How, precisely, can we improve?

Richard Eisenberg rae at
Mon Sep 26 01:27:04 UTC 2016

Like many of you, I'm sure, I'm saddened by the occasional tone of the recent exchange about contributions to GHC.

I'd like to move the conversation forward -- and I'd like to do so on a technical basis.

So, I ask:
How, precisely, can we improve?

I think it would be best to have answers to this question start their own thread, as I expect several good answers to this question.

As I ask this, I am not making the assumption that we cannot, nor is this meant to be rhetorical. I am asking a question in search of precise, technical answers.

"Be more like Rust" is not an answer to this question, as it is imprecise. (I'm not at all maligning the overall goal of emulating a successful process. It's just that "be more like Rust" is not actionable.)

"Accept PRs on GitHub" *is* an answer to this question, but one we have revisited several times in recent memory. (I believe is the most recent.) Perhaps we can revisit this yet again, but it would be great if new technical content can be injected into the debate. I hope the rejection of the proposal linked there is not considered "dismissive", as the proposal generated vigorous debate -- the opposite of dismissiveness. (For what it's worth, I'm weakly in favor of accepting PRs on GitHub. However, I have no experience setting up or maintaining infrastructure for an open source project and have happily deferred to those who have such experience and who have come out against this idea.)

"Have process (X) for accepting new language features" *is* an answer to my question. This is in flight and I hope addresses the concern in the community. It seems to me that this step addresses the grievances described in "The Process" part of

"Have a formal mentorship system" *is* another answer to my question, and one I think we can readily adopt. Can you (for all values of "you") suggest a concrete model with a link? It seems to me that folks who ask for help get the help they need. But this surely requires the courage and wherewithal to ask for the help. Perhaps there is a better way to advertise our availability and desire to mentor. I, personally, have onboarded (or attempted to) several contributors and enjoy doing so. Though my ability to mentor wanes when I have gotten busy, I have always prioritized helping out the newest contributors, letting other, more confident actors' emails slip if necessary. If I have erred, I am sorry.

"Don't be dismissive" is not an answer to my question, as it is both imprecise and not technical. The most recent thread indeed had posts that seemed quite dismissive, but these posts emanated from people with a variety of viewpoints. It was hardly GHC HQ (whatever that means). What, precisely, has been dismissed? It looks to me that we (regular GHC contributors) take the community's concerns seriously. Fixes may be slow in coming, but that's not dismissiveness. Of course I'm biased here, but I am truly and earnestly asking for clarification.

Emboldened by the technical, respectful discussion recently on the merits (and usage patterns) of stack (starting at, I look forward to a similarly technical, respectful discussion on our contribution process.

Thanks for all that you (for all values of "you") do to help grow our community and make it stronger.


Richard A. Eisenberg
Asst. Prof. of Computer Science
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, PA, USA <>
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