[Haskell-cafe] Comments from OCaml Hacker Brian Hurt

Cory Knapp thestonetable at gmail.com
Fri Jan 16 23:11:50 EST 2009

Andrew Coppin wrote:
> Cory Knapp wrote:
>> As far as I know, one of the draws of Haskell is the inherent 
>> mathematical nature of it.
> It's also simultaneously one of the biggest things that puts people off.
> Perhaps as we can curb this with sufficient documentation, as others 
> have suggested.
Actually, that was part of my point: When I mention Haskell to people, 
and when I start describing it, they're generally frightened enough by 
the focus on pure code and lazy evaluation-- add to this the inherently 
abstract nature, and we can name typeclasses "cuddlyKitten", and the 
language is still going to scare J. R. Programmer. By "inherently 
mathematical nature", I didn't mean names like "monoid" and "functor", I 
meant *concepts* like monoid and functor. Not that either of them are 
actually terribly difficult; the problem is that they are terribly 
abstract. That draws a lot of people (especially mathematicians), but 
most people who aren' drawn by that are hugely put off-- whatever the 
name is. So, I guess my point is that the name is irrelevant: the 
language is going to intimidate a lot of people who are intimidated by 
the vocabulary.

At the same time, I think everyone is arguing *for* better 
documentation. And you're probably right: better documentation will 
bring the abstract nonsense down to earth somewhat.
>> But there's a deeper problem here, one that can't be resolved inside 
>> the Haskell community. The problem is that the "Math?! Scary! Gross!" 
>> attitude that's so pervasive in our society is hardly less pervasive 
>> in the computer subculture.
> No arguments here!
> However, that at least *is* completely beyond our power to alter. 
> Unfortunately.


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