they perceive to be
    valid reasons. You need to find out what they are, and address them
    head-on. Try to talk around it, or snow the review board with
    whizziness, and you'll lose for sure.

    -=Eric
    --
    Come to think of it, there are already a million monkeys on a million
    typewriters, and Usenet is NOTHING like Shakespeare.
    -- Blair Houghton.
    Eric Schwartz, May 14, 2005
    #5
  6. "Larry" <> writes:
    > Now, another division in my agency that is involved with the same
    > project has discovered this rewrite and raised a challenge to my
    > division's management and has even asked us to revert all the scripts
    > back to the old shell versions. I'm now being asked to prepare a case
    > before a review board to defend the use of Perl.
    >
    > Does anyone have any advice for this situation or can you point me to
    > some resources for such a presentation?


    Another thing that just hit me was this snippet from

    http://www.wall.org/~larry/natural.html

    Multiple ways to say the same thing

    This one is more of an anthropological feature. People not only
    learn as they go, but come from different backgrounds, and will
    learn a different subset of the language first. It's Officially
    Okay in the Perl realm to program in the subset of Perl
    corresponding to sed, or awk, or C, or shell, or BASIC, or Lisp,
    or Python. Or FORTRAN, even. Just because Perl is the melting pot
    of computer languages doesn't mean you have to stir.

    This may help reassure them somewhat that esoteric Perl knowledge is
    not required. Assuming, of course, that that is all or part of their
    objection-- again, in any form of communication, be it art, writing,
    or God forbid, PowerPoint, if you don't know your audience, you lose.

    -=Eric
    --
    Come to think of it, there are already a million monkeys on a million
    typewriters, and Usenet is NOTHING like Shakespeare.
    -- Blair Houghton.
    Eric Schwartz, May 14, 2005
    #6
  7. Larry

    Peter Scott Guest

    On Fri, 13 May 2005 13:31:10 -0700, Larry wrote:

    > I work in a Unix support organization for a Federal agency. Over the
    > past few months (with the aproval of my division's management) I have
    > rewritten some legacy shell scripts in Perl, which has given me the
    > opportunity to improve their functionality in many ways, as well as to
    > make the operation of the scripts more consistent with each other and
    > to "factor out" a lot of repeated code into a custom module.
    >
    > Now, another division in my agency that is involved with the same
    > project has discovered this rewrite and raised a challenge to my
    > division's management and has even asked us to revert all the scripts
    > back to the old shell versions. I'm now being asked to prepare a case
    > before a review board to defend the use of Perl.
    >
    > Does anyone have any advice for this situation or can you point me to
    > some resources for such a presentation?


    I have experience in such environments and situations. It would help
    if you posted the objections they are making. It would not surprise me
    if they had not told you what their objections are, but finding out
    would be extremely useful. Their objections may be oddball and easily
    dismissed.

    It is also likely that the true reason for the objection is political
    (e.g., "We don't know Perl as well as you and so we will lose control and
    hence turf") as opposed to technical. If the stated objection is
    technical but technical refutations fail to persuade, that would be a big
    clue. You can only win this situation by discovering the real objection.

    If their concerns are technical, your best counterargument is likely to be
    the reduced cost of maintenance due to using Perl. You should have been
    able to shrink the line count to a small fraction of what it was.

    --
    Peter Scott
    http://www.perlmedic.com/
    http://www.perldebugged.com/
    Peter Scott, May 14, 2005
    #7
  8. Larry

    brian d foy Guest

    brian d foy, May 14, 2005
    #8
  9. Larry

    Larry Guest

    >From what I can gather, it is very close to the what you said... "We
    don't know Perl as well as you and so we will lose control and hence
    turf".

    This other group I'm up against is considered a "development" group
    (even though they mainly package and tweak COTS software). They
    originally provided a set of shell scripts (ksh) about a year ago, when
    they handed the project over to my group, which is considered a
    "production support" group .

    My group ran into problems and limitations of the shell scripts almost
    from the beginning. It was obvious that they were hitting the limits
    of the complexity that is appropriate for a shell script, and there
    were lots of things that they were doing in an overly complicated way,
    and not very well, just because it was a shell script.

    (Example: to query info from a database and construct commands from it,
    the shell scripts were calling a command-line database tool, stripping
    out the formatting and messages to extract the data. Instead of using
    string concatenation to form commands from the data, the shell scripts
    were sticking constant strings into SQL with SQL concatenation
    operators. The Perl version uses DBI to connect to the database and
    the Perl "." operator to concatenate the data with constant strings to
    form the commands).

    We originally requested the development group to make the changes to
    the shell scripts that we required, but they kept us waiting for 2
    months because they didn't have the "resources" at the time to help us.
    At that point, we gave up and started modifying the shell scripts on
    our own (the other group never did get back to us) and we eventually
    started converting them one by one to Perl. Once they were converted
    they were a lot easier to modify and tweak the way we wanted them, and
    they also worked better and more consistently.

    Now suddenly the "development" team has some time on their hands and
    has suddenly noticed that we've converted all "their" scripts and are
    in a snit about it. I think the underlying problem is they think that
    we've done work that really should have been their job, and if using
    Perl was a good idea, they should have thought of it.

    (As an aside, it seems that group has almost no familiarity with Perl,
    because another thing they are doing is adapting their shell scripts to
    a Windows project, using a shell script emulator.)
    Larry, May 16, 2005
    #9
  10. Larry

    Larry Guest

    Just to clarify my last point ... that the other group has almost no
    familiarity with Perl... one of their original objections to Perl was
    that it won't run on Windows. As soon as I heard that, I got all of
    our scripts running on Windows in about a day. I know for a fact they
    spent months getting their shell scripts to run on Windows using the
    emulator, with a *whole* lot more "if windows" branches than I have in
    my Perl code.
    Larry, May 16, 2005
    #10
  11. Larry

    Larry Guest

    >From what I can gather, it is very close to the what you said... "We
    don't know Perl as well as you and so we will lose control and hence
    turf". One of their objections is "we don't have the resources to
    train all of our people in Perl".

    I think the underlying problem is they think that we've done work that
    really should have been their job, and if using Perl was such a great
    idea, they should have thought of it / learned it.
    Larry, May 17, 2005
    #11
  12. Larry

    Peter Scott Guest

    On Mon, 16 May 2005 19:32:38 -0700, Larry wrote:

    >>From what I can gather, it is very close to the what you said... "We

    > don't know Perl as well as you and so we will lose control and hence
    > turf". One of their objections is "we don't have the resources to
    > train all of our people in Perl".
    >
    > I think the underlying problem is they think that we've done work that
    > really should have been their job, and if using Perl was such a great
    > idea, they should have thought of it / learned it.


    Figures. Very common. Your best bet lies with ego stroking: say how it
    need not take them very long to get up to speed; they are smart people who
    can pick this up in a few hours from the right books. Imply that they can
    expand their empire by having this other language under their belt: they
    will be able to create and maintain more code. And if there are any other
    groups also using Perl then they would be able to understand that too.
    And of course there are Perl trainings available if they really want to
    become expert very quickly.

    They will be able to see that Perl programs are more capable; that ain't
    the issue. You have to show how this doesn't result in them losing
    control. Offer to go over your code line by line with one of their people
    so he/she understands it completely and can take it over. Point out that
    they will get their time back and then some in the long run. If any of
    that group may quit in the near future, whisper in their ear about how
    useful a skill Perl is in the private sector and here is their chance to
    get paid for learning it :)

    --
    Peter Scott
    http://www.perlmedic.com/
    http://www.perldebugged.com/
    Peter Scott, May 17, 2005
    #12
  13. Larry

    Guest

    "Larry" <> wrote:
    > >From what I can gather, it is very close to the what you said... "We

    > don't know Perl as well as you and so we will lose control and hence
    > turf". One of their objections is "we don't have the resources to
    > train all of our people in Perl".
    >
    > I think the underlying problem is they think that we've done work that
    > really should have been their job,


    It may or may not be a good idea to point out that if they had been
    doing their jobs, you wouldn't have had to.

    > and if using Perl was such a great
    > idea, they should have thought of it / learned it.


    So it sounds like they are admitting that they are incompetent. Again,
    that may or may not be the best argument to make in public. Who has more
    influence, the head of your group or the head of their group?

    Xho

    --
    -------------------- http://NewsReader.Com/ --------------------
    Usenet Newsgroup Service $9.95/Month 30GB
    , May 17, 2005
    #13
  14. Larry

    Larry Guest


    > So it sounds like they are admitting that they are incompetent


    Well, actually, that's what they are trying to avoid admitting. By
    blocking the use of Perl, they can show that they are performing a
    useful function, by calling attention to technologies that do not
    conform to the accepted architecture standards, getting them rejected
    by the appropriate board, and ultimately, rolled back and stamped out.

    Historically their group has had more influence, but they clearly feel
    threatened by our group.
    Larry, May 17, 2005
    #14
  15. Larry

    Larry Guest

    I just had a look at the advocacy list... it seems quite inactive. Is
    there something I'm missing here? Is advocacy itself on the back
    burner or is there some other forum to which it has moved?
    Larry, May 17, 2005
    #15
  16. Larry

    J. Gleixner Guest

    Larry wrote:
    >>So it sounds like they are admitting that they are incompetent

    >
    >
    > Well, actually, that's what they are trying to avoid admitting. By
    > blocking the use of Perl, they can show that they are performing a
    > useful function, by calling attention to technologies that do not
    > conform to the accepted architecture standards, getting them rejected
    > by the appropriate board, and ultimately, rolled back and stamped out.
    >
    > Historically their group has had more influence, but they clearly feel
    > threatened by our group.
    >


    Setting a standard and having a company/group try to abide by that
    standard does not mean incompetence. To take it to an extreme, what if
    every group in the company wrote their software in different programming
    languages? The cost of development and maintenance would sky rocket.
    Standards are created and modified for many reasons.

    The issue is how to affect change in your company's norms. That's
    something that's very difficult to answer. Typically, going off and
    developing software that doesn't comply to the company's standards, and
    then implying another team is inadequate and is threatened by your
    non-standard development, isn't the best course of action and is quite
    immature. Working with the developers, and with the people who develop
    the standards is the way to change things. Find out what needs to be
    done to modify the standards and work with those in charge so they can
    make a more informed choice and possibly it'll bring about a change.
    Regardless of if you're right or wrong, continuing to go against the
    company's standards, processes, and bad mouthing other groups is
    generally not a good, long term, career choice. :)

    Also, although we're only hearing things from your perspective, I feel
    you'd be more effective if you don't go down the "us vs them" road,
    which seems to be the sentiment in your posts. It sounds like there are
    many inner turf battles going on in the company or between various
    groups or between you and the other group, and eliminating those bad
    feelings and sticking to technical discussions will be the most
    productive for the groups involved, and for the company.
    J. Gleixner, May 17, 2005
    #16
  17. Larry

    Larry Guest

    There is another objection that is being raised, namely support. Some
    OS vendors support Perl, and some don't. I know you can buy support
    from ActiveState if you use their version of Perl, but is there any
    commercial support available for the Perl that are distributed by
    vendors (for example IBM).
    Larry, May 17, 2005
    #17
  18. "Larry" <> wrote in news:1116361351.214928.47210
    @g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com:

    > There is another objection that is being raised, namely support. Some
    > OS vendors support Perl, and some don't. I know you can buy support
    > from ActiveState if you use their version of Perl, but is there any
    > commercial support available for the Perl that are distributed by
    > vendors (for example IBM).


    perldoc -q "Where can I buy a commercial version of perl?"

    This, by the way, is the kind of question you should be able to get an
    answer to from your vendor.

    Also, you might want to think about who supports the ksh scripts that your
    organization is using now.

    In any case, please don't disregard all the discussion in this group about
    Google's broken posting interface.

    Sinan

    --
    A. Sinan Unur <>
    (reverse each component and remove .invalid for email address)

    comp.lang.perl.misc guidelines on the WWW:
    http://mail.augustmail.com/~tadmc/clpmisc/clpmisc_guidelines.html
    A. Sinan Unur, May 17, 2005
    #18
  19. Larry

    brian d foy Guest

    In article <>,
    Larry <> wrote:

    > I just had a look at the advocacy list... it seems quite inactive. Is
    > there something I'm missing here? Is advocacy itself on the back
    > burner or is there some other forum to which it has moved?


    Well, some of us think we're better off advocating Perl than talking
    about advocating Perl. The advocacy list is usually populated by
    a lot of people who want to say things instead of do things, so those
    of us that actually do things don't bother going there. :)

    --
    brian d foy,
    Subscribe to The Perl Review: http://www.theperlreview.com
    brian d foy, May 18, 2005
    #19
  20. Larry

    Larry Guest


    >perldoc -q "Where can I buy a commercial version of perl?"
    >
    >This, by the way, is the kind of question you should be able to get an


    >answer to from your vendor.


    Not really, because I know already that my vendor provides support.
    The concern that's been raised is what happens if we move to some other
    unspecified future vendor which may or may not provide support for
    perl.
    Larry, May 18, 2005
    #20
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