[Haskell-cafe] Comment on "The Historical Futurism of Haskell" by Andrew Boardman

Dominik Schrempf dominik.schrempf at gmail.com
Sun Sep 12 04:21:01 UTC 2021


I am referring to the impressive talk/show/thought-provoking message about "The
Historical Futurism of Haskell" delivered by Andrew Boardman at the Haskell Love
Conference. I am not sure if I am allowed to link to the talk myself, since it
is password protected, and was part of a conference. Maybe this can be done by
the conference organizers, or by Andrew himself, if they please.

In summary, and please add your comments or correct me, Andrew discusses that we
truly believe that Haskell --- as a statically typed, lazy, pure, and functional
language -- is an incredibly powerful tool, that should be made available to
everybody now and for the next thirty years. However, he argues that this power
is hard to access because we have a lot of "adequate" tooling for a fantastic
language. He adds that we need superb tooling in order for
"beginners to learn faster, and experienced programmers to accelerate
productivity". He refers to overhauling programming environments to reflect data
flow across and within functions and to "setting higher standards" for ourselves
so that we finally "lift ourselves out of the pit of adequacy". He also asks
whether it is really necessary to be in "crisis mode" to invest into fundamental
changes of the ecosystem (escalation of commitment).

I deeply agree, and wanted to thank Andrew for his talk. Personally, to me it
seemed that Andrew was more referring to the programming environment than to the
set of available libraries, although this may not have been his intention. I
wanted to express that in my opinion, and in order to drive Haskell forward, we
need a qualitative, reliable, performant, and well maintained "standard"
library. Haskell has many "adequate" libraries but few superb ones. And while I
understand that the immense advantages of being an open source community also
come at a cost: a lot of work we do in our free time, because we have limited
funding for improving libraries or development environments. Many libraries are
maintained by one individual who may have the time and resources (or not) to
look at standing issues or possibilities for improvements.

In particular, I am a mathematician/statistician working in evolutionary
biology. I work with multivariate distributions (hardly any of those are readily
available on Hackage), I work with a lot of random numbers (the support for
random sampling is mediocre, at best; 'splitmix' is standard by now but not
supported by the most important statistics library of Haskell), I work with
numerical optimization (I envy Pythonians for their libraries, although I still
prefer Haskell because what I achieve, at least I get right), I work with Markov
chains (yes, I had to write my own MCMC library in order to run proper Markov
chains), I need to plot my data (there is no superb standard plotting library
available in Haskell). By now, I do maintain library packages providing answers
to some of these problems, but it was (and is) a lot of work.

Finally, I want to thank all library developers for their impressive work, thank
you! And still, I think it is not enough. In my opinion, these are all examples
where Haskell needs to improve if we want to broaden the adoption among the
general public. Do we have the resources?

Thank you!

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