[Haskell-cafe] Haskell Propeganda

Sebastian Sylvan sebastian.sylvan at gmail.com
Mon Aug 25 15:17:38 EDT 2008

On Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 7:54 PM, Niels Aan de Brugh <nielsadb at gmail.com>wrote:

> Christopher Lane Hinson wrote:
>> Here's an error the Haskell run-time system might throw:
>>> *** Exception: Prelude.head: empty list
>>> (or whatever)
>>> So now what? Action plan = [].
>> rgrep " head " .
>> Lists 17 items for three projects I've been working on summing to 10000
>> lines of haskell.  Use listToMaybe or pattern matching and -Wall, and raise
>> an explicit (error "with explanation"), which is all good practice in the C
>> world as well.  Please, don't make undocumented use of partial functions in
>> serious code.
> You're absolutely right, and the compiler can warn the programmer for such
> mistakes. However, I've found that analysing the run-time behaviour/errors
> (if they do occur) in a Haskell program to be harder than in a language like
> C(++) which has many very mature engineering tools available. No doubt this
> is a matter of time and money, not which language is better suited for "real
> work".
I sort of agree with this, but I don't think that the total amount of time
spent on that activity is even comparable for the two languages. In C/C++
breaking into the debugger and stepping through code is often the easiest
way to even understand working code. That's both a testament to the high
quality of the visual studio debugger, but it's also an indictment of how
difficult it is to understand code written in the language.
In Haskell, on the other hand, everything is much more modular and "direct"
and if you can't work out what the program does, a little poking in an
interactive session will usually get you there far faster then anything you
could do in C++. The same goes for tracking down bugs, IMO. It would be
nicer to have better traditional debugging tools of course (particularly
something that ties into a nice IDE), and I do think this should be a
priority, but even then they wouldn't need to be used nearly as often as for

Sebastian Sylvan
UIN: 44640862
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