So you want to write a Monad tutorial in Not-Haskell...
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Jan 17, 2014
Programming, Haskell

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.

In particular:

A common misconception is that you can implement this in Javascript or similar languages using "method chaining". I do not believe this is possible; for monadic computations to work in Javascript at all, you must be nesting functions within calls to bind within functions within calls to bind... basically, it's impossibly inconvenient to use monadic computations in Javascript, and a number of other languages. A mere implementation of method chaining is not "monadic", and libraries that use method chaining are not "monadic" (unless they really do implement the rest of what it takes to be a monad, but I've so far never seen one).

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.


Sum Types in Go

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".

Read the rest...


Review: Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!

Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! (A Beginner's Guide) by Miran Lipovańća, 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.

Read the rest...


Why I'm Interested In Haskell

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.

Read the rest...


 

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