If you're like me (and if you're reading this, chances are you're like me), you're of Caucasian ethnicity, college educated, over 25, and male. It's likely you were raised in a solidly middle class household with access to computers in the house or at school before the age of 12. You had encouragement from family, peers, and teachers to study subjects including math and science.
You're probably (though somewhat less likely) also comfortable using a Unix-like operating system, even if your job demands that you use a Windows machine if only to connect to the Exchange server through Outlook to send spreadsheets and .doc files back and forth.
While it's an even bet that you spend a lot of time on a mobile computing device such as a smart phone or a tablet, you probably have access to at least one unfettered computing platform (being able to root your phone doesn't count) where you can install any software you want, including a compiler and development environment. Maybe your system administrator handles it for you, but the principle is nearly the same.
You probably have broadband at home.
When I say "Install XCode" or "Run aptitude to install build-essentials" or "Download mingw or Visual Studio Express", you know what I mean and have no trouble doing it.
I won't call you privileged (even though we are).
I will say this: if we want to attract more users and contributors to the worlds of Perl and free software and ethical computing, we ought to consider how to make the onramps easier for people who don't look so much like me. Yes, they will eventually need to learn how to use some sort of CPAN tool, but does that mean they have to learn how to use the command line before they can do anything productive with Perl? Yes, they ought to understand some of the better pieces of Unix that Perl puts together, but does that mean they have to install their own Linux distribution before they can do anything with Perl?
Jacinta Richardson from Perl Training Australia and John Napiorkowski made this point quite clear at YAPC::NA last week: while we're great at making software for ourselves and people like ourselves, we could do much better making software easier for people not quite like ourselves.
If we're serious about promoting Perl and free software, and if we're serious about making communities which include people by default and take advantage of the different perspectives and talents of different types of people, how can we make it easier for new people to join us? (Or do other people who resemble me even want this sort of thing?)
I have some ideas that I'll share over the next few posts. I'd like to hear yours.