A Perl Team wins a web app. competition

There is often a description, a type, bandied at Perl that you cannot build an application in the language in a short period of time and so it isn’t suitable for the apparent ‘fast-paced’ and ‘flexible’ web development world. A group of Perl hackers in Brazil turned that notion around when they won the W3C(1) competition announced today.

W3C Competiton

The Desarorollando América Latina is a competition to build an application in a short period of time. The rules are:

  • All data used must be public and open;
  • The software must be open source;
  • You have 30 hours to construct the Application over two consecutive days starting on the 3rd December at 10:00 and finishing on the 4th December at 14:00 hrs;
  • There is a maximum 8 persons per team;
  • Live coverage of the event and teams was provided around the clock via an online stream;
  • You must be from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru or Uruguay (afaics).

The prize is to present your application idea to a team of start-ups in Silicon Valley, USA, in the new year.

Forty-seven teams entered this year’s competition which means there were 400 hackers (approximately) working from all across Latin America, there was, however, only one team using Perl, the winning one. There is a full list of the teams (and their apps) here.

The Team

The Perl team that entered was lead by Shadowcat Systems(2) developer, and São Paulo PM group member, Eden Cardim. Their entry was to construct a site that linked Geographical location and crimes committed/reported in that region. You can visit their winning site here.

The polygons that make up the maps on their entry were obtained from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics and the felony data comes from the Security Bureau of the State of Rio Grande do Sul which is the only organisation that actually releases the data openly.

This page is a good place to start looking at how the data is used.

The team took the data from the Security Bureau and cross referenced it against the maps and that is how they then constructed the maps and data tables for the info-graphics. The data that they obtained had pinpoint latitude and longitude that they had hoped to incorporate but in the end time was against them as the data was in poor shape to manipulate.

The Tools

The Perl team decided to invest in using Catalyst and DBIx::Class as both of these projects are mature with well-supported toolsets and dependency chains and ample documentation. Eden is quoted as saying “in fact, we didn’t even spend a lot of time writing Perl, since it all [Perl, CPAN, Catalyst and Dbic] worked flawlessly most of the time was spent actually beating the data into shape”.

The whole community should be proud of the team and their success and it is a great reflection of how a mature language, the community ethos around Perl, CPAN and associated projects can result in a fast application development under time constraints and in a competition environment.

So in true Perl tradition, please be upstanding and magnaminous in your praise, exuberantly voluminous in your voice while copiously cheerful in the raising of your glasses.

“Hail Perl and the Perl Mongers of Brasil”.


(1) The W3C were a major sponsor/infrastructure provider of the competition which is why I am using them as the shorthand term for the event as opposed to the less easy to type and pronounce Desarorollando América Latina.

(2) I just had to mention that Eden has been an essential member of the Shadowcat Team for many years and our faith in him is pretty much obvious when you know of his vast range of talents and deep level of skill in coding with his particular current focus of Perl.