Every once in a while, I’m going to try to highlight an individual that stands out from the rest. Earlier today I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down, virtually, with Perl developer, Nicola Worthington….
Nicola, you are well known for your multiple Perl modules in the CPAN (http://search.cpan.org/~nicolaw) registry. What led you to create and maintain these modules? Is there a story behind them?
Most of my modules have come about from personal projects that I’ve worked on. Whenever I copy and paste some code more than a couple of times, I tend to ask myself if it would be better abstracted in to a module and whether other people might find it useful too.Probably the best example of that is RRD::Simple. I wanted to graph things using RRD, but found the interface quite confusing. It took me days reading the RRD manual to figure out how to use it. After that I never ever wanted to have to read that manual again. Hence RRD::Simple was born, with (what I hope is) an interface a complete Perl newbie could understand.
My first CPAN module was WWW::Dilbert. I guess that one speaks for itself. Who wants to have to go to someone else’s website to read their favorite daily comic when it could be right there on your own local homepage? 🙂
What started you on the path of a programmer/developer? Was there a pivotal point when you decided or was there no question at all?
I can’t think of one particular moment when I knew I wanted to be a programmer, although I was pretty sure I wanted to play^H^H^H^Hwork with computers ever since I left school. They were an aspect of life that I could totally control. That was comforting.
Why Perl? Why not Python or Java?
Mine is probably a similar story to many other Perl programmers. When the internet came along I started working on personal web pages. I got bored with what plain old HTML could do on its own, and wanted to add some interaction and automation with what I was doing. I downloaded *shudder* some scripts from Matts Script Archive and started hacking away when they wouldn’t do what I wanted. Had Python or Java been the language of the interweb back then, then no doubt I wouldn’t be writing in Perl today.
You can see some of my first (reworked but still rather shoddy) work from those days here: https://svn.perlgirl.org.uk/dav/gallery/
Have you faced any hurdles in the Perl or Linux communities because you are a woman?
Not that I can think of. I have professionally, but I guess that still goes with the territory. I think women are still somewhat of a novelty and distraction for the men in on-line technical communities.
Can you tell us a little about your professional work life?
My last job was auditing customers code before it was allowed on their (very large and well known international website). That was an interesting job, but once you’ve seen the same error again and again from the same programmer, it begins to wear you down a little. 😉At the moment I fix and automate broken things. I may not always be hired for that purpose, but I can’t stand working in any environment where there’s unnecessary manual processes where a well placed script would save hours of work. I crave routine and order, and put things right so I get it.
My last job was auditing customers’ code before it was allowed on their (very large and well known international) website.
Recently you’ve started picking up the C++ language. What do you think of it?
It’s like writing an essay with a pen after you’ve gotten used to typing. You can’t use CPAN with it. 🙂
What do you do when you’re not coding?
I’m a sucker for finding a TV series that I like (that’s finished) and then watching every episode, several per night, until I need to find the next series. My last few TV series were Stargate, West Wing and Goodnight Sweetheart. I’m currently just starting season 5 of the X Files and looking forward to the movie before starting season 6.
Oh, sleeping is always good. Can’t get enough of that!
What’s your biggest pet peeve when reading someone else’s Perl code?
That’s a difficult question. It would have to be either not using strict and warnings, or not properly checking results of system calls. Unfortunately I see both far too often during my professional life. I can almost forgive it when the author isn’t a programmer by trade,.. but when they’re an experienced programmer, regardless of what their native language is, I just despair.
What’s on your radar? Specifically, are there new projects you are, or about to, start on that you would like to share with us?
There’s nothing new coming up that I’m planning for. I do however have a long backlog of patches and improvements. My backlog is currently in a bit of a sorry state, not least the Sys::Filesystem module which I’m somewhat ashamed of for my lack of attention to maintaining it.
For those of us that use your Perl modules, how can we express our gratitude?
Tell me what you do or don’t like about my software. Suggest enhancements and report bugs (it’s nice to know that people want to use my software and want to help make it better). If you’re feeling especially generous, buy me something from my Amazon wish list. 😉
Nicola, aka Neechi – a Perl Girl, lives in London and has written many perl modules for CPAN. Not only is she a fellow geek, she is highly intelligent and motivated. Along with her multiple linux servers at home, she can also boast having a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device – think big harddrive – that I’m very envious of.
Sorry, guys! She’s taken.