Building notes, projects, and occasional rants

Rethinking CPAN

Andy Lester wrote an article a couple of days back about rethinking the CPAN interface. The key part of the argument is:

We don't want to "make CPAN easier to search." What we're really trying to do is help with the selection process. We want to help the user find and select the best tool for the job

I though a bit about this and my own CPAN usage over the years. I've started with Perl around 91 or 92 so I've used it a bit.

I don't know the answer for this one, but I would start with the Perl module version of the iusethis site: each person could select the list of modules that they use.

This first approach would start shuffling modules to the top.

You could then ask each person to classify why are they using the module. This is the hard part because you would need to come up with a classification scheme, like the one we still have for CPAN module, actually. It will never be perfect but I prefer to have 10 or 20 common things like "Parsing XML", or "Sending MIME email" than nothing.

An optional improvement would be to have a 4 or 5 level rank, inside your own module list, to allow you to say that, DBI is much more important than CPAN::Mini.

Another layer would be some sort of social angle. This is not to make the site look hype and fresh, but to help find new modules. I could watch a couple of persons I trust and see what are the modules they are using and the most recently added. Instead of looking through 50+ modules updates per day, I just see a filtered list of potential targets.

A final twist - a aging digg-like system: I can "This saved my bacon today"-vote on any module, but my vote would only be counted for a month, giving rise the the Bacon Savers list.

But as always, you need a carrot to make all those perl programmers compile their module list. There are two immediate carrots that I can see:

  • selective CPAN announcements: if a module on your list gets an update, you would get a notification (daily email, weekly email, or personalized RSS feed);
  • a automatic Bundle module, or Task module to install all your modules: I would not upload all this modules to CPAN, but we could create a perl script that downloads my Bundle or Task and calls the classic cpan to do the heavy lifting.

Anyhow, this are my €.02 to the conversation.