[Haskell-cafe] Explaining monads

Michael Vanier mvanier at cs.caltech.edu
Tue Aug 14 20:53:05 EDT 2007

For what it's worth, the nature of Haskell is such that you do (at least currently) have to spend a 
lot of time reading research papers to understand what's going on.  Maybe that will change sometime, 
but probably not soon.  This ties in to the open-endedness of Haskell; I sometimes think that really 
understanding all of Haskell is like really understanding all of mathematics.  This is frustrating, 
but it's also what makes the language so rewarding.  I guess what I'm saying is: get used to it, 
it's not so bad.


Derek Elkins wrote:
> On Tue, 2007-08-14 at 12:40 -0500, Lanny Ripple wrote:
>> Derek Elkins wrote:
>>> What people need to do is stop reading two page blog posts by someone
>>> who's "just got" monads and read the well-written peer-reviewed papers
>> I have taught many people to program in group settings and 
>> individually in my career.  I have referred them to many 
>> tutorials.  I have used many examples from tutorials I thought 
>> were useful.  I can't recall a single time I've ever turned to a 
>> beginner and said, "And you really should brush up on the 
>> peer-reviewed papers to learn this part."
> How about a book?  You've never recommended a book?  But even so, where
> did I say tutorial?  The -are- good monad tutorials, they are just
> horribly out-weighed by bad ones.  Further, having a tutorial as
> supplement to person-to-person education is totally different from
> trying to learn purely from tutorials.  Also, what is wrong with papers
> or recommending them?  Finally, how often have you been part of a
> community where the primary mode of documentation is a research paper...
>>> by the people who clearly know what they are talking about.  Luckily,
>>> for monads applied to Haskell we have Wadler, a witty, enjoyable and
>>> clear writer/speaker.  All of Wadler's monad "introductions" are
>>> readable by anyone with a basic grasp of Haskell.  You certainly don't
>>> need to be even remotely an academic to understand them.  I'm willing to
>>> bet that many people who say they don't understand monads and have read
>>> "every tutorial about them" haven't read -any- of Wadler's papers.
>> I'm confused.  Are you praising Wadler or bashing the tutorials 
>> (or both)?  *I* was carping about the tutorials (and even 
>> mentioned that Wadler was my breakthrough) so I suspect we are in 
>> violent agreement.
> I'm praising Wadler and bashing the good majority of monad tutorials,
> but not all of them.  Mostly I'm pointing out an unreasonable aversion
> to reading papers, as if a paper couldn't possibly be understandable.
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