Showing posts from April, 2012

LTMT Part 2: Monads

In part 1 of this tutorial we talked about types and kinds. Knowledge of kinds will help to orient yourself in today's discussion of monads. What is a monad? When you type "monad" into Hayoo the first result takes you to the documentation for the type class Monad. If you don't already have a basic familiarity with type classes, you can think of a type class as roughly equivalent to a Java interface. A type class defines a set of functions involving a certain data type. When a data type defines all the functions required by the type class, we say that it is an instance of that type class. When a type Foo is an instance of the Monad type class, you'll commonly hear people say "Foo is a monad". Here is a version of the Monad type class. class Monad m where return :: a -> m a (=<<) :: (a -> m b) -> m a -> m b (Note: If you're the untrusting type and looked up the real definition to verify that mine is accurate, you'll fin

The Less Travelled Monad Tutorial: Understanding Kinds

This is part 1 of a monad tutorial (but as we will see, it's more than your average monad tutorial). If you already have a strong grasp of types, kinds, monads, and monad transformers, and type signatures like newtype RST r s m a = RST { runRST :: r -> s -> m (a, s) } don't make your eyes glaze over, then reading this won't change your life. If you don't, then maybe it will. More seriously, when I was learning Haskell I got the impression that some topics were "more advanced" and should wait until later. Now, a few years in, I feel that understanding some of these topics earlier would have significantly sped up the learning process for me. If there are other people out there whose brains work somewhat like mine, then maybe they will be able to benefit from this tutorial. I can't say that everything I say here will be new, but I haven't seen these concepts organized in this way before. This tutorial is not for absolute beginners. It assumes a b

Four Tips for New Haskell Programmers

The Haskell programming language is widely considered to have a fairly steep learning curve--at least compared with mainstream languages.  In my experience with Haskell and specifically helping newcomers I've noticed a few common issues that seem to come up again and again.  Some of these issues might be more avoidable if the Haskell community did a better job communicating them.  Four points I have noticed are: Read Haddock API docs Pay attention to type class instances Learn about kinds Learn monad transformers Read Haddock API Docs I mention this point at the risk of stating the obvious.  If you are going to become a proficient Haskell programmer, it's absolutely essential that you get used to reading the API docs for the packages you use.  I often hear newcomers ask for tutorials demonstrating how to use packages.  Our community would definitely be better off with tutorials for every package, but it would also be better if newcomers would pay more atten

A Hopefully Fair and Useful Comparison of Haskell Web Frameworks

Recently there has been a lot of discussion and questions about the differences between the big three Haskell web frameworks: Happstack, Yesod, and Snap. Different pieces of the answer have been discussed in a number of places. In this post, I'd like to try to give a more complete comparison. Hopefully it will be relatively unbiased, but without being so watered down that it is useless. I've succeeded if you can't tell which framework I'm a major contributor to based solely on the text of this post. Happstack First, up is Happstack , the oldest of the three with original commit history as early as February, 2005. Happstack used to be called HAppS . It was primarily composed of a web server based on lazy IO, a fairly radical (for the time) in-memory persistence approach for storing and versioning native Haskell data types, and a library called IxSet for making it easier to use this state system with relational data access patterns. I've heard a number of pe