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Reflections on the Perl6 logo

Posted by dlandgren on 2009-09-26

She: Oh… uh, isn’t that new?
He: Yes it is. Do you like it?
She: Well… what is it?
He: Uh… “New Young American Primitive”.
She: I have a new young American sister. She’s only three and her stuff is really primitive.

—Joan Chandler and John Dall, Rope (Alfred Hitchcock)

It would appear that Larry Wall has (his heart) settled on a logo for Perl6, and he’s been thinking about it for quite some time.

I would also like to make it clear that I’m a just a little tired of these “rounds”; more importantly, that I’ve been mulling over this particular issue for many years.

Which brings us to:

Does the flap of a butterfly's wings set off a tornado?

Does the flap of a butterfly's wings set off a tornado?

Woah, my eyes, talk about Angry Fruit Salad. Of course, this comes from the man who considers chartreuse to be a suitable background colour for a web page…

There is a textual representation of the logo as well, and in fact, it’s only after seeing the text version that the above makes any sense at all:

»ö«

Or if you have Unicode and decent typesetting software:

typographical perl6 logo

Now the meaning becomes clear, it’s meant to be a riff on Perl6′s hyper-operators. Well, fair enough, but really, those bug eyes, that crooked smile, the P and 6 in the wings, that’s supposed to be what? And what will that look like to a colour-blind person? Is this a peculiarly American need, to have a mascot? I’m baffled.

But seriously. In the 10th State of the Onion, Larry suggested that Perl 4 was a pre-teen, and Perl 5 was an adolescent. Perl 6 is when Perl grows up and becomes an adult. And the language is coming along nicely. There are lots of lovely features going into that is going to make it a fascinating language to work in over the next couple of decades. And now this curiously infantile regression.

The biggest problem is that I would have a hard time advocating the language without people snickering at me. I am reminded of Jamie Zawinskie, when he announced his resignation from Netscape, some months after the company was bought out by AOL.

…someone from the New York Times asked me what it would be like working for AOL, given that they represent (in her words) “all that is cheesy and mainstream about the net.” She asked if AOL had lost that stigma. I disengaged my brain and answered,

I think AOL still has all the stigma that it always has, as far as image goes. My friends keep saying jwz@aol.com and then laughing uncontrollably…

I envisage a conversation at work when I would suggest that Perl6 would be a secret weapon that would boost programmer productivity and give us the edge that allows us to roll out new applications faster and better, and the other people in my team rolling their eyes and laughing. “Hey guys, let’s break out the acrylic paints and do some fingerpainting!”

The language scene is a lot more crowded these days. Perl is going to find the going a lot harder this time around. Not to mention the rise of worse is better and the likes of PHP.

I can’t see how this is going to help matters.

I just can’t take any of you seriously
Fire up the batmobile, ’cause I gotta get outta here …

—Liz Phair, (Fire Up The) Batmobile

So please, anyone, anywhere, come up with a better one, before it’s too late, ok?

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9 Responses to “Reflections on the Perl6 logo”

  1. Kai Carver said

    I have to agree with you it’s all a bit disturbing.

    But, I’ve chosen to adopt it as a funny anti-logo.* This is a bit of a strain for me, because I don’t like bugs, and I’m not terribly fond of this design. I can only hope that, butterfly- (phoenix-?) style, it will transform into something better. And who needs a logo anyway?

    Je suis bon public, hein: I have glued on my (non-Mac, non-stylish) laptop the probably even uglier logo of a no less worthy technology. It makes me slightly nauseous whenever I look at it (click at own risk):
    http://www.gnu.org/graphics/gnu-and-penguin-color-1024×946.jpg

    *an interesting exercise for a perverse graphic artist with too much time on his or her hands would be to redo the covers of all the O’Reilly “animal books” in the style of this four-color abomination

  2. chromatic said

    In other words, “I can’t use this language, despite all of its great features, because I’m afraid people might laugh at me over its logo.”

    I must admit, I don’t understand that particular line of criticism.

    • dlandgren said

      Well that’s exactly the problem.

      I don’t program in a vacuum. I make my living from my skills as a programmer. People with no interest in programming will estimate my worth according to whatever metric they perceive, and this garish icon is going to be highly counter-productive to arguing my case.

      This is like blowing your foot off with a giant ecstacy tablet fired from a bazooka.

      And I certainly don’t want people to laugh at me. I want them to respect me.

      • chromatic said

        May I respectfully suggest that the opinions of people who can find no better way to measure your worth than by tangential association with a cartoon bug are likely suspect in many, many substantial ways?

        • fn said

          Outside of the Perl community, Perl is seen quite widely as a heinously ugly language and as a community not exactly adept at making things that look good. A heinously ugly logo sends the message that Perl maintainers still don’t care much for aesthetics, that Perl 6 is for fun hating Vulcan hacker types, mortals need not apply. If that doesn’t bother you, keep the clip art and watch Ruby et al continue to eat your community until there are just a few old gray beards sitting around mumbling about what could have been.

  3. A friend of mine once compared his appreciation for the flexibility provided by the Bricolage content-management system to having a “box of magic crayons.” Perhaps Larry feels the same way about Perl 6? And the term “Creative power” seems to resonate with many Perlers as a modern expression of Perl’s brand.

    All that said, I have to agree: it’s not my favourite logo in the world. In fact, it’s far from it. However, I have to also admit that I don’t care that much because the Perl community has bigger perception problems to address about the Perl that people are using today vs. the one they’ll be using some years from now.

    My thought? Let’s get the messaging behind Perl 5 right, and lead by example, before we put too much energy into worrying about the Perl 6 logo.

    Phillip.

  4. How about something like:

    http://my.opera.com/nicomen/albums/showpic.dml?album=354845&picture=27357861

    Yes it has the P|6 too ;-)

  5. Andy said

    I remember thinking the same thing when I saw “Camelia”; Perl has problems getting people to take it seriously as it is, does anyone seriously think anyone will want to write enterprise-level applications with a language represented by something that, cute while it may be, looks like it belongs on a kindergarten wall somewhere?

    I’ve played around with a couple of different designs, myself, but I haven’t pitched them yet. Not like it will really matter. If Larry wants to stick with the insect, that is how it will be, but here’s the current iteration anyway:

    http://whereisandy.com/media/image/ser/p6logo.png

  6. P H said

    - The logo problem is quite obvious and serious.
    - The name problem is quite obvious and serious.
    - The Perl 6 general communication problem is quite obvious and serious.

    What other intellectual / organizational problems may Larry and the community have?
    Exactly how many people are working on Perl 6??
    How many hours every day?
    In what collaborative fashion do they work?
    Is it 4 persons working weekends and sending eachother emails?

    I feel that Larry is a visionary and a genious, but it would _seem_ that the way that the project is being carried out is “in the dark”, “one man” sponsored and without a real active and authoritative community to weigh in. The logo _may_ just be a symptom hereof. Therefore the importance thereof.

    These are sincere questions, I _would_ like to know and to understand.

    - Regards, Un “aficionado”

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