[Haskell-cafe] Playing with ATs again

Andrew Coppin andrewcoppin at btinternet.com
Thu Aug 5 03:51:12 EDT 2010

Ivan Lazar Miljenovic wrote:
> On 5 August 2010 16:48, Gregory Crosswhite <gcross at phys.washington.edu> wrote:
>>  On 8/4/10 11:40 PM, Andrew Coppin wrote:
>>> Ivan Lazar Miljenovic wrote:
>>>> Don't forget, GHC is open source: if this lack really was "dumb" and
>>>> annoying you, there was nothing stopping you from rectifying this
>>>> situation up until now.
>>> Except that, in the real world, this is actually completely infeasible.
>>> Yes, I know it's the basic tenant of OSS that you can modify the program to
>>> do whatever you want. But in reality, something like GHC is far too large
>>> and complex for this to be a realistic possibility. And this holds for most
>>> other nontrivial software too.
>> Fair enough, but if one can't do better one's self then one should be
>> careful about calling the work of others "dumb", which was the original
>> point.
> Exactly.  Either do it yourself or be grateful that someone has done
> _something_, even if it isn't as good as you like.  It's not like
> you're paying for it...

Well *I* didn't say that anything was dumb. I was merely pointing out 
that the much-touched "do it yourself" benefit of OSS is actually out of 
most people's reach. There surely can't be many people alive on Earth 
who actually understand type theory, and far fewer who understand it 
well enough to meddle with something as astonishingly complex as GHC. So 
really, there's little or no chance of anybody except the GHC devs 
fixing this. (If nothing else, the learning curve is pretty much 
vertical just to fix this one minor problem.)

On the one hand, it's nice that we have a freely available compiler at 
all. (And it's one of the best pieces of Haskell software I've seen to 
date.) On the other hand, I've seen too many people who write 
open-source software answer every query and issue simply with "patches 
welcome". As if that's a magic bullet to solve every problem and 
deficiency. There needs to be a reasonable balance.

(Note that in the particular case of GHC, I think us users are getting a 
pretty good deal. My statements are about open-source in general, not 
about GHC.)

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