[Haskell-cafe] Is Haskell a Good Choice for Web Applications? (ANN: Vocabulink)

Daniel Carrera daniel.carrera at theingots.org
Mon May 4 05:51:29 EDT 2009

Hi Chris,

Thanks. This should be interesting. I currently work as a web developer 
and I've been wondering how easy or hard it would be to develop web 
applications with Haskell. So I'll be interested in reading our article.

On a separate topic, I also took a glance at vocabulink.com. I'm 
interested in languages (I am fluent in English and Spanish and speak 
"advanced" German). I will have to disagree a bit with your pedagogy:

1) You say that grammar doesn't matter. Well, for some languages it 
matters more than others. German, for example, has a very particular 
word order that takes some effort to learn, and if you get it wrong 
people really won't understand you. In German it's ok if you conjugate 
wrong, but it's not ok if you put words in the wrong place. Second, some 
people actually enjoy grammar better and find that grammar helps them 
understand the language. I am one of those people. Different people 
learn differently. I learn rules more easily than disconnected words. 
When I learn vocabulary I do better by learning word families, and so 
on. The Germanic languages rely heavily in word derivation (not so much 
English) so that can be important for learners like me.

2) Your analysis of word count is flawed. Sure, most of the words you 
read come from a very small vocabulary set, but most of the *meaning* in 
a sentence comes from the more obscure words. Imagine that you read this 
sentence: "In the newspaper I read that the __________ said that the 
problem is that the river has too much ________ ".  In this sentence you 
can understand 90% of the words, but you have almost no idea of what's 
happening. What your word count test really shows is that human 
languages have a lot of redundancy. You could omit the word "the" from 
the above sentence and you would understand it almost as well. The word 
"the" is common and contains very little information.

That said, do you have any stories in German? I can't figure out where 
to get the stories.


Chris Forno wrote:
> I decided to find out for myself. You can find the results at
> http://jekor.com/article/is-haskell-a-good-choice-for-web-applications
> Included is the source code for the web application powering
> http://www.vocabulink.com/
> The source is roughly 2,000 lines of Haskell, along with some SQL and
> JavaScript. It's written in literate style and includes a 75-page PDF.
> It demonstrates and explains how to:
>  * use FastCGI to communicate with a web server (nginx in this case)
>  * move data to and from a PostgreSQL database (HDBC)
>  * authenticate users with cookies
>  * interact with users via asynchronous JavaScript and JSON (AJAJ)
>  * collect data with HTML forms (formlets)
>  * communicate with users via email
>  * cache with memcached
>  * implement a custom forums system (with threaded comments)
> I make no claims that the code is elegant or idiomatic. It is however
> real code that's running "in the wild". And I hope it's useful to anyone
> else considering doing web development in Haskell.
> I welcome and encourage your feedback!
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