SPUG: Seattle Perl Consortium

Matt Beland matt at rearviewmirror.org
Tue Aug 3 14:04:21 CDT 2004

Jonathan Gardner said:
> I have a proposal that many of you won't like and frankly, I don't think
> it will work in its current working form. I'd like some input and ideas
> positive or negative. If we could get it working, I think it will be a
> huge benefit to all of us.

I don't know how much room I have to speak on this; I am a consultant, but
Perl is a tool for the work I do, not the main focus of my consultancy. I
suspect that is true of many of the "Perl Consultants" on this list, and
so joining an organization focused on Perl wouldn't be very

But frankly, this sounds like it has all the disadvantages of working for
someone else with none of the advantages of being independent. I'm
particularly uncomfortable with the idea of a "union"; as a technical
consultant, I sell my services based on my skills and abilities, not a
negotiated pay schedule based on seniority and dues paid. Unionized labor
is a solution to the powerlessness of workers who are interchangable;
that's not a problem we face. Look at the "success" of the engineering
union over at Boeing; I know a number of engineers who nearly quit in
disgust when the whole thing started, and since then have either left for
other companies or are cynically amused at the problems the union is

Yes, there are advantages to collaboration, but they're best limited to
specific areas and actions. For example, it's an excellent idea to pool
certain common resources; shared office space, vendor-neutral advertising
(e.g. the advantages of Perl in business, supporting local business
through local consultancies, etc), buyer's cooperatives for services, even
things like office supplies and printing services.

However, sharing of vendor-specific marketing, group proposals, etc. gets
into areas of job allocation, hierarchies of consultants, and all sorts of
cures that are worse than the disease. OK, the Perl consulting market is
contracting. Is that because there aren't enough big Perl groups bidding
for the available jobs? No, it's because there are fewer Perl jobs
available. So, then, the best solutions are to increase the number of Perl
jobs or decrease the number of Perl consultants. The first is something an
organization can do; see below. The second is something an organization
could only do by such measures as "certification" of "legitimate"
consultants (a moment while I clear the nasty taste from my mouth) or
forcing independents out of business. Meanwhile, as individuals, some will
physically move to other areas, some will change their business to adjust
to the changes in demand, others will fail. The organization as a whole
may survive, but as individuals, the options are exactly the same within
the organization as without, except that inside the organization we could
have compensation adjustments and performance reviews and cake.

Though, if it's *good* cake, it might be worth it.

> In the future, if this is successful, we can expand this into the Seattle
> Open Source / Free Software Consortium, or maybe even a world-wide
> organization with chapters in every major city.

Maybe. Would that be a good thing?

GSLUG started to create a Washington Linux Council last year; the effort
didn't fail, exactly, so much as it fizzled out for lack of resources.
Something like that could be very effective; it's modeled after the
advocacy groups who do so much advertising ("Behold the power of cheese",
etc.) They don't advertise specific organizations; they increase market
awareness of widgets and their capabilities, and it's up to the individual
widget-makers to turn that increased visibility and interest into sales.
Here, such a collaboration could market the capabilities of Perl in
business, the advantages over other popular programming languages, and in
general just get non-technical business people thinking of Perl (and Perl
consultants) as people who can get things done for them. When we as a
whole have business people (a.k.a. "clients") thinking about Perl as a
possibility, individual advertising dollars will be much more effective
for our own consultancies. With less money spent, because we won't be
paying as much for accountants and offices and cake.

Matt Beland
matt at rearviewmirror.org

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