[Haskell-cafe] Channel9 Interview: Software Composability and theFu ture of Languages

Collin Winter collinw at gmail.com
Fri Jan 26 23:01:09 EST 2007

On 1/26/07, Steve Schafer <steve at fenestra.com> wrote:
> On Fri, 26 Jan 2007 17:13:43 -0000 (GMT), you wrote:
> >world. It also highlights some of the misconceptions that still exist and
> >need to be challenged, e.g. the idea that Haskell is too hard or is
> >impractical for real work.
> Haskell _is_ hard, although I don't think it's _too_ hard, or I wouldn't
> be here, obviously. Haskell is hard in the sense that in order to take
> advantage of its ability to better solve your problems, you have to
> THINK about your problems a lot more. Most people don't want to do that;
> they want the quick fix served up on a platter. And even the
> "intermediate" camp, the ones who are willing to invest some effort to
> learn a better way, are only willing to go so far.
> My analogy for this is the Sams PHOTOFACT series (If you're not old
> enough to already know what these are, visit
> http://www.samswebsite.com/photofacts.html). With an appropriate Sams
> PHOTOFACT in hand, and some very basic skills with a voltmeter and maybe
> an oscilloscope, you can diagnose and repair your TV with virtually no
> understanding of electronics at all.
> The audience for programming languages like Haskell is always going to
> be small, because it appeals to those who want to understand how the TV
> works, perhaps to the extent of being able to modify an existing TV or
> even design one from scratch. And those kind of people are much fewer
> and farther between than those who simply want to localize the problem
> enough to be able to unplug the malfunctioning part and plug in a new
> one.
> It makes sense to publicize Haskell; you can't take advantage of
> something you've never heard of. But I think evangelical effort is
> largely wasted. The people who are going to gravitate towards Haskell
> are the ones who are already searching for something better (they just
> aren't sure what it is). The rest aren't really interested, and if at
> some future point they become interested, they'll find the way on their
> own.

You have a PhD in computer science from Princeton, so your measure of
what's "hard" and what isn't in this regard is nearly worthless.

I find it incredibly insulting for you to assert that people who
complain about Haskell's difficulty are too lazy and aren't really
interested in a better solution. Maybe they just don't want to have to
take graduate-level classes in category theory to get their job done.
Maybe they want a solution that meets them half-way, one that doesn't
require that they understand how to build their own resistors and
capacitors in order to make their TV work again (to use your analogy).
That's what Meijer means when he says that Haskell is too hard.

Collin Winter

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