[Haskell-cafe] Updating the Haskell Standard

Simon Peyton-Jones simonpj at microsoft.com
Thu Jul 21 04:39:48 EDT 2005

| I think an updated standard is overdue.  I find it difficult anymore
| write any but the most trivial of programs using pure Haskell 98.
| notable, and widely-used, features developed since then include:
|  * Overlapping instances
|  * FFI
|  * Hierarchical namespace
|  * Undecidable instances
|  * All sorts of updates to the standard library

In fact there's a well established way to express the results of such an
exercise: an Addendum to the Report.   Two of the things you mention
here already are Addenda
namely FFI and hierarchical namespaces.  [Actually, for the latter, the
Addendum seems to be stuck at 0.0, and doesn't have any names attached
to it.  So it's in a kind of limbo, but there's a draft at least.]

These Addenda are useful for exactly the reasons you describe: to
solidify and nail down the details of particular language extensions.  

How do Addenda get written?  The Haskell community is a particularly
informal one.  There is no Haskell committee.   Instead, someone gets up
sufficient motivation to gather a bunch of people and write a document.
It's a good idea to publish regular drafts, and ensure that any one
interested can see and contribute, because ultimately the usefulness of
the Addendum depends on its acceptance.

In short, the way lies open.  The only bottleneck is people willing to
do the work.   I think that many of the people who produced the existing
Haskell Report feel that they've done their bit, and perhaps someone
else can have a go.  That's certainly what I feel -- doing the Haskell
98 book was a *lot* of work -- though I would gladly contribute to an
effort driven by someone else.

To my mind, for all the fun of overlapping instances, the single thing
that would be most useful in this area would be more well-documented,
well-engineered libraries.  The last year or two have seen lots of
really useful-looking new libraries coming along.  But bringing all that
under a single roof, rather as the Haskell Library Report did, with
reasonable documentation and compatible conventions, would be a great
service.  It would also be Real Work.


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