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:
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:
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.
1.4.3. Mailing Lists
Several mailing lists are focused on more specialized aspects of Perl. Like Usenet newsgroups, mailing lists are discussion groups, but the discussion takes place over email. In general, mailing lists aren't as convenient as newsgroups, since a few hundred mail messages a day about Perl can become intrusive to any but the most obsessive Perl hackers. However, because mailing lists tend to have much smaller and more focused distributions, you'll find that they can sometimes be much more interesting and helpful than newsgroups.
There are tons of mailing lists for Perl users and developers alike. Some are specific to a particular module or distribution, such as the mailing lists for users of CGI.pm, LWP, DBI, or mod_perl. Other mailing lists discuss using Perl on non-Unix platforms such as Windows, Macintosh or VMS. Still more mailing lists are devoted to the development and advocacy of Perl in general.
For a list of Perl-related mailing lists, refer to the Perl Mailing List Database (lists.cpan.org) or to the list maintained by the Perl Mongers at http://www.perl.org/support/mailing_lists.html.
Many of these mailing lists maintain a "digest" version, which means that instead of receiving individual email messages all day long, you receive a few "digests" of the messages on a regular basis. Digests of a mailing list might be preferable to the minute-by-minute onslaught of email throughout the day, depending on how involved you are in the discussion.
The Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) is a repository of Perl modules and scripts submitted by Perl programs worldwide. It is by far the most valuable resource for Perl programmers, so if you haven't browsed through CPAN, go there now, and expect to stay a while. There are many mirrored CPAN sites around the world, but the preferred entry point is www.cpan.org.
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.
1.4.6. Perl Mongers (www.perl.org)
The Perl Mongers is a nonprofit Perl advocacy organization that exists to provide services to Perl user groups and to take the place of the now defunct Perl Institute. If you live in a major city (in the United States or abroad), it's likely that a Perl Mongers group exists in your area. You can find out more about the Perl Mongers by checkout out the main site at www.perl.org or a description of user group services at www.pm.org.
If you're curious about the location of a Perl Mongers group, you should take a look at http://www.pm.org/groups.shtml.
1.4.7. The Perl Journal
If you're interested in reading past TPJ articles, some highlights are being collated into book form (or, more specifically, three-book form) and should be available by the time you read this paragraph: Perl Programming: Best of The Perl Journal (O'Reilly).
1.4.8. Perl Conferences
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/.
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. 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.
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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