[Haskell-cafe] Updating the Haskell Standard

David Barton dlb at patriot.net
Wed Jul 20 16:07:05 EDT 2005

John Goerzen writes:

> There was a brief discussion on #haskell today about the Haskell
> standard.  I'd like to get opinions from more people, and ask if there
> is any effort being done in this direction presently.


> I know that some people would like to hold off on such a process until
> their favorite feature (we'll call it feature X) is finished.  I would
> argue that incremental addendums to the standard should be made more
> frequently, so that new features can be standardized more easily.
> Thoughts?

I can contribute some experience from commercial standardization efforts. 
ANSI, IEEE, and ISO standards require re-ballotting every five years, 
otherwise the standards lapse.  Reballotting may or may not be accompanied 
by changes in the standard; for a standard as complex as a language, new 
versions at least every five years seems to be fairly common with "newer" 
standards (ANSI C has not changed in newer standardization ballots as far as 
I know).

The trade-off for standards is between stability for tool developers and 
learners and stagnation.  If the standard changes too often, there will be 
only one developer (the one effectively "in charge" of the standard) and it 
will tend to not be taught anywhere (because what students learn is obsolete 
too quickly).  If the standard is unchanged too long, it becomes irrelevant 
and obsolete and no one pays attention to it.  Five years is what the 
general industry seems to have settled on as a good average, but it may or 
may not apply here; the circumstances are different.  Developers of Haskell 
are pretty much volunteers and academics; that changes things.  On the other 
hand, it is a rapidly developing field.

How all this shakes out is something for the community at large to decide; 
however, that is what happens in other standards bodies.

Dave Barton
EDAptive Computing

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