Contribution vs quality, and a few notes on the Platform process

Bryan O'Sullivan bos at
Mon Nov 8 03:06:52 EST 2010


I'm going to change the naming of functions in the text API to match base
within the next few days, but for me this has been a close-run decision:
I've come very nearly as close to simply asking for the text proposal to be
withdrawn. This has been the first time in my many years of participation in
the Haskell community of finding the experience thoroughly and persistently

My reason for choosing to change the names is in part a nod of respect to
Ian and Ross, whose opinions and contributions I value. I continue to
disagree with their conclusion about naming, but I understand their
reasoning behind it. I also want to make the volunteering jobs of Duncan,
Don, and the other HP folks less onerous, as the success of their work is
very important to me, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their work. I
feel a strong sense of obligation to all of these people.

Now why, with all that noble sentiment expressed, would I have so strongly
considered walking away over such an apparently minor point as the names of
a few functions? Put it down to a matter of pride and proportion.

Tom's original text library was about 1,700 lines in length. When Duncan
handed it over to me, it was 2,200. It's now 12,300 lines long. I also spent
three months writing a random number generator, a statistics library, and a
benchmarking library in order to ensure the code was fast. And then there
are the ICU bindings, for all the extra Unicode work that's simply too much
to reimplement in native Haskell. Together, those libraries amount to an
additional 11,300 lines of code.

So. 23,600 lines of code, six BSD-licensed libraries, and months of work
later, to be told repeatedly that my taste in function naming for a small
portion of the API, no matter how clearly articulated, wasn't good enough
has, well, not sat well with me. Sad to say, it is only by a hair's breadth
that I feel like enough of a bigger man to push ahead. It has at times been
difficult not to feel like I've laboured mightily over a large gift, only to
have it shoved back in my face because the ribbons simply don't capture
quite the right curl.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I have some specific proposals to
fix aspects of the Platform inclusion process that I found most painful. I
would be most grateful to see these receive consideration.

To begin with, active participation, moderation, and collation of data is
important. The text proposal spawned some huge threads, but I felt that the
HP team was largely absent through the many discussions, and after a while I
had to simply give up tracking stuff by eyeball. Maybe I missed some things
as a result; I don't know.

   - There must be a place for people to record issues, so we know which
   ones matter enough to track. Trac would work perfectly well for this. The
   order of operations should probably be for objectors to record their
   thoughts there, then for a moderator or the proposer to sort them out after
   a discussion period. (Obviously, in the case of text, naming looked like the
   squeaky wheel, but Ian raised a number of issues with bits of the internals,
   and I'm not sure I caught them all amid the torrent of email. And those were
   the ones that were actually unequivocally valuable, too!)
   - A moderator should keep the discussion from wandering too far off
   track. Things that I'd like to see as off limits would include discussion of
   whether some third party library needs tweaking, or an attempt to revive a
   contentious topic of discussion that has been resolved and should stay that
   - An Apache-style vote system for resolving points of disagreement, so
   that we can move past them reasonably swiftly instead of going in endless
   morale-sapping circles. This is particularly important to me. I'd really
   have liked to be able to say "we discussed this, it's over" about naming,
   but instead I feel that objectors held, in effect, a veto. The current
   consensus system seems to require complete agreement from all parties, which
   seems perverse.

I am sad to say that I feel somewhat ill done by and upset as a result of
this process, and it's not an experience I would rush to repeat. I wish you
the best in improving it.
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