wither the Platform

Michael Snoyman michael at snoyman.com
Sun Mar 22 15:59:35 UTC 2015

It should go without saying that the first sentiment we all likely have is
gratitude for all the work Mark has put into the platform, as well as all
of the other contributors and maintainers the platform has had over the
years. It hasn't just been work on producing the platform itself, but also
for setting up an expectation in the Haskell world for high quality,
reliable libraries. Even if the current incarnation of the platform is in
jeopardy, I hope that we continue with that attitude going forward.

I spend a lot of time working on Stackage, and obviously there's quite a
bit of overlap between Stackage, Haskell Platform, and LTS Haskell. For
purposes of this discussion, I think it's important to separate out
different features of the platform, and see how we may continue or
discontinue each individually:

1. A quality-approved set of libraries. As I see it, the process of coming
up with recommended libraries can continue completely independently of any
other work.
2. A method for installing GHC and build tools. I personally think that it
makes sense to separate out this aspect of the platform from all others.
MinGHC is an example of such a project: a minimal set of functionality for
bootstrapping a more complete Haskell development environment.
3. Prebuilt binary package databases. As I've mentioned in the past, and
others have here, there are problems with the current approach of putting
the packages in the global package database. I'd personally rather see this
aspect of the platform give way to more robust solutions.

And as we've already discussed in the past regarding GPS, there's
definitely room to add *more* to the platform with better build dependency
solving. LTS Haskell was specifically an effort to try to advance that
aspect of GPS.

Putting this together, I think it leads to a new approach for the platform:
minimalistic installers, curated package sets (ala LTS), recommended
packages (ala the current platform set), and a robust means for installing
these (e.g., cabal sandboxes). The Haskell world has advanced since the
initial HP work, maybe all that's needed now is upgrading to the newest
tooling available.

I realize I haven't put down any concrete "next steps" here. I definitely
have more ideas than I could put into this (already quite long) email. I
think a smaller task force dedicated to improving the tooling situation is
the best next step, and I'd be happy to kick off such an effort with other
interested individuals.

On Sat, Mar 21, 2015 at 7:54 PM Mark Lentczner <mark.lentczner at gmail.com>

> I'm wondering how we are all feeling about the platform these days....
> I notice that in the new Haskell pages, the Platform is definitely not the
> recommended way to go: The main download pages suggests the compiler and
> base libraries as the first option - and the text for the Platform (second
> option) pretty much steers folks away from it. Of the per-OS download
> pages, only the Windows version even mentions it.
> Does this mean that we don't want to consider continuing with it? It is a
> lot of community effort to put out a Platform release - we shouldn't do it
> if we don't really want it.
> That said, I note that the other ways to "officially get" Haskell look, to
> my eye, very ad hoc. Many of the options involve multiple steps, and
> exactly what one is getting isn't clear. It hardly looks like there is now
> an "official, correct" way to setup Haskell.
> The Platform arose in an era before sandboxes and before curated library
> sets like Stackage and LTS. Last time we set direction was several years
> ago. These new features and development have clearly changed the landscape
> for use to reconsider what to do.
> I don't think the status quo for the Platform is now viable - mostly as
> evidenced by waning interest in maintaining it. I offer several ways we
> could proceed:
> *1) Abandon the Platform.* GHC is release in source and binary form.
> Other package various installers, with more or less things, for various
> OSes.
> *2) Slim the Platform.* Pare it back to GHC + base + a smaller set of
> "essential" libs + tools. Keeps a consistent build layout and installation
> mechanism for Haskell.
> *3) Re-conceive the Platform.* Take a very minimal install approach,
> coupled with close integration with a curated library set that makes it
> easy to have a rich canonical, stable environment. This was the core idea
> around my "GPS Haskell" thoughts from last September - but there would be
> much to work out in this direction.
> Thoughts?
> — Mark
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