[Haskell-cafe] How Albus Dumbledore would sell Haskell
westondan at imageworks.com
Wed Apr 18 15:45:05 EDT 2007
It is unscientific to ask the (highly biased) people on this list how to
sell Haskell. A focus group of the target audience is clearly called
for. Having said that, I will now violate my own advice.
Knowledge of the audience is critical to the success of a presentation.
Simon (aka Dumbledore) is speaking to four different Houses: scientists
(Ravenclaw), engineers (Hufflepuff), entrepreneurs (Slytherin), and
managers (Griffindor). My advice to him is:
You have already won over the scientists. Stop priming the pump.
Algebraic runes, spells from the Book of Category Theory, bananas,
lenses, arrows, cata, ana, hylo, endo, all is vanity.
You cannot interest the engineer with new tricks. He has spent too long
mastering difficult tricks to work around limitations to want to see
them eliminated. His competitive advantage and prized reputation are at
stake. Get him to believe that he is on the verge of being "left behind".
You cannot win over the entrepreneur with promises of "easier and more
robust". This translates to "anyone can do it" and the valuable "trade
secret" of arcane wizardry is now devalued. Show something exciting that
cannot be done (or would never have been attempted) without FP. Monads,
CPS, existential data types, or other high-priestess wizardry are no
impediment (less competition from lesser peers). But marginal
improvement is unimpressive. A new language brings high risk, and must
have high reward. Examples must be powerful (not another prime number
generator). Effective complexity management, correctness reasoning in
concurrent/distributed processing, and so on will get their interest.
Risk is scary for managers. "Great promise" promises the manager only
headaches. This translates to "no one can be hired to do it" and "those
that can will shake me down for more money". You must promote instead
the *inevitability* of Haskell's success: the fact that Haskell has
recently dominated the ICFP Programming Contest, the strongly upward
trend of Haskell taught at universities (hopefully there is a strongly
upward trend?), some anecdotal measure of the predisposition to
relatively better "quality" of those who seek to learn Haskell. Allay
the unspoken fear that there are always plenty of Haskellers to cause
trouble in a company (design and implement great tasks), but never
enough more mediocre Haskellers to keep out of trouble (content to do
"maintenance" tasks and minor upgrades to existing software) by
marketing Haskell as a recruitment tool to attract the best, a
motivational tool to reenergize engineers (see above) who've let their
skills go stale in larger companies, and a staff-development tool to
spur internal friendly competition to modernize their skills (and excuse
wage stagnation in those that do not). Since "inevitability" is a hard
sell for Haskell right now, avoid mentioning ML or Erlang. There needs
to be only one FPL for a manager, or he will fret about VHS vs. Betamax
syndrome (and he won't want to have been the one to invest in a
Betamax). Don't show any Haskell function with the prefix "unsafe". Even
now, I find the name unsettling.
The Harry Potter series makes money because we can't do magic but we
want to. It is human nature that what is given away will never be
thought to have value. Don't give away the magic of Haskell. Let the
audience in on the secret that the Haskell wizarding world is doing
great things with it for glory and profit, and others will steal the
secret for themselves readily enough.
If Simon can do all this, then he really is worthy of the name
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