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1.4. Perl Resources

Paradoxically, the way in which Perl helps you the most has almost nothing to do with Perl itself, and everything to do with the people who use Perl. While people start using Perl because they need it, they continue using Perl because they love it.

The result is that the Perl community is one of the most helpful in the world, with CPAN—the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network—as one example. When Perl programmers aren't writing their own programs, they spend their time helping others write theirs. They discuss common problems and help devise solutions. They develop utilities and modules for Perl and give them away to the world at large.

1.4.1. The comp.lang.perl.* Newsgroups

The central meeting place for Perl aficionados is Usenet. If you're not familiar with Usenet, it's a collection of special-interest groups (called newsgroups) on the Internet. For most anyone using a modern browser, Usenet access is as simple as a selecting a menu option on the browser. Perl programmers should consider subscribing to the following newsgroups:

A moderated newsgroup with announcements about new utilities or products related to Perl

The general-purpose newsgroup devoted to non-CGI-related Perl programming questions

A moderated newsgroup intended to be a forum for more controlled, restrained discussions about Perl

A newsgroup devoted to using and developing Perl modules

A newsgroup concentrating on Perl/Tk, the graphical extension to Perl

A newsgroup for CGI questions in general, but mostly for Perl-related questions

At some point, it seems like every Perl programmer subscribes to comp.lang.perl.misc. You may eventually abandon it if the discussion becomes too detailed, too belligerent, or too bizarre for your taste. But you'll likely find yourself coming back from time to time, either to ask a question or just to check out the latest buzz.

One bit of advice, however: before posting questions to comp.lang.perl.misc (or any newsgroup, for that matter), you should read the group for a few days and read the FAQ (see Section 1.4.2, "Frequently Asked Questions Lists (FAQs)"). The comp.lang.perl.* newsgroups are a wonderful resource if you have an interesting or unusual question, but no one can save you if you ask something that's covered in the FAQ.

By the way, if you're a first-time poster to comp.lang.perl.misc, you shouldn't be surprised if you receive an email message listing various resources on Perl that you may not know about. This is done via an "auto-faq" service, which scans all postings and sends this helpful email to anyone who hasn't posted earlier.

1.4.2. Frequently Asked Questions Lists (FAQs)

A FAQ is a Frequently Asked Questions list, with answers. FAQs are traditionally associated with Usenet newsgroups, but the term has since been adopted by web sites, technical support departments, and even health care pamphlets. In general, FAQs are written and maintained on a volunteer basis by dedicated (and generous) members of the community. The Perl FAQ is maintained by Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington.

The Perl FAQ was created to minimize traffic on the comp.lang.perl.misc newsgroup when it became clear that the same questions were being asked over and over again. However, the FAQ has transcended into a general-purpose starting point for learning anything about Perl.

The FAQ is distributed in several different formats, including HTML, PostScript, and plain ASCII text. The main FAQ source is located at http://www.perl.com/pub/q/faqs. You can also find it at http://perlfaq.cpan.org/, and the latest version of the FAQ is posted on a semi-regular basis on comp.lang.perl.misc.

In addition to the general Perl FAQ, there are also several niche FAQs that are Perl-related. They are:

Perl CGI Programming FAQ

Perl/Tk FAQ

Perl for Win32 FAQ

Perl for the Mac FAQ

By no means should you consider this to be an exhaustive list. Also check out appropriate mailing lists (see Section 1.4.3, "Mailing Lists"); you'll find that many mailing lists also maintain their own FAQs.

1.4.5. www.perl.com

There are countless web pages devoted to Perl, but probably the most useful entry site to Perl resources is www.perl.com. Formerly maintained by Tom Christiansen, www.perl.com is now maintained by O'Reilly & Associates (the publisher of this book). From www.perl.com, you can access Perl documentation, news, software, FAQs, articles, and (of course) Perl itself.

1.4.8. Perl Conferences

For years, Usenix has devoted tracks of its conferences to Perl. However, today there are not just one but multiple conferences that focus on Perl.

In 1997, O'Reilly & Associates began hosting The Perl Conference (TPC), typically held during the third week of July in a major California city. In recent years, The Perl Conference has merged with a more general conference for open source technologies, but the Perl track is by far the best attended. For more information, go to http://conferences.oreilly.com/.

In 1999, a nonprofit organization called YAS (Yet Another Society) started sponsoring a more grassroots, less corporate conference called YAPC (Yet Another Perl Conference), typically held twice a year in university settings. YAPC::America::North is held in the United States or Canada in June, and YAPC::Europe is held in a major European city in September. For more information, go to http://www.yapc.org/.

1.4.9. Books

There are many books written on Perl. In fact, the current popularity of Perl is often credited to the original publication of Programming Perl, also known as "The Camel" (because of the animal on its cover), by Larry Wall and Randal Schwartz.[1] The Camel is also published by O'Reilly & Associates. The Camel isn't the best place to start if you're just learning Perl from scratch, but it's essential if you want to really understand Perl and not just dabble in it.

[1]The third and most recent edition of Programming Perl is written by Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, and Jon Orwant.

Other Perl books published by O'Reilly & Associates are Learning Perl ("The Llama"), Advanced Perl Programming, Perl Cookbook, Mastering Regular Expressions, Learning Perl on Win32 Systems, Mastering Perl/Tk, Perl for System Administration, Perl for Web Site Management, Mastering Algorithms with Perl, Programming the Perl DBI, Perl and XML, and CGI Programming with Perl.

There are also books from other publishers, of course. Standouts include Object-Oriented Perl and Elements of Programming with Perl, both published by Manning Press, and Effective Perl Programming and Network Programming with Perl, published by Addison-Wesley Longman.

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