[Haskell-cafe] RE: Definition of the Haskell standard library

Adrian Hey ahey at iee.org
Sun Sep 2 14:57:18 EDT 2007

Hugh Perkins wrote:
> A really simple way to track the "quality" of a package is to display
> the number of downloads.
> A posteriorae, this works great in other download sites.
> We can easily hypothesize about why a download count gives a decent
> indication of some measure of quality:
> - more people downloading it means more people specifically wanted that package
> - more people downloading it means more people trying it, giving
> feedback, maybe giving patches
> - and, of course, it's an objective measure, easy to do

I don't agree. The idea that any arbitrary "objective" measure provides
any indication quality seems quite wrong to me, especially this one.
The problem is the effect of positive feedback. The popularity of MS
Winders or Office Suite are the obvious examples. We all know why these
are used on 95% or whatever of the worlds PCs, and it has nothing
whatever to do with quality. Or a little closer to home, the popularity
of Haskell vs. Clean.

Other meaningless measures that have been suggested are the rate of
patch submissions of the number of developers involved. I seem to
remember someone recently suggesting that libraries that score highly
in on this regard should be elevated to "blessed" status. I cynic like
me could just as well regard this as an indication of the complete
opposite, that the library was being developed by an uncoordinated
troop of barely competent code monkeys desperately trying to produce
something that works reliably by a process of trial and error :-)

Personally the first things I tend to look at are things like the
quality of documentation and the presence of of some kind of test
suite. Both these are IMO opinion pretty reliable indications that
the author(s) have actually devoted some time and effort into
deciding what it is that the library aims to achieve and have
designed a coherent API (and have made reasonable effort to ensure
that it actually works). I tend lose interest pretty fast if even
basic Haddock API documentation is either non-existant, or consists
of nothing but type signatures, or that plus broken link to some
ancient postscript paper.

Adrian Hey

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