hacking cabal is too hard...

Duncan Coutts duncan.coutts at worc.ox.ac.uk
Wed Aug 15 19:27:58 EDT 2007

On Mon, 2007-08-06 at 10:00 -0700, Isaac Potoczny-Jones wrote:
> Duncan Coutts wrote:
> > On Mon, 2007-08-06 at 10:16 +0100, Simon Marlow wrote:
> >> Duncan Coutts wrote:
> >>> so what can we do about it?
> >> BTW, thanks for all the cleanup you did over the weekend, looks great.
> >>
> >>> Some barriers to entry:
> Out of the 6 (very insightful) barriers to entry you mention, I note 
> that items 1, 2, 3, and 6 all have their root cause in spam problems. 
> Trac got overwhelmed by spam when it was more open, as did the 
> moderation section of the mailing list, as you noted.  It's really 
> depressing.  Maybe there are some tools out there that could help?

There is an anti-spam plugin for Trac, it uses the same anti-spam
service as we've been using successfully on the Gtk2Hs website for the
past couple years.

However the anti-spam plugin requires upgrading to Trac 0.10 from our
current 0.9 version. We've discussed this at length for many many months
and Ian tried to do the upgrade but he found it needed a later version
of Python or lots of hacking. It looks like we'd need some support from
the sysadmin to get it upgraded. Another alternative that has been
discussed is to move the trac instances to the community server which
runs more recent software and where we have root.

> >> The Trac configuration is set to auto CC this list with bug updates, but 
> >> the mailing list config needs to be updated to allow them through.  Isaac 
> >> is the only one with admin permissions on the list at the moment, should we 
> >> add more people?  Volunteers?
> I believe Duncan has all the rights on the list that I have, as he 
> mentions and I'd be happy to add more volunteers.

I've emailed you separately about this.

> > Thomas has offered to write a HACKING file.
> That's really great, thanks, Thomas!  I'd be glad to proof it and help.

Yes, I'm looking forward to that.

> >> All this has arisen because Cabal has been hacked on by a wide range of 
> >> people, few of whom really took an interest in the design of the system as 
> >> a whole.  Mostly we were trying to get the job done and make Cabal do what 
> >> we needed, which to a large extent it does.
> Although I hear that people do complain, I think it's very telling that 
> Cabal has had so many contributers.  Very few Haskell libraries that I 
> can think of have had as many contributers as Cabal has.

Yes, by many measures it's extremely successful.

> And please remember that to some extent, there's always going to be
> complaining when reading someone else's code.

Of course :-)

> I'm not saying that there isn't room for improvement, there is 
> definitely room for improvement.

> >> But this is fertile ground for hackers who enjoy cleaning things up and 
> >> refactoring...
> > 
> > Certainly. How to recruit such people...

I'm quite pleased that I've been getting a few patches recently from
various people, code style/consistency cleanups, bug fixes etc.

There has been more talk of refactorings such as making cleaner
separations between the cabal library api and the command line user
interface, and similarly clear separation between the declarative Cabal
info and the Simple build system. Another important one people have
talked about is separating the local build config serialisation format
from the information that is in the environment for a build. Separating
them should allow greater abstraction by allowing us to add function
parameters to the build environment rather than everything having to be
concrete data for the sake of serialisation. In particular this should
allow us to put functions into the Compiler abstraction.

There has also been some good discussion of the next big feature,
dependency tracking.

> > I might try and do a 5-min status report at AngloHaskell.
> > "Cabal needs you" or something :-)
> That would be great.

I got quite a good response from this. Several people have expressed
interest in looking at cabal-install in particular.


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