Because I am the vice president of our local Grand Rapids Perl Mongers group and also because I believe that participation in local user groups is extremely valuable, I was curious to see what the Perl Survey 2007 data would show with regard to user involvement in Perl Mongers user groups across the United States. In Part I, I also promised a more interesting analysis — one without a focus on salary information: this is it.
Types of Involvement
First, let me define what I mean when I say someone is involved with a Perl Mongers group. There were four questions on the survey regarding Perl Mongers:
Have you, in the past year,
- Attended a Perl Mongers meeting?
- Attended a non-local Perl Mongers meeting?
- Posted to a Perl Mongers mailing list?
- Subscribed to a Perl Mongers mailing list?
For the sake of simplicity, I reduced those four questions into two types of involvement: attending meetings, and using the mailing list. If a survey taker did not answer in the affirmative to at least one of the four questions I consider them not involved in a Perl Mongers group. Otherwise, they are involved in at least one of the two ways I presented. The following pie chart shows the relative proportions of the different types of involvement.
It appears most people who attend meetings are also involved in using the e-mail list, making the list the most common method of involvement for Perl Mongers groups.
There is also a large contingent, 61.2% of reporting Perl users, who are not involved in a Perl mongers group. Is that a significant level of involvement? I have nothing to compare it to, but 38.8% involvement in Perl Mongers sounds reasonably good.
Age of Participants
Who participates in Perl Mongers? That is a good question, and I will start by painting a picture of the age distribution of Perl Mongers participants.
It is easy to see that the different types of involvement follow each other closely. A large percentage of participants are in the range of 25 to 39 years old, which looks relatively close to what I expected and represents our local group well. I also put together a graph to show, for each age bracket, what percentage of respondants were involved in Perl Mongers.
The range of 20 to 39 years old shows a relatively steady upward trend in involvement that tapers off slowly from 40 on, though I do not find the variance extremely significant. I am curious about the dip at 45 to 49 years, though I have yet to find any meaning in it.
In general, Perl Mongers shows consistant involvement from most age groups. If there is an age group we should target in our marketing I think it is the 18- to 24-year-olds (e.g. college students and recent graduates) because their involvement percentage is slightly lower and they likely have a lot to learn and contribute.
Involvement vs. Experience with Perl
Another angle I wanted to see was the correlation between the number of years of Perl programming experience and the respondants participation in Perl Mongers. Much like the percent participation by age above, this graph shows the percent participation broken down by number of years of experience writing Perl.
There is a steady increase in involvement from 0 years up through 8 years of experience. It dips slightly at 9 years and then shoots way up at 10 before settling back down to a more normal level until we reach the outliers around 20 years and on. There were fewer than ten responses for the entries out past 20 years, so I would not place too much emphasis on them as they do not contribute much to the analysis of the trend.
I have to admit that the huge spike at 10 years is puzzling. It could be that 10 years is just a common answer for people who have been writing Perl for “a long time,” and that they happen to be a very involved crowd. Or, perhaps there was a marketing push or general excitement over Perl about 10 years ago and we see now the results of that. I just don’t know.
We see here that, once again, the distribution of participation is fairly even, especially above 5 years of experience. For that reason, I suggest we have the most to gain by marketing to new Perl users (less than 5 years of experience) and getting them involved in our local groups.
Averages and Conclusions
The average US Perl Mongers participant, whether on the mailing list or in person, is a 36-year-old man with about 9 years of Perl experience and 18 years of general programming experience.
After looking over the various graphs and averages, I can say with confidence that Perl Mongers groups are a fantastic resource for the beginner and expert alike. My involvement with the Grand Rapids Perl Mongers group also confirms that. Still not convinced? Fine, I’ll bring out the salary information again: the average Perl Monger makes $6,445 (7.88%) more than their non-participating counterparts. That figure jumps to $7,336 (8.97%) if you attend meetings. Do I have your attention now?
I highly recommend that you check out your local Perl Mongers group if you have not already. Or, if there is not a group near you, consider starting one.