[haskell-infrastructure] wither the Platform

Anthony Cowley acowley at gmail.com
Mon Mar 23 15:20:54 UTC 2015

> On Mar 23, 2015, at 10:27 AM, Gershom B <gershomb at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On March 23, 2015 at 10:02:11 AM, Mark Lentczner (mark.lentczner at gmail.com) wrote:
>> I do too...! But follow the new Haskell.org pages like you are a user "just
>> want to install Haskell"... you'll never end up with the Platform.
>> It looks like the Platform deprecated on the Haskell.org site for Linux and
>> OS X in June
>> ,  
>> and for Windows in Jan
>> .
>> *Infrastructure team:* Was there a discussion and decision to do that
>> somewhere?
> I thought the current language on the page was rather balanced?
> That said, the initial people working on the site strongly leaned towards recommending minimal downloads over the platform in general, and as OS X and Windows developed good minimal installers the site was updated to point to them. In the editorial process on the site we, actually worked to make sure the platform _was_ highlighted more than it had been. And every time the site has come under public review (three times thus far, at least) the issue of minimal installers vs. platform was contentious, but with the former voice dominating. Note that there remains an issue under discussion about making the presentation of the two alternatives more balanced yet: https://github.com/haskell-infra/hl/issues/55 (patches and pull requests welcome!).
> In any case, here is my problem. I would like us to be in a situation where we can always say “use the platform” to new users. I don’t think we are there, because new users will insist on using whatever libraries they read about as the latest and greatest, and those libraries do necessarily take care to ensure platform-compatability. (And if you tell them that straying from the platform is not for the inexperienced, they will snap at you and call you condescending, and insist they know what they are doing… shrug). Since we cannot mass-alter this sort of attitude among new users, then the next best thing would be to mass-alter the attitude among people who write not-platform-compatible libraries. But that is hard to do as well! (A “badge” on hackage for platform-compatible packages would do wonders, I think).

I don't understand this attitude. You say that neither new users nor package authors agree with your stance on the HP, so you want to force their hands. Presumably package authors know what they're doing for themselves, and the majority of evidence we have is that new users who stick with the language do not like the way the HP works <https://reddit.com/r/haskell/comments/2zts44/wither_the_platform/>.

I understand this is not your personal preference, but is there any group whose vote would count here? The community has responded to the reality of the situation by having easy minimal installers for OS X, Windows, and Ubuntu. What is coming down the pike is integration between Stackage LTS and isolated build environments that support building programs that need specific versions of dependencies. We're not there yet, but it's coming. The common pieces needed for all concerned parties are: GHC and isolated build environments. Cabal developers, Mietek (of Halcyon), and myself (tying Nix to Cabal) are all rapidly converging on similar designs (which is very encouraging!). The shake out here will likely be cabal-install gaining some Nix-like tricks while supporting tools focus on deployment to servers.

This will give us per-package build caching with the opportunity to serve binaries for everything in Stackage, without any headaches of old versions interfering with builds, and a local binary cache that fills up between LTS releases. If the question then becomes, "What's the holdup?" the answer is lack of developer hours.

Finally, just to clarify, the goals of the HP, broadly stated as an installer for essential tools and a good starter set of libraries, are not in dispute. Haskellers rely on a vast number of small, focused libraries, and our compile times are nothing to brag about. The combination of those two present a challenge, so now we are tuning how something like the HP ought to be implemented.


> So, in the meantime, we need to get the centralized, uniform platform installers into a shape where we _can_ uniformly recommend them. And, as I suggested, it seems to me the way to go about doing that is decoupling the “library curation” element of the platform from the “installing haskell” element. That, or ruthlessly marking packages on hackage that do not work with the current platform with a big red X :-)
> Cheers,
> Gershom
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