[Haskell-cafe] Comments from OCaml Hacker Brian Hurt

John Goerzen jgoerzen at complete.org
Thu Jan 15 15:11:40 EST 2009

On Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 07:46:02PM +0000, Andrew Coppin wrote:
> John Goerzen wrote:
> If we *must* insist on using the most obscure possible name for  
> everything, can we at least write some documentation that doesn't  
> require a PhD to comprehend?? (Anybody who attempts to argue that  
> "monoid" is not actually an obscure term has clearly lost contact with  
> the real world.)

Several people have suggested this, and I think it would go a long way
towards solving the problem.  The problem is: this documentation can
really only be written by those that understand the concepts,
understand how they are used practically, and have the time and
inclination to submit patches.  Experience suggests there may be no
such people out there :-)

> As somebody else said, it basically comes down to this: Who the hell is  
> Haskell actually "for"? If it's seriously intended to be used by  
> programmers, things need to change. And if things aren't going to  
> change, then let's all stop pretending that Haskell actually cares about  
> real programmers.

It might surprise you to see me say this, but I don't see this
discussion as necessarily a weakness.  I know of no other language
community out there that has such a strong participation of both
academics and applied users.  This is a great strength.  And, of
course, Haskell's roots are firmly in academia.  

I think there there is a ton of interest in Haskell from the, ahem,
"real world" programmer types.  In fact, it seems to me that's where
Haskell's recent growth has been.  There are a lot of things showing
up on Hackage relating to networking, Unicode encoding, databases, web
apps, and the like.

The nice thing about Haskell is that you get to put the theory in
front of a lot of people that would like to use it to solve immediate
programming problems.  But they will only use it if you can explain it
in terms they understand.

There are a number of efforts in that direction: various websites,
articles, books, libraries, etc.  And I think the efforts are
succeeding.  But that doesn't mean there is no room for improvement.

-- John

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