This is the first Perl Maven interview. The guest is Jeffrey Thalhammer, who created Perl::Critic and more recently Pinto and Stratopan. We talked about his project, about fund-raising and even about YAPC::NA. (18:47 min)

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Show notes:

The following is and experimental and partial transcription of the text.

0:00 Gabor: Hi, this is Gabor Szabo in the first episode of the Perl Maven show, or television, with me is Jeffrey Thalhammer. I am really happy that he volunteered to be the first guinea pig, in the first interview. He is the author of the Perl::Critic and more recently the Pinto application, module and I'd like him to... hi Jeffrey.. now maybe I'll talk to him so hi

Jeffrey: Hi Gabor, how are you doing today?

Gabor: I am a bit nervous, but I'll get over it, I think.

Jeffrey: I think you are doing a fine job. Thanks for having me on the show.

Gabor: OK, It's a pleasure to have you. So tell me a little bit about Pinto. This is your recent project

Jeffrey: So Pinto has been my baby for the last year almost 2 years It started out as a project for a client actually. Genentech has hired me to build them a custom CPAN repository. This is something I have done at 3-4 other companies. Basically any shop that uses Perl modules wrestles with the problem of churn in the public CPAN. There is always new modules coming and going and if you build up your application by installing modules from the public CPAN you never know what are you going to get from one day to the next. So one workaround to that problem is to have a local private CPAN that has exactly the modules you want in the specific versions you want. And there are existing tools for this. This is not a new idea, or anything. But I didn't really like any of them. They were all kind of hard to work with. Each one of these CPAN that I have built seemed to be very customized and not very general purpose. So Genentech hired me and they gave me the opportunity to start from scratch. So Pinto is the result of that work.

2.08 Gabor: That is awesome , both that there is that module or application and that there is a company that was OK with having this thing going out to open source and to implement something.

Jeffrey: The staff there is very progressive so the terms of the deal with them explicitly were that, anything that I did had to be released to CPAN and that is how they received their deliverable from me. Which is unusually I'd be happy if it happen more often.

2.50 Gabor: I saw recently that you had this fund-raising that brian d foy started or he's doing for you. Can you tell me about that a little bit? I mean I saw that you're trying to raise 4,000 dollars and 3 quarters of them is already there?

3.10 Jeffrey: Yes, yes

Gabor: Why do you do with all this money?

Jeffrey: Well I'll tell you the back story first. so brian d foy has been experimenting with using crowd-funding platforms to fund open source projects. So he was looking for candidate projects, things that he could run a campaign for and we could use the data or he could use the data to study where the interest is, where the community is and just generally to prove whether or not crowd funding was a viable way to finance this kind of projects. So he sort of put out a call for suggestions for campaigns or for projects to run campaigns for it and I stepped out a said hey how about Pinto, there were some key features that I thought we could do. It has been my primary work for the last couple of month I haven't been doing anything consulting, working full time on Pinto.

4.20 Gabor: So you say that you don't actually have any income right now? So basically that would be the income? Right, OK.

Jeffrey: so this crowd funding project campaign is my income for this month anyway. It's not so much that I need the money, I'm not living on a crust of bread, at least not yet, but I think that the campaign is more about demonstrating whether or not you can fund open source development through crowd funding, whether you can bring together the open source community around these projects and particularly around Perl. It's kind of difficult to make money in the Perl community, it's sort of non-capitalist.

Gabor: Idealist, people are very idealist, I think.

5.29 Jeffrey: That is a good way to say it, we are very idealist and the notion of directly financing these kinds of projects it's a little bit foreign to some of us. We wanted to see if this project could change that.

5.48 Gabor: So are you satisfied so far? I mean it looks OK but I'm not sure what was your expectation really.

Jeffrey: I didn't know what to expect really, part of me thought that like if there was like maybe 6 people in the world who knew me personally, who would be willing to pitch into this, but there was also a part of me that thought well the world is a very big place and Perl is everywhere and I think the perl community wants to win, wants to succeed, it wants to see this campaign succeed. So I have been totally blown away by the results so far. Everyone has done a really good job of spreading the word through Twitter and social media and like you said the contributions were up to about 3200 or so, so we have about another 8 or 900 dollars to get to our goal and we have 2 weeks to get there, but I'm pretty sure that we will. I really have to thank everyone who made a contributions we have some large some small from all sorts of people, many of whom I have never met before, many of whom are probably not even Pinto users, but like I said they like would to see perl win and I hope that this is just the start of a trend in perl and in open source in general, where we see a lot more of thees crowd funding campaigns come out.

7.35 Gabor: OK, so I saw that there are like a 90 people and you don't know them but do you know what kind of people or did you talk to them or can you say who do you expect, what kind of background of these people would you expect more likely to give you some money for this?

7.56 Jeffrey: Some of them are Pinto users, some of them are probably Perl::Critic users and they are maybe using this as a way to say thank you for that, which I'm very grateful for.

Gabor: I'm in that camp actually.

Jeffrey: Well, thank you Gabor. and a lot of them I don't have a firm handle on exactly who the Pinto users are, so I can't really tell which ones are doing this directly to fund the project to get that feature implemented or if they are sort of in that other category of people that just want to help pitch into Perl. I actually think that a lot of money could be raised for Perl projects. The challenge is providing a specific deliverable, and I think that is why the Pinto campaign is a little bit different the the general fund raising that TPF does. I think it's an easier sell to people if you say you know, please give me some money this what I'm gonna do in return. Raising money to support general development purposes is a harder sell because people aren't really sure what they are getting in return for there donation.

9.22 Gabor: Well I can tell you that I had a couple of reasons way I gave a little money, and I checked that it's way less than the average, but I mean some people have to be below the average. So one of the main reasons was that I wanted to give a little money so I can go and tell people that: look I gave, so you can also give. Because without that it's like "go ahead and give money", a bit funny. And well I definitely would like to see Pinto succeed and be better and maybe I could use it for the DWIM Perl packaging, but maybe the main reason was Perl::Critic actually, that I have been using Perl::Critic for a long time, I used it at a lot customers. So basically I think I made a lot of money or allowed me to earn some money, so that was just a little thank you token for this and thank you for Perl::Critic.

10.30 Jeffrey: It's my pleasure, and that what leads to this bigger dream that I have. I love doing open source work, but I also like having an income.

10.45 Gabor: Surprise

Jeffrey: So I have been trying to find ways to marry the two, to achieve both goals. To have the freedom and the joy and the satisfaction that I get from doing open source work and at the same time paying the bills and putting my kids trough collage, which is several years away but the day will come. My ultimate goal is to be able to create some kind of infrastructure to allow people to monetize their open source work.

11.26 Gabor: Yes, It's a bad word. It sounds bad, but I understand.

Jeffrey: I'll have to work on coming up with a better word for it. But you know you mentioned that Perl::Critic has enabled you to make some money from your clients and that is great. Think of the tens and thousands of developers and organizations that have all benefited from Michael Schwern's Test::More, every time that they run that and a test passes or actually when a test fails, then you know, they have profited from that somehow, or at least minimize a cost perhaps. So I would like to create a way for a little bit of that money to flow back to the authors. The open source community, CPAN authors create all this value in the work that they do but they don't get paid, directly any way for any of it. So I think there is a lot of money on the table in the open source community, if we could just find a way to channel it to the people who deserve it.

12.45 Gabor: well, Pinto or this fund-raising is trying to get their money from mostly individuals I think, but probably the longer term goal would be to reach companies that need this software because after all companies usually have a lot more money available than individuals.

13.5 Jeffrey: Right, most of the contributors to the campaign have been individuals, my plan to monetize Pinto even further is with this thing called Stratopan, which is a hosting server built on top of Pinto, so you don't have to bother installing Pinto and managing user accounts and servers and all that sort of stuff, we will take care of that for you, Pinto repository will be in the cloud and you can build and install your applications from there anywhere and anytime. So it's a bit like Github hosts source codes repositories, is going to host Pinto repositories for you.

13.54 Gabor: That sounds interesting.

Jeffrey: It's interesting. We just announced the beta this week, we are looking for beta users to come on board and help us shake out some of the early kinks. We think that we are going to lunch, that the beta will start some time in the summer. So if you go to you can leave your E-mail address and we will get in touch with you when the time comes.

14.20 Gabor: You say we just because it sounds better or there are more people behind that?

Jeffrey: Well I say we in the sense that it's me, it's the contributors to the Pinto project, brian d foy is also a part of Stratopan, he has been working on CPAN related issues for a very very long time so he has been helping me to sort out some of the technical details and giving me some insight into marketing, and how to reach out to the Perl community and make an impact.

14.57 Gabor: OK, great. I wanted to ask you because YAPC is combing, and we actually met for the first time last year at YAPC North America. Are you planning to go?

Jeffrey: I haven't committed yet but I would like to go, I went last year to YAPC at Madison and had a blast. Last year I stayed at a hostel which was kind of a first for me, usually when I travel with my wife her tastes are a little more particular than mine. So I was traveling alone, I stayed at a hostel and it really turned out to be the best part of the hole experience. I met Sawyer there, he is a really talented guy, we had some late night conversations.

15.48 Gabor: He is going to be there again as far as I know.

Jeffrey: I really want to get out to some of the YAPCs in Europe and Asia and try some of those, but yes YAPC is a blast, if you're thinking of going and haven't been before I highly recommend it.

16.06 Gabor: I usually go to YAPC Europe because it's a lot closer then North America, but this year again I'm going to be in North America. I would like to go to Asia once, YAPC::Asia.

Jeffrey: Austin is a great town, there is tons of music and it's quite a bit different from the rest of Texas. If you have a perception of what Texas is like, Austin is pretty much the exact opposite of that. It's this little island of liberal progressive thinking in an otherwise a very conservative state. I grew up in New Mexico, which is one state over and shares some similar characteristics.

17.00 Gabor: Interesting, so I hope that I'll see you there and in the meantime thank you very much for combing to the show, would you like to say some more words about Pinto or give out a call action.

Jeffrey: Well, as I said the beta for Stratopan will start this summer if you go to you can leave us your email address and we will make sure you are a part of that. The crowd-funding campaign for Pinto is been run on Crowdtilt, which is another Perl shop they have been super helpful with helping us get the campaign setup and running I don't have the URL.

17.45 Gabor: I'll but the URLs under the video.

Jeffrey: So if you want to go there and help spread the word, tweet, blog, whatever you do I really appreciate it, contributions are good too. We are very close to tilting. If we don't reach the full amount then none of the money gets paid so we have to reach that 4,096 goal in order to make this win.

18.13 Gabor: Good. well I really hope that it will work out. As I said, I'm going to put all the notes, all the links under the video, and thank you very much for combing to this interview or show or I don't know what it's going to be called, and we will see you hopefully at YAPC or somewhere around. Thank you very much.

Jeffery: Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here, see you in Texas. bye

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