[Haskell-cafe] A rant against the blurb on the Haskell front page

Donn Cave donn at avvanta.com
Sat Oct 16 01:49:53 EDT 2010

Quoth Ben Franksen <ben.franksen at online.de>,

> Enough. I think I have made my point.

Yes, though possibly a little overstated it.  While it's easy to share
your distaste for the blurb, if you take a generous attitude towards it,
most of it is "true enough."

The implementation specific features are at least widely available to
anyone who wants to use the language on the most popular computing
platforms, so it's expedient, if a little cheesy, to say that Haskell
supports those features.

We agree about "strong support for integration with other languages",
but I wouldn't like to say "strong support for integration with C",
either.  The FFI is mostly independent of C, per se - outside of the
hsc macros, it just addresses a sort of platform standard for exposed
library functionality, which happens to be commonly implemented in C.
Someone might be able to think of a better way to put that.

The point I liked best is the one you started with:

> This blurb should, IMO, give a concise description of what Haskell, the
> programming language, is, what makes it different from other languages, and
> why I should be interested in it.

... and, we understand, you don't find that in this blurb.  "Lazy" and
"statically typed" may not be universally understood, but they aren't 
buzz words.  Whether that's the right way to shed some light on what
Haskell is like, it sure says a lot more on a technical level than
"advanced purely functional programming language."  And while that
phrase is linked to a longer exposition of "Functional programming",
the latter is set in language-independent terms and is at best ambiguous
about whether it's talking about Haskell or not.

I'm trying to picture someone who might find Haskell useful, but would
be spooked by description of the language in unfamiliar technical 
terms.  Forget Python, this is a little different proposition.  A couple
days ago I was talking to a friend about Haskell, turned out he hadn't
heard of it.  I suppose he may have found this blurb.  I hope he
found the blurb that appears at the top of the Introduction page:

" Haskell is a computer programming language. In particular, it is a
  polymorphically statically typed, lazy, purely functional language,
  quite different from most other programming languages. The language
  is named for Haskell Brooks Curry, whose work in mathematical logic
  serves as a foundation for functional languages. Haskell is based
  on the lambda calculus, hence the lambda we use as a logo."

This most succinctly expresses the points I tried to convey to him
about Haskell, and I don't think it would be out of place on the
main page.


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