The tag line for this blog is “Something cool about Perl 6 every day” and today I’m going to talk about something I think is very cool—the Synopses.
First, a quick background. When Perl 6 was first announced in 2000, the community didn’t quite know what needed to be done. So a requests for comments (RFC) process was started and resulted in over 360 RFCs that suggested changes to Perl. From these RFCs Larry Wall synthesized the Apocalypses which sought to reveal the design of the language. Later, Damian Conway created the Exegeses which showed how the design could be used in practice.
Fast forward to the present day. There are several implementations of Perl 6 out there and each has their own implementation focus. One has prioritized the object model, another the parsing engine, a third has prioritized implementing the bulk of the basic Perl 6 syntax. How do each of these implementations maintain their “Perl-6-ness” while still focusing on their particular implementation niche?
The answer is the Synopses. These documents are the official Perl 6 specification. Each Synopsis covers a specific topic within the Perl 6 language that somewhat mirrors chapters in “Programming Perl” (the camel book).
What if you think you’ve found a bug in an implementation? How do you know it’s a bug? Consult the relevant Synopsis. As far as the Perl 6 community goes, what’s written in the Synopses is definitive.
What if you think there’s a bug in a Synopsis or that it contradicts another Synopsis? Either send a message to email@example.com or drop by #perl6:irc.freenode.net to discuss it. Because here’s the other cool thing about these Synopses … they are living documents. When there is a contradiction or just something that needs clarification, talking about it with #perl6 is often all it takes to get the problem fixed. Actually, just mentioning your trouble in a public forum of some sort (twitter, a blog, etc.) is likely to garner enough attention. There are no layers of beaurocracy to navigate in order to affect change.
Now, this last thing may seem slightly bizarre, but … almost anyone can edit the Synopses. They aren’t held fixed by some divine power. All it takes is active participation in the Perl 6 discussion. There is a price for this ability however–your changes must withstand the scrutiny of the Perl 6 community. Much like a wiki, social pressures and an active community are used to maintain the integrity of the Synopses.