[Haskell] Making Haskell more open

Simon Peyton-Jones simonpj at microsoft.com
Thu Nov 10 06:27:50 EST 2005

Dear Haskell folk

One thing that hit me forcibly during ICFP in Tallinn, and the
associated workshops, is that the Haskell community may not be as good
as (say) the Perl community at engaging and involving the people "in
the trenches" [PRL].  Haskell.org is centrally maintained by a couple of
(excellent) people; GHC is still over-dependent on Simon and me; we
don't yet have a good central site for offering libraries; and so on.

Things are changing. For example:

- The bi-annual Haskell Communities and Activities Report is well
  established [HCAR]
- The Haskell Wiki [WIKI] and the Haskell IRC channel [IRC] are
- The MonadReader [MR], the Haskell Sequence [HS], and Haskell Weekly
  News [HWN] are acting as great community glue
- [This isn't new, but people often remark how friendly the Haskell
  mailings lists are.]

On the implementation front:

- Lots of people are working on libraries (though much remains to be
- Work on libraries should become much easier once Cabal and Hackage
  [CAB] become well established
- Work is afoot to move GHC's source-code repository to Darcs, to make
  it easier for people to contribute patches

However, I still wonder if there are things we could do that would make
it easier for people to contribute.  Here are two concrete suggestions:

- Make it possible for people to add comments, explanations, or
  questions to
	* The GHC user manual [currently generated using DocBook]
	* The Haskell 98 Report
  The idea would be that anyone could help improve these documents,
  and that, at least in the case of the GHC user manual, we could
  use the comments to help clarify the text.  

  Some other systems do this e.g. MySql [MySQL] and PostgreSQL [PSQL]
  do this (the links are to random pages showing comments).  One
  possibility: create a tree of wiki pages mirroring structure of the
  manual, with links from latter to the former.  Issues include:
  propagating comments forward to following changes to the manual.
  But basically we have no clue about the best way to do this.

- Make the entire haskell.org site into a Wiki, so that everyone
  can contribute news items, instructional material (Wikibooks?),
  comments, discussion groups, tools, etc.  John and Olaf do a
  great job of updating haskell.org, but there is a real limit on
  what a couple of individuals can do in their spare time.

  Does anyone have experience of a larger-scale Wiki like this?  (A
  few people have mentioned MediaWiki to me [MW], but I know nothing
  about it.) How would we make sure it stayed organised?  And avoid
  getting screwed up by malicious folk?

The important thing is that these mechanisms should work without any
central intervention.  These are just two suggestions.  Perhaps there
are other such mechanisms that we could put in place.  Ideas?

Many of you will know much more about this kind of thing than I 
do.   Share your wisdom with the mailing list.  

Lastly, when it comes down to it, none of these things will happen
unless some people volunteer to push them forward.  Would any of you
like to contribute your time and expertise?


[PRL] http://perl.com, http://www.perlmonks.org
[HCAR] http://www.haskell.org/communities/
[WIKI] http://haskell.org/hawiki
[IRC] http://haskell.org/hawiki/HaskellIrcChannel
[MR] http://haskell.org/hawiki/TheMonadReader
[HS] http://sequence.complete.org/
[HWN] http://sequence.complete.org/hwn
[CAB] http://www.haskell.org/cabal/
[MW] http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki
[MSQL] http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.0/en/upgrading-from-4-1.html
	(see bottom of page)
[PSQL] http://www.postgresql.org/docs/7.4/interactive/installation.html

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