[Haskell-cafe] Investing in languages (Was: What is yourfavouriteHaskell "aha" moment?)

Paul aquagnu at gmail.com
Sat Jul 14 15:28:24 UTC 2018

Hello Alex!

> A small disclaimer: none of the members of our team has an academic background. We all have different backgrounds: C#, Java, Ruby, Python, C, even Perl if I am not mistaken. Yet we ended up with FP first, and then with Haskell.
> We have switched to Haskell from Scala, which _is_ a multi-paradigm language borrowing bits and pieces from other languages/paradigms and mixing them together. It is an enormously hard work to do it and for that, I very much respect 

Oh, my 1st question will be: did you try Eta, Frege? May be I’m wrong but Eta should support Haskell libraries as well as Java ones? They allow you to use libraries from the both world...

> As a result, the language becomes overly complicated and less useful.

Yes, this is another side. You know, anything has several sides: good and bad...

> Your joke about how Haskell has been made misses one point: it was initially designed as a lazy language (at least as far as I know). Many features that Haskell has now are there because of laziness: if you want to be lazy, then you have to be pure, you have to sequence your effects, etc.

True. Laziness makes Haskell unique. I think Haskell makes laziness so popular in modern languages although it was known long ago (as data in “infinite streams”, etc). I think, Miranda was lazy, so Haskell is lazy too 😊 And IMHO there was some lazy dialect of ML (may be, I’m not right).

> "Let's defer lambda, name it IO and let's call it Monad" -  this bit isn't even funny. Monad isn't IO. IO happens to be a monad (as many things do, List as an example), but monad isn't IO and has nothing to do with IO. A horse is classified as Mammal, but Mammal doesn't mean horse _at all_.

Sure. I mean, the need of side-effects (and firstly I/O) led to the monads.

> In a context of a lazy language, you need to sequence your effects (including side effects), that's the first point. The second is that instead of disappearing from Haskell, monads (and other concepts) are making their way to other languages. Scala has them, F# has them, even C# has them (however indirectly). Try to take away List Monad from C# developers and they'll kill you ;)

Better IMHO to have less infrastructure code. Better is to hide all “machinery” in compiler.

My point was that monads are workaround of Haskell problem, this was historically reason of their appearance. And if I have not such limitation in my language I don’t need any monads. What are the monad benefits in ML, for example? They are using in F#, but 1) comp. expressions are not monads but step forward, “monads++” and 2) they play different role in F#: simplifying of the code. And you can avoid them in all languages except Haskell. For example, Prolog can be “pure” and to do I/O without monads, also Clean can as well as F#. Monads have pros, sure, but they are not composable and workaround leads to another workaround – transformers. I’m not unique in my opinion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvRD_LRaiRs All of this looks like overengineering due to mentioned limitation. No such one in ML, F#. D has keyword “pure”, and didn’t introduce monads. Performance is very important feature of the language, that limitation is the reason #1 why Haskell has bad and unpredictable performance. “do”-block is not the same as “flat” block of C# statements and its performance is not the same. I can achieve Maybe effect with nullable+exceptions or ?-family operators, List with permutations/LINQ, guard with if+break/continue and to do it without sacrificing performance.. ListT/conduits – are just generators/enumerators. Benefit of monads IMHO is small, they are workaround of Haskell problem and are not needed in other languages. Sure, there are monads in Ocaml, Javascript, Python (as experimental libraries), but the reason is hype. Nobody will remember them after 5-10 years... 

Actually this is very-very subjective IMHHHHO 😊

> Lenses and generic lenses help, so be it. But I don't think that anything prevents Haskell from having it, and I don't think that Haskell as a language needs a dramatic change as you depict to make it happen. Just a feature.

When I have legacy code, there are a lot of types which fields are not starting with “_” prefix, so I need to create lenses explicitly... “Infrastructure” code. What is the business value of such code: nothing. For non-Haskell programmer it looks like you try to solve non-existing problem 😊  (very-very provocative point: all Haskell solutions looks very overengineering. The reason is: lambda-abstraction-only. When you try to build something big from little pieces then the process will be very overengineering. Imagine that the pyramids are built of small bricks).

> I don't agree that operators are noise. You certainly can write Haskell almost without operators if you wish.

Here I’m agree with D. Knuth ideas of literature programming: if code can not be easy read and understand on the hard-copy then used language is not fine. Haskell code needs help from IDE, types hints, etc. And I often meet a case when somebody does not understand what monads are in “do” blocks. Also there are a lot of operators in different libraries and no way to know what some operator means (different libraries, even different versions have own set of operators). 

> As for extensions, I think that many more should be just switched on by default.


> You mean that conversion should happen implicitly? Thank you, but no, thank you. This is a source of problems in many languages, and it is such a great thing that Haskell doesn't coerce types implicitly. 

No... Actually, I have not idea what is better. Currently there are a lot of conversions. Some libraries functions expect String, another - Text, also ByteString, lazy/strict, the same with the numbers (word/int/integer). So, conversions happen often.

> I don't understand this "no business value" statement. Value for which business? What does it mean "check types, no business value"? 

There are libraries which nothing do in run-time. Only types playing. Only abstractions over types. And somebody says: oh man, see how many libraries has Haskell. But you can compare libraries of Haskell, Java, C#, Javascript, Perl, Python 😊 All libraries of Java, Python... have business value. Real-world functionality. Not abstract play with types. But more important point is a case with installed Agda 😊 or alternative libraries which does the same/similar things. The reason is important: Haskell moves a lot of functionality to libraries which is not good design IMHO. This is the root of the problem. Better is to have one good solid library bundled with GHC itself (“batteries included”) and only specific things will live in libraries and frameworks. Monads and monads transformers are central thing in Haskell. They a located in libraries. There is standard parser combinators in GHC itself, but you will have in the same project another one (or more than 1!). Etc, etc...

Also installed GHC... Why is it so big!? IMHO it’s time to clear ecosystem, to reduce it to “batteries” 😊

> And then it falls into a famous joke: "The problem with Open Source Software is YOU because YOU are not contributing" :) Meaning that if we want more good libs then we should write more good libs :)

Absolutely true 😊

On Sat, Jul 14, 2018 at 5:05 PM Paul <aquagnu at gmail.com> wrote:
I understand that my points are disputable, sure, example, multi-pardigm Oz – dead 😊 Any rule has exceptions. But my point was that people don’t like elegant and one-abstraction languages. It’s my observation. For me, Smalltalk was good language (mostly dead, except Pharo, which looks cool). Forth – high-level “stack-around-assembler”, mostly dead (Factor looks abandoned, only 8th looks super cool, but it’s not free). What else? Lisp? OK, there are SBCL, Clojure, Racket... But you don’t find even Clojure in languages trends usually. APL, J – super cool! Seems dead (I don’t know what happens with K). ML, SML? By the way, Haskell role was to kill SML community, sure it is sad to acknowledge it, but it’s 100% true...
Haskell try to be minimalistic and IMHO this can lead to death. Joachim, I’m not talking “it’s good/it’s bad”, “multiparadigm is good” or else... I don’t know what is right. It’s my observations only. Looks like it can happen.
If we will look to Haskell history then we see strange curve. I’ll try to describe it with humour, so, please, don;t take it seriously 😊 
• Let’s be pure lambda fanatics!
• Is it possible to create a big application?
• Is it possible to compile and optimize it?!
• Let’s try...
• Wow, it’s possible!!! (sure, it’s possible, Lisp did it long-long ago).
• Looks like puzzle, can be used to write a lot of articles (there were articles about combinators, Jay/Cat/Scheme, etc, now there are a lot of Haskell articles – big interesting in academia. But IMHO academia interest to language can kill it too: Clean, Strongtalk, etc)
• Stop! How to do I/O? Real programming?!!
• Ohh, if we will wrap it in lambda and defer it to top level (main::IO ()), it will have I/O type (wrapper is hidden in type)
• Let’s call it... Monad!!
• Wow, cool! Works! Anybody should use monads! Does not your language have monads? Then we fly to you! (everybody forgot that monads are workaround of Haskell limitation and are not needed in another languages. Also they lead to low-performance code)
• But how to compose them???!?!
• We will wrap/unwrap, wrap/unwrap.. Let’s call it... transformers!!! “Monad transformers” – sounds super cool. Your language does not have “lift” operation, right? Ugh...
• How to access records fields... How... That’s a question. ‘.’ - no! ‘#’ - no! Eureka! We will add several language extensions and voila!
• To be continued... 😊
I love Haskell but I think such curve is absolutely impossible in commercial language. With IT managers 😊 To solve problem in a way when solution leads to another problem which needs new solution again and reason is only to keep lambda-abstraction-only (OK, Vanessa, backpacks also 😉) Can you imagine that all cars will have red color? Or any food will be sweet? It’s not technical question, but psychological and linguistic. Why native languages are not so limited? They even borrow words and forms from another one 😊 
Haskell’s core team knows how better then me, and I respect a lot of Haskell users, most of them helped me A LOT (!!!). It’s not opinion even, because I don’t know what is a right way. Let’s call it observation and feeling of the future.
I feel: Haskell has 3 cases: 1) to die 2) to change itself 3) to fork to another language
How I see commercial successful Haskell-like language:
• No monads, no transformers
• There are dependent types, linear types
• There are other evaluation models/abstractions (not only lambda)
• Special syntax for records fields, etc
• Less operators noise, language extensions (but it’s very disputable)
• Solve problems with numerous from/to conversions (strings, etc)
• Solve problems with libraries
Last point needs explanation:
• There is a lot of libraries written to check some type concepts only, no any business value. Also there are a lot of libraries written by students while they are learning Haskell: mostly without any business value/abandoned
• There is situation when you have alternative libraries in one project due to dependencies (but should be one only, not both!)
• Strange dependencies: I have installed Agda even! Why???!
IMHO problems with libraries and lambda-only-abstraction lead to super slow compilation, big and complex compiler.
So, currently I see (again, it’s my observation only) 2 big “camps”:
1. Academia, which has own interests, for example, to keep Haskell minimalistic (one-only-abstraction). Trade-off only was to add language extensions but they fragmentizes the language
2. Practical programmers, which interests are different from 1st “camp”
Another my observation is: a lot of peoples tried Haskell and switched to another languages (C#, F#, etc) because they cannot use it for big enterprise projects (Haskell becomes hobby for small experiments or is dropped off).
Joachim, I’m absolutely agreed that a big company can solve a lot of these problems. But some of them have already own languages (you can compare measure units in Haskell and in F#, what looks better...).
When I said about killer app, I mean: devs like Ruby not due to syntax but RoR. The same Python: sure, Python syntax is very good, but without Zope, Django, TurboGears, SQLAlchemy, Twisted, Tornado, Cheetah, Jinja, etc – nobody will use Python. Sure, there are exceptions: Delphi, CBuilder, for example. But this is bad karma of Borland 😊 They had a lot of compilers (pascal, prolog, c/c++, etc), but... On the other hand after reincarnation we have C# 😊  Actually all these are only observations: nobody knows the future.
/Best regards, Paul
From: Joachim Durchholz
Sent: 13 июля 2018 г. 21:49
To: haskell-cafe at haskell.org
Subject: Re: [Haskell-cafe] Investing in languages (Was: What is yourfavourite Haskell "aha" moment?)
Am 13.07.2018 um 09:38 schrieb PY:
> 1. Haskell limits itself to lambda-only. Example, instead to add other 
> abstractions and to become modern MULTI-paradigm languages,
That's not an interesting property.
"maintainable", "expressive" - THESE are interesting. Multi-paradigm can 
help, but if overdone can hinder it - the earliest multi-paradigm 
language I'm aware of was PL/I, and that was a royal mess I hear.
> So, point #1 is limitation in 
> abstraction: monads, transformers, anything - is function. It's not 
> good.
Actually limiting yourself to a single abstraciton tool can be good. 
This simplifies semantics and makes it easier to build stuff on top of it.
Not that I'm saying that this is necessarily the best thing.
> There were such languages already: Forth, Joy/Cat, APL/J/K... Most of
> them look dead.
Which proves nothing, because many multi-paradigm languages look dead, too.
> When you try to be elegant, your product (language) died.
Proven by Lisp... er, disproven.
> This is not my opinion, this is only my observation. People like 
> diversity and variety: in food, in programming languages, in relations, 
> anywhere :)
Not in programming languages.
Actually multi-paradigm is usually a bad idea. It needs to be done in an 
excellent fashion to create something even remotely usable, while a 
single-paradigm language is much easier to do well.
And in practice, bad language design has much nastier consequences than 
leaving out some desirable feature.
> 2. When language has killer app and killer framework, IMHO it has more 
> chances. But if it has _killer ideas_ only... So, those ideas will be 
> re-implemented in other languages and frameworks but with more simple 
> and typical syntax :)
"Typical" is in the eye of the beholder, so that's another non-argument.
> It's difficult to compete with product, 
> framework, big library, but it's easy to compete with ideas. It's an 
> observation too :-)
Sure, but Haskell has product, framework, big library.
What's missing is commitment by a big company, that's all. Imagine 
Google adopting Haskell, committing to building libraries and looking 
for Haskell programmers in the streets - all of a sudden, Haskell is 
going to be the talk of the day. (Replace "Google" with whatever 
big-name company with deep pockets: Facebook, MS, IBM, you name it.)
> language itself is not argument for me.
You are arguing an awful lot about missing language features 
("multi-paradigm") to credibly make that statement.
> Argument for me (I 
> am usual developer) are killer apps/frameworks/libraries/ecosystem/etc. 
> Currently Haskell has stack only - it's very good, but most languages 
> has similar tools (not all have LTS analogue, but big frameworks are the 
> same).
Yeah, a good library ecosystem is very important, and from the reports I 
see on this list it's not really good enough.
The other issue is that Haskell's extensions make it more difficult to 
have library code interoperate. Though that's a trade-off: The freedom 
to add language features vs. full interoperability. Java opted for the 
other opposite: 100% code interoperability at the cost of a really 
annoying language evolution process, and that gave it a huge library 
But... I'm not going to make the Haskell developers' decisions. If they 
don't feel comfortable with reversing the whole culture and make 
interoperability trump everything else, then I'm not going to blame 
them. I'm not even going to predict anything about Haskell's future, 
because my glass orb is out for repairs and I cannot currently predict 
the future.
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