Notes from Ben's "contribute to ghc" discussion

Ben Gamari ben at
Mon Sep 26 21:42:02 UTC 2016

Richard Fung <minesasecret at> writes:

>> Indeed we do! If you ever have questions just ask me via IRC or email.
>> I'd be very happy to help.
> First of all thank you for the help you've given me so far.
Of course! I'm happy that I could help.

Moreover, thanks for writing this. This sort of feedback is worth its
byte count in gold.

> Maybe I'm different from others, but my workflow as a newcomer was just
> reading
> My extremely unsophisticated idea is to just update this wiki page so that
> it's obvious there are people who are willing to mentor newcomers. It seems
> as though we already have mentors or people willing to be mentors, but we
> also have people who did not know this was available.
That is a great point; it's easy for me to forget how I felt when I was
a beginner. I've added a brief paragraph to the Newcomers page,

    If you have any questions along the way don't hesitate to reach out
    to the community. There are people on the mailing lists and IRC who
    will gladly help you (although you may need to be patient). Don't
    forget that all GHC developers are still learning; your question is
    never too silly to ask.

Can you see any way this could be improved?

> More specifically, I think it would be useful if under the "Finding a
> Ticket" section, as an alternative to just picking a ticket, we suggest
> people to ask either through email or on IRC for a starter ticket. Then,
> hopefully the people who would be willing to mentor this person can suggest
> tickets they are equipped to deal with themselves.
That is a fair point; I've added some language to the Newcomers page
encouraging these sorts of inqueries,

    == Finding a ticket ==

    Now that you can build GHC, let's get hacking. But first, you'll
    need to identify a goal. GHC's Trac tickets are a great place to
    find starting points. You are encouraged to ask for a starting point
    on IRC or the ghc-devs mailing list. There someone familiar with the
    process can help you find a ticket that matches your expertise and
    help you when troubles arise.

    If you want to get a taste for possible starting tasks, below is a
    list of tickets that appear to be "low-hanging fruit" -- things that
    might be reasonable for a newcomer to GHC hacking. Of course, we
    can't ever be sure of how hard a task is before doing it, so
    apologies if one of these is too hard.

Is this better?

> By having newcomers ask for a ticket, we can guarantee that if this person
> gets a response there would be a mentor available. Also, if someone is too
> busy to be a mentor, then that person could just choose not to volunteer so
> that nobody should get overburdened, or at least any more overburdened than
> they already are.
> It might seem silly and I am probably just too shy, but as someone new I am
> always very hesitant to email the entire mailing list for help. On the
> other hand, I also feel bad for emailing a specific person because I figure
> they are likely very busy. If I were assigned someone to ask for help,
> especially someone who volunteered himself or herself, I suspect I would
> not feel so embarrassed to ask for help. I probably should have asked for
> help more on IRC but to be honest I have only used IRC once or twice in my
> life, incidentally also for help on Haskell, so it's not something I really
> remember.
IRC is a great tool; personally I felt much more empowered to ask
questions after I started using it.

Regardless, I'm certain that you are not the only one who is reluctant
to ask a large group.  I've now tried to really emphasize the importance of
asking questions on the Newcomers page but I agree that having a mentor
would lower the barrier to asking significantly.


- Ben
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