All about Dancer – interview of Sawyer X part 3 and last
SX: While REST (REpresentational State Transfer) is not limited to web services, it’s most widely used in that context. It’s a declared structure with which you can define and provide a consistent and understandable web service.
As Dancer tries to be opinionated in moderation, it provides a plugin (Dancer::Plugin::REST and Dancer2::Plugin::REST) to help you go about defining RESTful routes. It helps you to easily define resources in your application so you get serialization and routes easily set up.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to get used to new tools, so I haven’t used that plugin yet. I generally define my own paths for everything. While I suggest you take a look at it, I should probably do the same.
NV: What’s in the project’s wish-list, where is it heading at, and what can we expect in the future?
SX: We’re focusing on several issues at the moment, which all seem to be congruent with each other: transition users to Dancer 2, overhaul the documentation, improve our test coverage, further decouple internal entities, streamline our coordination, and strip code further.
We’ve made a lot of progress recently, much of it thanks to new core members, and more corporate companies (such as Booking.com) sponsoring hackathons, allowing us to focus more time on these. The attention we receive from our community is invigorating, and pushes us to continue work on the project, and invest time in it. It gives us an insight on how worthwhile it really is, and it makes our work a pleasure.
NV: Perl vs PHP vs Ruby vs language X, for the web. Why Perl has fallen out of favour with web devs and what can be done about it?
SX: While I have been working with Perl for a long while, and started back when CGI was pretty much it, others have much more experience, and might be able to answer this question better than I can. This is my rough reasoning, and I may be completely off on this.
I believe the downfall of Perl as the dominating web language was due to our apathy at the time. As soon as we ruled the web with CGI we were lulled into a false sense of security in that position. In the mean time, other languages were trying to get their bearings and come up with something that could compete with it. It took some time, but they came up with better things, while we pretty much stalled behind.
WSGI was done in Python. Then Ruby’s Rack came around. It took some time until we realized those were good and we should have that too, finally provided by Miyagawa as PSGI/Plack. Now our problem is that a lot of people are still not moving onwards to it, and are stuck with arcane methods of web programming, not understanding the value of moving forward.
It’s important to remember that no single language can truly “rule” the web anyway. Perl had its glory days, and they are over. Then PHP had its, and it was over as soon as people realized PHP is not even a real language, and so happened with Ruby and with Rails. Others will have their turn for 15 minutes of fame, and that will be over as well. We will eventually end up with multiple languages (and PHP) and a multitude of web programming abilities, which is a bright future for all of us – except those who will have to work with PHP, of course.
The crucial bit is not to stay behind the curve on new developments, and to push to create new things where appropriate. We shouldn’t just relax with what we have, we should always demand more of ourselves and try and create it, and not wait for other languages to say “hey, this sucks, let’s try fixing it”. That’s what we’re known for, so let’s get back to that.
NV: Your “CGI.pm must die” talk has gone viral. Is CGI.pm really that bad ?
SX: CGI.pm wasn’t the module we deserved, but the module we needed. At the time, it was the best thing that happened for Perl and for the web. However, those days had passed. Unfortunately, while Perl evolved, some people stayed at the decade of CGI.pm. We won’t reach far if we’re still sticking to the best and latest of 1995. Some of us are quite literally stuck in the previous century, it’s not even funny. Well, it is a bit. It’s also sad.
People often ask me “is CGI.pm that horrible?” and the answer is that, in all honesty, yes, it really is! But that’s not why I go completely apeshit about it. If I may quote a great poet, “it’s about sending a message”. If I would have given a talk entitled “use PSGI/Plack”, it wouldn’t stick as much as suggesting to kill a module with fire, now would it?
We should all be thankful to Lincoln D. Stein who gave us CGI.pm, and now retire it in favor of PSGI/Plack. I had received an email from Lincoln saying he watched the talk I gave, enjoyed it (which was a great honor for me), and fully agrees with moving forward. And while we’re moving onwards to bigger and better, we should check out the new stuff Lincoln has been working on, like his VM::EC2 module.
NV: Would you someday consider switching from Perl 5 to Perl 6? If so, what are your thoughts on Perl 6 and given the opportunity, would you someday re-write Dancer in it?
SX: I would love a chance to work with Perl 6 in a professional capacity, but I don’t see it in the near future. It’s a shame, because, in my opinion, it’s by far the most innovative and interesting language available today.
We’ve all been hoping Perl 6 will hit the ground running, and it took some time to realize it isn’t that simple. However, nowadays Perl 6 interpreters have been releasing regularly, and there’s work being done to get Perl 5 and Perl 6 closer, both community-wise and technically-wise.
Some amazing ideas came out of Perl 6, some of which were ported to Perl 5, some of which successfully. When it comes to language features and ability, Perl 6 has done a lot of right, even though it also made several mistakes. Hindsight is 20/20, and if we could go back, things would have been done differently. All in all, I think it’s best for us all to concentrate on the current state and the future – and those look bright.
I will likely not have to rewrite Dancer in Perl 6 because a bare-bones Dancer port has already been written by tadzik (Tadeusz Sosnierz) called Bailador. I haven’t looked at the internals too much, so I’m not sure if the design flaws we had to deal with exist there too. Either way, I’m certain it’s in good hands, and I hope that in the future I will be able to contribute to that.
I just want to add one last note, if I may. I want to thank our community, who push us closer together, while pushing us to work harder at the same time. It’s a great joy and delight. And I want to also thank the core team for being a wonderful gang to work with, each and every single one. And I’d like to thank you, for giving me the opportunity to talk about Perl and Dancer.
Nikos Vaggalis has a BSc in Computer Science and a MSc in Interactive Multimedia. He works as a Database Developer with Linux and Ingres, and programs in both Perl and C#. He writes articles, conducts interviews and reviews technical IT books