There are a number of errors made in putative Monad tutorials in languages other than Haskell. Any implementation of monadic computations should be able to implement the equivalent of the following in Haskell:
minimal :: Bool -> [(Int, String)] minimal b = do x <- if b then [1, 2] else [3, 4] if x `mod` 2 == 0 then do y <- ["a", "b"] return (x, y) else do y <- ["y", "z"] return (x, y)
This should yield the local equivalent of:
Prelude> minimal True [(1,"y"),(1,"z"),(2,"a"),(2,"b")] Prelude> minimal False [(3,"y"),(3,"z"),(4,"a"),(4,"b")]
At the risk of being offensive, you, ahhh... really ought to understand why that's the result too, without too much effort... or you really shouldn't be writing a Monad tutorial. Ahem.
- Many putative monadic computation solutions only work with a "container" that contains zero or one elements, and therefore do not work on lists. >>= is allowed to call its second argument (a -> m b) an arbitrary number of times. It may be once, it may be dozens, it may be none. If you can't do that, you don't have a monadic computation.
- A monadic computation has the ability to examine the intermediate results of the computation, and make decisions, as shown by the if statement. If you can't do that, you don't have a monadic computation.
- In statically-typed languages, the type of the inner value is not determined by the incoming argument. It's a -> m b, not a -> m a, which is quite different. Note how x and y are of different types.
- The monadic computation builds up a namespace as it goes along; note we determine x, then somewhat later use it in the return, regardless of which branch we go down, and in both cases, we do not use it right away. Many putative implementations end up with a pipeline, where each stage can use the previous stage's values, but can not refer back to values before that.
- Monads are not "about effects". The monadic computation I show above is in fact perfectly pure, in every sense of the term. And yes, in practice monad notation is used this way in real Haskell all the time, it isn't just an incidental side-effect.
If you can translate the above code correctly, and obtain the correct result, I don't guarantee that you have a proper monadic computation, but if you've got a bind or a join function with the right type signatures, and you can do the above, you're probably at least on the right track. This is the approximately minimal example that a putative implementation of a monadic computation ought to be able to do.
A couple of months back, I analyzed whether I wanted to propose switching to Go for work. I've still technically got the blog post with the results of that analysis in the pipeline (though who knows when I'll get it up), but there's a part of it that keeps coming up online, and I want to get this bit out faster. It's about whether Go has "sum types".
Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! (A Beginner's Guide) by Miran Lipovača, published by No Starch Press (2011). No Starch was kind enough to send me an advance copy for review.
Haskell books for "real programmers" are still thin on the ground, being limited at the moment to Real World Haskell (2008) and possibly Programming in Haskell (2007). As its introduction states, this book is aimed at existing programmers who are currently fluent in something like Java, C++, or Python, and would like to learn Haskell.
I put my take on the traditional discussion of why you should consider learning Haskell in another blog post, so we can get on with the review here.
The hardest thing about learning Haskell with no previous functional experience is bootstrapping the strong foundation that you've long since taken for granted in your imperative language. If you don't have this strong grasp of the fundamentals, then every line of code is an invitation to get stuck on some subtle issue, and you'll never have the fluency that great work requires until you have that foundation.
This book is the best way I know to obtain the Haskell foundation you need for fluency.
No Starch Press asked me to write a review of the new Haskell book, Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!. I started to write a section about myself and my view of Haskell for context, and realized that it really needed to be its own post as it grew to a length where it was self-indulgent to make it part of the review. But it fits as its own post nicely.