[Haskell-cafe] Comments from OCaml Hacker Brian Hurt

Jonathan Cast jonathanccast at fastmail.fm
Thu Jan 15 18:21:11 EST 2009

On Thu, 2009-01-15 at 16:16 -0600, John Goerzen wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 01:50:11PM -0800, Jonathan Cast wrote:
> > On Thu, 2009-01-15 at 10:56 -0600, John Goerzen wrote:
> > > Lennart Augustsson wrote:
> > > > Most people don't understand pure functional programming either.  Does
> > > > that mean we should introduce unrestricted side effects in Haskell?
> > > 
> > > The key is to introduce concepts to them in terms they can understand.
> > > 
> > > You introduce it one way to experienced abstract mathematicians, and a
> > > completely different way to experienced Perl hackers.  I wouldn't expect
> > > a mathematician to grok Perl, and I wouldn't expect $PERL_HACKER to grok
> > > abstract math.  People have different backgrounds to draw upon, and we
> > > are under-serving one community.
> > 
> > False.  We are failing to meet the un-realistic expectations of advanced
> > Perl/Python/Ruby/C/C++/Java/any other imperative language programmers as
> > to the ease with which they should be able to learn Haskell.
> What part of that are you saying is false?  That people have different
> backgrouns and learn differently?

Not just differently.  Some people learn faster than others.  These
relative speeds also vary across different subjects.  I think the
implicit assumption in most complaints about learning Haskell is that
the ease with which any given developer learns Haskell (or learns a new
Haskell library or concept) should be comparable to the ease with which
said developers learns conventional languages, e.g. Perl.  This
assumption is false.  In fact, if someone finds Perl particularly easy
to learn (relative to other subjects), I would expect that person to
find Haskell particularly hard to learn (relative to other subjects).
Of course mathematicians find Haskell easier to learn than Perl
programmers do; this is a consequence of the nature of Haskell, the
nature of Perl, and the nature of mathematics.  We are under no
obligation to obtain equivalent outcomes from non-interchangeable
people.  That people who lack natural aptitude, or relevant prior
knowledge, for learning Haskell have more difficulty than those with
relevant natural aptitude or prior knowledge is in no way a failure of
the Haskell community.


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