[Haskell] Status of Haskell'?

Simon Peyton-Jones simonpj at microsoft.com
Fri Nov 30 17:36:01 CET 2012

I'd argue that it's not. Haskell hasn't had a release in years, and I think it's time to put a little pressure on the community.

The question is: who is "the community"?

It's fairly clear that the Haskell Prime process itself is languishing. The last message about the development process that I can find is this one from Malcolm Wallace<http://www.haskell.org/pipermail/haskell-prime/2011-January/003335.html>, in January 2011.

But please don't blame Malcolm or the committee<http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/haskell-prime/wiki/Committee>.  Developing new, well-specified changes to Haskell will only happen if there is a vigorous eco-system of folk who are prepared to devote the love and time to do it.  There are plenty of people (myself among them) who would be delighted if there was a series of well-specified updates to the Haskell standard; but it is harder to assemble a group that is willing to move that process forward.

Why not?  I don't think it's laziness or selfishness; just look at how helpful people are on the mailing list.  Rather, I am guessing that it's a subconscious assessment of cost/benefit.  The cost is certainly significant, and (unlike a quick email response on Haskell Cafe) takes place over months.

The benefit, for an individual, is harder to articulate.   GHC defines a de-facto standard, simply by existing, and for many practical purposes that is good enough.  However, GHC is (quite consciously) exploring stuff that may or may not ultimately turn out to be a good idea: it's a laboratory, not an every-detail-thought-out product.  [Though of course we try hard to be good enough for production use.]  So there is real merit in having a group, not too closely coupled to GHC, that picks off the best ideas and embodies them in a language standard.   But if for any one individual, GHC is "good enough", then the benefits of a language standard may seem distant and diffuse.

I don't have a solution to this particular conundrum.  As many of you will remember, the Haskell Prime process<http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/haskell-prime/wiki/Process> was itself developed in response to a sense that making a "big iteration" of the language was so large a task that no one felt able to even begin it.  Hence the deliberately more incremental nature of Haskell Prime; but even this lighter-weight process is rather stuck.

I'm sure that any solution will involve (as it did in earlier stages) motivated individuals who are willing to take up leadership roles in developing Haskell's language definition.  I'm copying this to the main Haskell list, in the hope of attracting volunteers!


From: haskell-prime-bounces at haskell.org [mailto:haskell-prime-bounces at haskell.org] On Behalf Of Nate Soares
Sent: 27 November 2012 22:44
To: Ben Millwood
Cc: haskell-prime at haskell.org Prime
Subject: Re: Status of Haskell'?

> it might be wise to see what GHC decides to do on that front, first,

I'd argue that it's not. Haskell hasn't had a release in years, and I think it's time to put a little pressure on the community.

On Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 2:15 PM, Ben Millwood <haskell at benmachine.co.uk<mailto:haskell at benmachine.co.uk>> wrote:
On Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 5:35 PM, Ian Lynagh <igloo at earth.li<mailto:igloo at earth.li>> wrote:
> [...] adding DeriveDataTypeable
> hopefully wouldn't be too controversial [...]

This is a little tricky since the Data class itself makes (essential,
I think) use of Rank2Types. Typeable ought to be fine, but it might be
wise to see what GHC decides to do on that front, first, e.g. whether
it's going to autoderive all instances or forbid user instances or
anything else similarly bold.

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Haskell-prime at haskell.org<mailto:Haskell-prime at haskell.org>

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