Saturday, November 02, 2013

Let ghc help you write your code--must {read, watch} from Matthew Brecknell

Suppose you had no idea what function composition should do, but you were given the type:

(.) :: (b -> c) -> (a -> b) -> a -> c

and had to define it:

(f . g) x = ???

We want a c. The only way we know to get a c is with f, which will give us a c if we give it a b. The only way we're given to get a b is with g, which will give us a b if we give it an a. Hey, x is an a!

(f . g) x = f (g x)

is thus the only way to honor the declaration.

Yes, this is a simple example... but not only can the method be applied more generally, you can get ghc to help you with error messages of the form "I expected a here but {you gave me something else, I can't infer that}". For details and a video working through examples, check out Matthew Brecknell's blog post "Hole-Driven Haskell".

A flashback and analogy

You've probably heard about how the notion of sum types (e.g. Algol 68 union s, Rust enum s, Haskell type s) and product types (e.g. tup...