Contrary to the strawman arguments set up and knocked down so easily by people who believe that breaking the DarkPAN is a sin almost as bad as apparent hypocrisy on the Internet, no one wants to change Perl 5 willy-nilly. Yet many people believe that a few carefully-planned backwards-incompatible changes will allow Perl 5 to evolve into a much more powerful, much cleaner, much more understandable, and even much simpler language suitable not only for maintaining legacy projects but also for creating amazing new projects.
I intended my deconstruction of fear surrounding Perl core language changes to continue a long-standing debate. If you read Planet Perl Iron Man or Planet Perl, you've read other people arguing over the desirability of supporting the DarkPAN.
If your code is part of the DarkPAN (and it likely isn't, as you're likely a part of the Perl community if you're reading this), you may bristle at the suggestion that some people believe that retaining core language backwards compatibility to support your code is one of the worst ideas in Perl history. (If you haven't heard that suggestion, let me repeat it: the idea that the Perl community should support hidden and proprietary code of people who aren't part of the community, code that the Perl community can't see let alone test, and code that may or may not even exist is sufficiently ridiculous on its face that it mocks itself.)
My previous post suggested that the real problem the Perl community is trying to solve is one of risk management. If it doesn't make sense to push all of the costs to manage the risk that an upgrade might change the way your DarkPAN code behaves to the Perl community (and it doesn't make sense), who bears that cost?
Don't panic, yet. It's simple to address that risk. I didn't say it's easy. I said it's simple.
Your Responsibility as a DarkPAN Maintainer
As a DarkPAN maintainer, you need to answer several questions about your code.
- Is this software worth maintaining?
- Is this software under active maintenance?
- Does this software need community support for the Perl core and any external dependencies?
- Will this software work unchanged with a newer version of Perl?
- If not, why not?
- What changes are necessary to make this software work with a newer version of Perl?
Software outside of active maintenance can stay untouched. Don't worry about it. (Of course, if you have to migrate to a new machine or a new architecture or other dependencies, it's under active maintenance at least for the sake of this argument.)
The other questions are more important. You need to be able to verify that your code will perform as you expect if you change one or more dependency.
Likely you already need to know this.
You need a comprehensive test suite which can run on any likely candidate machine. You need a test environment where you can run your software's test suite against an updated dependency -- a new CPAN distribution, for example, or a new major release of Perl. You need unambiguous results and comprehensible diagnostics.
In short, you need a sane development environment, just like any serious project worth your time already has.
(You should also have a ten minute build, but if you can verify that your software does what you expect in an hour or less and report the results to the Perl community, you're well on your way.)
If you're really good, you can even test your DarkPAN code against bleadperl or maintenance snapshots just to help p5p understand your expectations (and to understand potential changes to the language which may require you to revise your expectations, if not your code).
Anyone serious about software development should have a comprehensive and useful test suite anyway. It's simple. It's not always easy; the Perl community needs to make CPAN distribution installation and versioning easier and cleaner. That debate is happening. The solution isn't obvious yet, but a process of iteration and refinement will produce it.
Yet any DarkPAN code of such low importance that its maintainers can't produce a test suite to verify that it works isn't worth p5p's time. Forget that code. It's a dead end. Let's concentrate instead on refining a language for serious software developers to write new code worth maintaining.