Notes from Ben's "contribute to ghc" discussion

Matthew Pickering matthewtpickering at
Mon Sep 26 11:26:07 UTC 2016

Thank you for this comment Anthony.
I thought about it over the last day and think you have it spot on.
This is the key sentence:

> The truth is that it what I complained about is *not a problem*
> for GHC devs in so far as they are happy doing GHC development!

It seems that the point that you are getting at is that currently the
development process is heavily optimised for existing developers.
There are quite a few moving parts but once you get a handle on them
all it works well for me at least. The argument seems
to be that we should (much) more heavily optimise for new
contributors. (I think this is what Chris is saying as well).

What I am trying to say is that we should meet in the middle.
We should keep using phabricator as for regular contributors github is
too painful to use for a project of GHC's size (as rust exemplifies
with the custom bots). In order to improve the newcomer's experience
it would be beneficial to consolidate as much as possible to one
domain so that new contributors have only one place to look. Does this
sound sensible to you?

I would also like to take this chance to apologies to Chris for
cutting off the discussion we were having. I would appreciate it if
you would directly respond to the suggestions in
this message.


On Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 2:13 AM, Anthony Cowley <acowley at> wrote:
> On Sat, Sep 24, 2016 at 8:17 PM, Matthew Pickering
> <matthewtpickering at> wrote:
>> I think this comment is useful because it highlights the point that it
>> isn't very clear what "the point" even is.
> [snip]
>> Ultimately, I'm not sure what exactly what the point is. I read posts
>> like this (
>> ) and find myself disagreeing with almost every point. The comments in
>> the reddit thread provide most of the refutations. The post doesn't
>> address the
>> fact that the feature was a small syntactic change which as erik
>> pointed out, it perhaps the most difficult change to integrate as it
>> must certainly pay it's way.
> Matthew, if you are going to claim that you champion the concerns of
> new contributers, you must do more than dismiss criticism without
> offering a single word of reply. As I was involved in the discussion
> you linked and remember it very differently than you, I went back to
> try to understand what you possibly could have read. The top-level
> replies are:
> - Me clarifying that I like GHC
> - Someone who likes arc and notes, but hates the build system
> - Someone who argued that a syntactic change would be the "deep end of
> the difficulty pool" because they apparently did not realize the patch
> was already done.
> - Someone arguing that consistent style is not important
> - A strangely worded suggestion that there exist refutations but it
> would be inappropriate to mention them
> - Agreement that GHC dev is off-putting
> - Agreement that GHC dev is off-putting
> - GHC is a great compiler
> - Someone who likes GHC dev
> - A pro GitHub post
> - Someone complaining about how I was treated
> So, you read those comments in response to a specific, itemized,
> literally bullet-pointed complaint that getting changes into GHC by an
> outsider requires an ill-defined marathon of mailing lists and forums
> in which GHC devs do not participate very much, and what you took away
> from it was that the post was largely refuted.
> GHC is a fine research compiler and several people do tremendous work
> on it. But please do not keep asking what the problem is if you are
> going to completely ignore it when it is written down time and time
> again. The truth is that it what I complained about is *not a problem*
> for GHC devs in so far as they are happy doing GHC development!
> Mystery solved, we can all move on with our lives productively using
> GHC or contributing to it. Chris's reaction to the title of the talk
> is entirely understandable to me, as I had interpreted it the same
> way.
> Anthony

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