Meet The Champion: Perl Weekly Challenge - 023

Saturday, Sep 7, 2019| Tags: Perl, Raku

Welcome to the weekly series “Meet The Champion”.

Last week we spoke to Kian-Meng Ang, the winner of Perl Weekly Challenge - 022. Today we are talking to the Perl Weekly Challenge - 023 winner Athanasius. I hope you are going to enjoy the interview.

Mohammad: Tell us about your technical background?

Athanasius: Learned some programming at school, first on an HP-65 calculator and then using Fortran IV on punch cards! Later taught myself BASICA on an IBM PC-XT. Did a BA in Philosophy of Religion at the University of Queensland. Later, came back to study (this time at Griffith University) as a mature age student and earned a BInfTech. Work experience in multimedia, mostly in C++, also some Java.

Mohammad: How/When did you start using Perl/Raku?

Athanasius: Around the year 2000 my team lead introduced me to AWK as a handy text extraction tool for some reports we were writing. Then I heard about Perl as a superior alternative to AWK. I bought the Camel Book (I remember, its cover proudly advertised that it was up-to-date with Perl 5.6!) and found it to be one of those rare computer texts that are not only informative but also fun to read. Looking back, I realise now that the “Perl” scripts I was writing then were really C programmes dressed up as Perl. But hey, that’s one of the Perl language’s biggest strengths! Its DWIM philosophy allows the newbie to be productive from the outset and learn the more Perlish ways of doing things at his own pace.

Wasn’t till some years later that I got serious about Perl. Began by studying the documentation and lurking on the comp.lang.perl.misc newsgroup, where I learned a lot. Finally plucked up courage and joined PerlMonks on 1st May, 2012 – and the rest, as they say, is history! Trying (and sometimes failing) to answer other people’s Perl questions has proved a wonderful way to improve my own understanding of Perl.

Only came to Perl 6 as a result of the Perl Weekly Challenge. I’m finding Perl 6 to be, in many ways, an attractive and powerful language, extensively documentated. Still, I’m often frustrated in my attempts to find answers to specific questions. What I’d really like is a top-level guide to Perl 6 along the lines of the Camel Book.

Mohammad: How did you come to know about “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Athanasius: I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure there was an announcement in PerlMonks that the Perl Weekly Challenge was about to start. It looked interesting – and it was, and is!

Mohammad: What do you like the most about “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Athanasius: I already have my fill of mathematical challenges via Project Euler, so I prefer text- or algorithm-based challenges that introduce me to new ideas. For example, I enjoyed learning the mechanics of the LZW algorithm recently.

Mohammad: Is there any thing you would like to change?

Athanasius: I think the run of API-based challenges is nearing its use-by date. :-) Why not vary Task #3 now and then by including a bit of Perl golf; or (say) a TMTOWTDI-inspired challenge to find as many different ways as possible of solving a simple problem?

Mohammad: How much time you dedicate every week to “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Athanasius: Too much, sometimes. Other times (like this week), not enough! It depends on the Tasks, and on what else is going on in my life at the time. But I usually spend several hours a week on the Challenge.

Mohammad: Do you checkout others solutions and who is your favourite?

Athanasius: Since I’ve only recently started learning Perl 6, I often look at the Perl 6 solutions to earlier Challenges to learn the best ways of programming in this language. There are many fine programmers contributing solutions each week, but for me Joelle Maslak is the standout.

Mohammad: What do you suggest someone just started the weekly challenge?

Athanasius: A lot of feedback on past Challenges is available, not only on the Perl Weekly Challenge website itself but also at And anyone can write their own blog (if they have the time!). You may well find that the effort of explaining your own approach to a task is as valuable a learning experience as is reading about someone else’s approach. ;-)

Mohammad: Do you find the website user friendly? What do you like most?

Athanasius: Yes, it’s user friendly, and I particularly like the Chart which summarises everyone’s contributions to the latest Challenge. But I do have two suggestions: (1) All the pictures/images on the site appear to be elongated horizontally. Would it be possible to correct this? (2) The site, together with the Git repository, is fast growing into a useful database of Perl programming examples. A topic- or theme-based index page would be a valuable addition to the site, as it would make it much easier to find example scripts for specific subjects.

Mohammad: Anything else you would to like share with us?

Athanasius: Just want to thank you for naming me this week’s “champion,” and for all the hard work you put in every week to make this Challenge a fun exercise – and a showcase for Perl as the elegant and powerful language we know and love!

That brings the end of the conversation with Athanasius. Please do let us know your view. We will come back next week with another champion.


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