[Haskell-cafe] New slogan for haskell.org

Albert Y. C. Lai trebla at vex.net
Fri Oct 5 03:32:41 EDT 2007

Don Stewart wrote:
> It was raised at CUFP today that while Python has:
>     Python is a dynamic object-oriented programming language that can be
>     used for many kinds of software development. It offers strong
>     support for integration with other languages and tools, comes with
>     extensive standard libraries, and can be learned in a few days. Many
>     Python programmers report substantial productivity gains and feel
>     the language encourages the development of higher quality, more
>     maintainable code.
> With the links from the start about using Python for various purposes,
> along with reassuring text about licenses and so on. 
> Note its all about how it can help you.

Many people invent and promote new programming languages because it is 
thought that they will improve productivity, reliability, 
maintainability, extensibility, evolvability, readability, writability, 
XXXivity, YYYbility, ...

Call me a skeptic, cynical, ivory-tower, completely detached, 
you-need-to-get-out-more academic, but since almost every programming 
language inventor gets to make such claims, or at least state such aims, 
they are bordering on becoming meaningless commercial buzzwords, like 
every company says and lies about "customers are number one!" Even if 
the claims are true, they are non-sequiturs because they're what 
programming languages are supposed to be! (Executability is very 
important too; are you going to emphasize it?) And are the claims ever 
true? I'm sure they're noble aims, but if anyone claims any of them is 
achieved, such as the Python statement claims productivity gains, I'll 
ask the Greg Wilson question: where is your data? And I'll add my own: 
do you just poll "feelings" or do you actually measure objective 

Granted, perhaps your perspective is, if every other company is shouting 
"customers are number one", then ours must too, and who actually lives 
up to it is the non-sequitur here. You're in the buzzword war, not the 
evidence war. OK, then make sure you include executability, as the 
Python guys in their infinite wisdom have forgotten that one. You'll 
trump them on that point, ha!

My point is, you want to say, "this language is about you". OK, that 
sounds right about "customers are number one", and we pretty know what 
that's about. If it's supposed to be false anyway, fine, you're saying 
it for a reason, so just copy every other company's silly buzzwords and 
throw in more silly buzzwords that even other companies have forgotten 
about. And if it's supposed to be true, do you have proof?

My academic, rational, technical-merit perspective is, we state Haskell 
for what it is. We state it has FFI. We state we have QuickCheck. We 
state it is purely functional, non-strict, monadic. If we suspect 
readers don't know those words, use some other words. Let the readers 
decide what these mean to their software engineering objectives. We 
don't claim software engineering objectives for them; we don't have data 
to prove any. The moment we refrain from unproved claims, we stand out 
from the snake oil salespeople. The moment we cut that "it's about you" 
crap, the moment we go back to the basics and say "this is our offer, 
take your time to consider it", that's when the whole business is truly 
about the readers.

To exemplify, I now analyze the Python statement under my glass:

"dynamic object-oriented": Good, informative, I know those words and I 
am the one to decide its implications to me.

"can be used for many kinds of software development": Informationless. 
Which major programming language can't be? It's OK to list, instead, in 
a subsequent paragraph a roster of the many kinds allured to.

"strong integration", "extensive libraries": Good, these are 
distinguishing technical offers, I want to know them.

"can be learned in a few days": Though this one isn't backed by studies, 
I won't call it bluff. This one is not a big deal. Unfortunately, 
Haskell is unlikely to be learned in a few days. Fortunately, Haskell is 
likely to revolutionize minds in a few days.

"Many Python programmers report substantial ...": Substantial claim it 
is. Snake oil, unless proved otherwise.

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