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Luna: Visual and textual functional programming language (luna-lang.org)
149 points by zby on Feb 21, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 100 comments

Landing pages with signup forms aren't a great fit for Hacker News. It would be better to post and discuss this once it's out.

Sorry - I was curious what the HN bunch would tell about this. But you are right - there is not enough information right now for any deep comments. The examples so far are too simple.

It seems a bit strange to me that they would take the directed acyclical graph interface of a compositing program (like Nuke as one example) and call it a general purpose language, then show it off by doing compositing image operations. If you want to work with images like this, download Nuke, if you want to work with images, geometry and more like this, download Houdini.

There is a lot to be gained from structures like this in general programming, but what they are showing has already been done for 20 years. The real test is when you get in to branching, loops, and all sorts of things that aren't straight data flow. Whether people realize it or not, pure data flow is basically a solved problem, even from an interface view, it just isn't evenly distributed.

Hello! I'm one of the guys behind Luna. You might be right, that the first example on the website should not be connected to image processing, because it could make the reader biased. In fact any example could affect the reader in the same way. You can observe "branching" and some kind of "folds" in the second example on the website. There are no loops in Luna, because it's purelly functional language and everything can be done simply by recurrence or by using "fold" or "map" operations. As a side note - there is a startup using Luna as a core engine for image processing (flowbox.io) and a lot of movie studios around the world are testing it right now because it gives much greater power than Nuke's graphical representation. On the other hand there is a topic on sidefx forum (makers of Houdini) about incorporating Luna to Houdini to increase its power. Luna is above these domain specific use cases.

I think the most important thing here is that although VPL was introduced many years ago (like textual programming), Luna is the first language that allows switching between code and graphs on demand.

I think what you guys are doing is very interesting and I think in some ways you are on the right track, however:

> You can observe "branching" and some kind of "folds" in the second example on the website.

That is a static branch hardcoded from the GUI. That isn't branching because nothing is switching the boolean, which comes back to question of how you would switch the boolean in this structure.

> a lot of movie studios around the world are testing it right now because it gives much greater power than Nuke's graphical representation

This is a bold claim that I'm very skeptical of and my initial reaction is that this seems like a bit of a bluff. What studios are using it and what exactly are the benefits over Nuke that you're talking about?

> Luna is the first language that allows switching between code and graphs on demand.

This is far from true of course. Compositing program's file formats are essentially data flow scripting languages and Houdini's shading language allows you to look at the shader text while modifying it through a node graph.

It really does seem cool but your claims are pretty bold. If you can show off a general purpose program written like this, something that would typically be done imperatively, then that would be much more of step forward from what has been done before.

Thank you for your reply!

> That is a static branch hardcoded from the GUI. That isn't branching because nothing is switching the boolean, which comes back to question of how you would switch the boolean in this structure.

Of course. Such static, GUI hardcoded switching is a very common one when testing / prototyping solutions, but of course it gets finally parametrized by some runtime variable. The dynamic branching looks very similar, with another input connected to the switch. This additional input has a Boolean type and triggers the switch between using the first and the second input.

> This is a bold claim that I'm very skeptical of and my initial reaction is that this seems like a bit of a bluff. What studios are using it and what exactly are the benefits over Nuke that you're talking about?

I cannot provide any further information regarding Flowbox, but you can freely ask them about it. We can freely discuss Luna though. Why its superior over the graphs representations shipped with Nuke or Houdini? In contrast to those representations Luna is a real programming language, that allows you to process any kind of data, not only images or 3D geometry. It can access all system level properties (like disk or network operations). You can also define your own data structures. Moreover Luna compiles to native code, so there is no runtime overhead that comes from graph interpretation. I think that those are just few of very important differences here.

> This is far from true of course. Compositing program's file formats are essentially data flow scripting languages and Houdini's shading language allows you to look at the shader text while modifying it through a node graph.

I was using Houdini for years and I know it really well. Houdini allows for conversion between VOPs and VEX (graphs and imperative code) but not vice versa. You'll not be able to modify text and get graphical representation again.

Well, I've been programming for 20+ years across dozens of languages, and I can't understand what a single one of those diagrams is actually doing.

But I can grok the "textual code" example almost instantly, so fast that the difference in effort is almost laughable. I find the mental overhead in understanding the diagrams vs. "textual code" (that phrase makes me mentally chuckle each time I read it) is orders of magnitude higher. Sorry, but I simply don't buy what they're selling (and I say this as someone who lives and dies by the whiteboard).

About the only thing out of this that looks actually useful for real-world software engineering is the visual profiling piece. If I were them, I'd probably throw out everything else they are working on and focus on that single piece alone, because that could be pretty useful.

As you said, you have been programming for 20 years, therefore you likely have built a lot of experience and innate skills for dealing with text and considerably less for dealing with diagrams.

I don't think this tells anything whether someone with the same amount of experience in diagrams might be able to make more of it than you with the equivalent text representation.

For what it's worth, mathematicians work on paper so they aren't constrained by anything, but they still use textual nested syntax instead of visual dataflow graphs.

That's a completely false analogy. We rely on text to represent what's best written as text. When you want to speak of a specific automaton or graph, you'll give a figure, unless the mathematical structure is really big (infinite maybe) and thus best described intentionally.

Frege's notation is another example, although it was a bit idiosyncratic, but its legacy very much lives in proof theory.

And then there are string diagrams, proof nets, ...

Do you know anybody doing maths who could say "well I've never felt the need to use a figure in my life"?

> We rely on text to represent what's best written as text.

Yes exactly. And if you look at the common methods for how knowledge is represented, in mathematics or any field really, it's very roughly around 80% knowledge as text and 20% graphs/diagrams/figures.

An image can be extremely helpful and illustrative if appropriate. But almost nowhere do you see people communicate primarily with images.

Text is king. I think if the programming environment doesn't embrace text as the primary input method, then it's not really good as a general-purpose environment; it'll only be successful in niches.

> But almost nowhere do you see people communicate primarily with images.

I'm not quite sure how humans could communicate primarily with images, at least until neural interfaces are in widespread use... I would argue that, yes, we communicate primarily with text, because we have the innate skill - speech - to do so efficiently and we have no equivalent skill for images. This doesn't tell anything about how knowledge would be best expressed in theory.

> And if you look at the common methods for how knowledge is represented, in [...] any field, it's very roughly around 80% knowledge as text and 20% graphs/diagrams/figures.

Sources, please. But even assuming this is true, this would leave 20% which are better represented visually. And I believe it's a worthwhile goal to integrate visualisations for those 20%. An integration like this seems possible with Luna's approach of offering both, a text and a visual representation.

> Text is king. I think if the programming environment doesn't embrace text as the primary input method, then it's not really good as a general-purpose environment

I agree with you that it's a good idea to have some textual representation - If for nothing else so you can use existing tools. But that seems to be exactly what Luna is going for, if I understand the site correctly.

I don't see why text has to be the primary input method.

> But that seems to be exactly what Luna is going for, if I understand the site correctly.

Yeah, I'm withholding judgement on Luna specifically, until we can see it in action. Their model could be a good one, it all depends on whether they treat the text representation as a first class citizen or not.

Paul we do treat BOTH text and visual graphs as first class citizens. Luna's compiler is all about AST modification. In fact Luna provides few different AST models, the most important are:

1) Standard AST - one that is a common and extendible syntax representation. Both the textual code as well as visual graphs are able to translate to and from this AST model. To be most precise - both representations are just some kind plug-ins (with some funny type-level-safety built-in) over this AST representation, so they are both first class citizens and they are completely equal to each other.

2) Core AST - a desugared, type-checked, minimal lambda calculus language, that is used to perform all sort of optimizations before next steps towards generating the target code (assembly / js).

We treat the graphical interface exactly the same way, never favoriting any representation over the other. If you would like to develop another one, like natural language input, you have just to provide methods for translating it to and from AST and our infrastructure delivers everything you need to translate it to and from visual or textual one.

I hope this spots a light over the internal design of Luna :)

I agree that for describing a specific graph, drawing it is sometimes the best way. Most of the time an automaton or graph is a mathematical object under study. The notation used to study graphs and automatons and prove things about them is symbolic. Saying that maths notation is visual because a mathematician might draw a diagram to illustrate their proof is like saying that programming is already visual because a programmer might draw a diagram to illustrate their program.

It's true that there are some visual notations in mathematics, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule, and where they are used it's a mixed system most of the time. Frege's notation was half symbolic half visual, and the visual part of it didn't catch on except for the horizontal line. The rest of it got "symbolified". I don't think that's a coincidence. Actually the most commonly used half visual half symbolic notation in mathematics is the commutative diagram. I suspect that over time even the use of those may decrease in favour of symbolic type theory notation.

I do think some sprinkling of visual notation is useful, also in programming, but representing expression trees as dataflow graphs? That has been tried many times and it hasn't been successful, nor is it likely to be in the future. I don't think flat text has any future though. A program has structure and is not best represented as an array of characters. Symbols and nested syntax are here to stay however. Humans just deal better with nesting and symbolic references than with a forest of lines and arrows.

Ironically one of the first languages of formal logic used a visual syntax [1] but only parts of it remain in use: as ordinary textual operators (like the turnstile ⊢ or negation ¬).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begriffsschrift

That's why I added the "and I say this as someone who lives and dies by the whiteboard" comment to my answer. Plenty of experience with diagrams. Wouldn't want to code with them for most use cases (and sure, there may be some use cases where visual programming tools make sense - not saying they're aren't any, just IMO, not many).

I'd think it depends strongly on the use-cases and also how the visual language is implemented. Some "visual programming" approaches I've seen simply take a traditional imperative program and turn it into a flowchart - or just show you a simplified AST with some pretty colors.

This is not very useful and often gives you the worst of both worlds - you gain no useful information about the underlying structure but lose many tools to edit the program efficiently. (Though in highly constrained environments - e.g. high level game scripting - even that can be useful)

On the other hand, there are often cases where some relevant aspect of your program has a structure that could be visualized easily - but not as easily expressed in text. In those cases, I think working with the visualisation can be a lot faster and less error-prone than working with text.

The trivial example is of course GUIs or other things which are visualized in the end anyway. But it is also true for data flow graphs (think Storm or TensorFlow) or networks of things that communicate (Components in an IOT container, services, machines on a LAN, etc).

of course visual programming doesn't magically un-fuck your bad design. If you have a big ball of mud and have a look at the component graph, you'll likely see a tangle of lines that doesn't give you insight. But I think that would be more a sign that you should overthink your architecture, not that visualisations are useless.

>Plenty of experience with diagrams.

How much experience with visual programming?

Enough to find it not useful for anything more complex than the trivial examples that are always shown to get people hooked. Windows Workflow Foundation, anyone?

Work for a company that sells visual programming tools. Our customers absolutely love the functionality.

A number of very large organizations are using it: from the military, to Netflix, HP, NASA, Pharmaceutical companies, and so on.

The major benefit is that it lets process owners/managers, who aren't programmers, see and understand the code/architecture behind their processes, and suggest, or even make, important changes to those processes.

How about a parser that creates a high level flow chart out of normal code?

Hi! I'm one of the guys behind Luna. The problem with such parser is that in vast majority of cases such graph is not readable by non-technical people, it is not interactive, does not visualise results and doesnt allow you to fast reconnecting components, switching and testing ideas. Moreover, it would be very hard to provide a tool that would draw graphs with the same layout of unchanged elements between iterations, so the layout would completely change after changing the text. In fact the problem originates from the source language - if you want to create a data flow graph out of imperative language, you'll hit a wall really fast, because the output would be messy and completely not understandable. Luna is purelly functional and designed in such way, the graphical representation matches the textual one in nice, seamless way.

Right, the so-called "level of abstraction" is just an abstraction for textual hackers, one that other hackers get but a visualizer like a "c to dot" parser wouldn't. You're basically making the abstract higher order domain of discourse the programming "language".


>Well, I've been programming for 20+ years across dozens of languages, and I can't understand what a single one of those diagrams is actually doing.

What exactly looks difficult to parse about the visual example going:

read -> grade -> transform -> grade -> final touches -> write

To me it's a very obvious image processing pipeline, reading the image, grading (in image processing terms this means color work, e.g. adding a hue to the highlights), doing a transformation (e.g. some rotation, or similar), grading again, and finally writing the result to disk.

If you wonder what "exactly" they are doing, then unless you open each box (like the 2nd "grade" box is open), they're not meant to tell you. Closed, they're meant to give a high level overview of how your functions etc are connected.

Think of it as seeing your code in your programming editor with the functions folded.

The second example is also obvious. There's a selectable (by dropdown) input source, currently set to read posts from Twitter. Posts read are then fed into a (switchable on/off) filter, that either passes them all, or only keeps the one from Europe.

Of course you need to spend a few minutes (or days) to familiarize yourself with the visual language (like you would for new terms if you met a new programming language), e.g. how the toggle icon means a "switchable" option.

Ok, so maybe I'm being a little over the top when I say "I can't understand what a single one of those diagrams is actually doing". I'm not stupid, and sure, I can grok 'em if I spent enough time digging into them.

My point is - I could either waste time piecing together a visual diagram like that (which is going to be fairly different visually from use case to use case - e.g., image processing vs. text processing, resulting in more mental overhead) - or I could look at code, which is (for me, at least) simply much quicker and easier to understand (in many cases).

Furthermore, these are idealized examples. Start throwing in error handling. Concurrent processes. I predict that diagrams that can fully capture complex systems will lean far more towards "visual overload" than not, and really, how useful is a tool like this at that point?

Maybe something like this could be fine if it's just high-level processes, but it just falls apart the more detailed things get.

Hi! I'm one of the guys behind Luna. I completely see your point of view. Working with visual grpahs is something you have to learn to do, exactly the same way like writing a code. Unlike code, diagrams are thought more obvious for people without really strong technical expertise. I cannot agree with one of your points - namely that with each use case diagrams would look differently. Nodes have a position on 2D whiteboard - just like text is layouted in a file and displayeb by your favorite editor. The colors in the graph indicate the type of data and all the variable names are just hidden, because you don't have to manually track where they have been used. If you just look at the lines, you instanlty knows what is happening to that chunk of data, no matter if you're processing text, tweets or programming hardware with it :)

Show me how you support error handling or concurrent processes. Heck, show me nested iteration or even basic recursion - then show me all of that, scaled up to real-world complexity.

My suspicion is that as your model approaches the complexity of real-world systems, the visual language you're creating will be unable to efficiently capture that complexity.

Would love to be proven wrong.

People have been doing "real world" (commercial products used by hundreds of thousands of people) in environments like Max/MSP and Reaktor. There are also lots of huge commercial done projects (Hollywood movie CGI and complex behavior) programmed in node based compositing and 3D environments -- heck, people even use Quartz composer for prototyping projects.

Moreover, nothing prevents you from writing code, as they say Luna maps 1:1 to the code they show next to the diagrams.

But when you want a higher level view of the whole program architecture, code can't show you that -- with code you only get some source file or another, and even that rarely all of it in a single screen. A visual representation can, and it can group larger units in single modules (e.g. your packages).

>My suspicion is that as your model approaches the complexity of real-world systems, the visual language you're creating will be unable to efficiently capture that complexity.

One can even make a trivial visual language of 2-3 node types that is turing-complete and can capture ANY complexity. Luna is, of course, far better than that. As for sufficiency, this depends on the level that one wants to play. You might still write code at the lower function level, but if the language makes it easy to group functionality in larger visual units, it would be great for the larger structure, and also great for configurable parts meant for non-coders.

> One can even make a trivial visual language of 2-3 node types that is turing-complete and can capture ANY complexity. Luna is, of course, far better than that.

I don't disagree with you on the first part - that you can make a trivial visual language that can capture any complexity. The challenge is - can a user "visually" parse through the visual representation of that complexity?

I haven't seen any evidence that Luna can effectively do that at scale. Until I do, I remain extremely skeptical.

I would love to prove you are wrong :) I've described error handling in a reply to another question here and we'll update the website later to illustrate it there too. All other stuff like nested iterations or recursions will be shown in our documentation and will be available for alpha testers. But there is no magic involved - I'll shortly describe the mechanisms here too. Each function is a node and each function usage is a node as well. If you are defining function, you can dig inside the node to define the graph of its body. You can use in this graph a node representing usage of exactly this function. I completely understand that textual clarification is not enough here (heh, just proven graphs are easier here! :D), but live demos and examples will be available for alpha testers now.

I think the big application of visual programming is in domains where the concrete "unit operations" map neatly to programming functions. For example, things like this:


That chemical process simulator lets engineers who are bad "text programmers" make complex chemical process simulations by giving them a library of functions that correspond neatly with the set of tools the engineer is used to thinking about. Indeed, other engineers can discern the intent of a flowsheet made in this tool faster than they could if they were looking at the text-code.

Etoys and many others have tried, maybe a good language and good IDE could have sufficient benefit, but I'm unsure how a UI would ever map to complex algorithms better than textual-interface paradigms. They can try and see, even if the likelihood of failure is unfortunately very high (until it's not). VPL seems currently like an utopia, apart from dashboards, configuration of control systems which naturally map to the real world and interface builders.

One interesting VPL I ran into is a free fractal editor on iOS which lets one build up visual LOGO execution pipeline(s) of operations.

How much of that 20+ years of experience was in visual languages and how much it was in textual languages?

Like everyone, all of it. Doesn't bode well for this product idea.

How long did we try to get UML to work? There's a reason that visual representations haven't taken off, it's not like they haven't been tried before. And don't get me wrong - there are absolutely use cases for these types of tools, but at the end of the day, I think there are just too many challenges in visual representation for this to to work for "any application" (as Luna claims).

UML solved a non problem, tied to a bureacratic software design method. And it wasn't even executable.

And this feels like solving a non-problem as well, IMHO.

Yeah - this is a hard problem and the chances are small.

Nevertheless if you had 20+ years of experience in programming textual languages than it is no surprise that you understand them better than visual languages. That part of your argument does not seem valid.

MatLab/Simulink feels natural for control system / DSP design.

This looks too good to be true.

I always thought there should be a graphical language to do the high level architecture.. And a text representation to do the details. But it should be the SAME language.

Not like CASE tools where the uml diagrams are different than the code.

'The good thing about bubbles and arrows, as opposed to programs, is that they never crash.' — Bertrand Meyer

Now in visual languages.. The bubbles do crash.

I'd love to learn more.

Hello! I'm one of the foudners of New Byte Order (the company behind Luna). We think the same - the visual representation is natural for high level abstraction model, while textual code fits really well when dealing with low-level stuff. And Luna is one language with both of these representations. If you want to learn more and have any specific questions, I would love to answer them.

"Luna is the world’s first programming language featuring two exchangeable representations: textual and visual, which you can freely switch at any time."

I have not made an extensive research, but this doesn't sound right to me. The SAS Enterprise Guide version of the SAS language came first (and probably others). In one panel you have the visual version while the other has the traditional SAS text language. There are other environments live Learntomod where one panel shows Javascript while the other has a visual, Scratch-like representation of the same code. Just like Luna, they consist of an IDE coupled with two languages each: the visual and the textual. Why is that they don't make that argument false?

I would love to be proven that I'm wrong, but I don't think they allow for bidirectional, lossless conversion, namely graph -> text and text -> graph? Do they? If so, then you are right, the statement is wrong and we will change it on our website.

Great idea. Looks promising.


* The website states that a compiler and an interpreter will be open-sourced, but this language probably requires some kind of "graph IDE" as well. Will that tool be open-sourced too?

* Are the authors trying to make money from this? How?

* Who is behind this?

Hello! I'm one of the founders of NewByteOrder. Answering the questions:

- the textual language does not require IDE to create binaries, only the compiler that will be open source. The graphical IDE is called NodeLab and it will not be released under Open Source model at the moment (althought we are constantly considering such option). It will be free - that's for sure.

- As a startup we have a plan to make money from making a product. Althought our motivation bases on a strong belief that we can change the way people are able to develop software, program IOT and visually process data, the money is needed to hire people, eat something and live somewhere :) Ok, answering the question in more details - we plan to make money by providing paid support and by selling visual data processing cloud solutions. Luna runs locally or in the cloud. Our editor is able to run in web browser as well. We're working on cloud runtime that allows you to model any data processing graph, that our cloud infrastructure will process in parallel and will return results to you. That are our next steps. Currently we want to release the technologies, build community around it and prove that Luna solves problems in different domains by making interesting use cases.

- We are a startup from Krakow / Poland / Europe. My name is Wojciech Danilo (https://pl.linkedin.com/in/wojciechdanilo) and I'm one of the founders. I've got pretty big background in visual data processing - I was working as senior technical director in various movie studios for several years before starting this project. There is also a VC behind us - InnovationNest also based in Krakow.

Did I answer your questions? If not, I would love to provide more information :)

For what the site says, there must be lot of infrastructure needed to run and profile a program.

Will that distributed runtime be open sourced as well?

The only infrastructure needed for running Luna on your hardware is the compiler. If you want interactive mode with interactive visual development you will need also Luna interactive interpreter and visual environment. Both compiler as well as interpreter are going to be Open Source, while the visual IDE will be free (and we consider releasing it as Open Source too). There is nothing more that you need here :)

> Who is behind this?

The bottom of the page says © New Byte Order 2016. This appears to be their website: http://www.newbyteorder.com/ Not much extra info on there, though.

Without an equally elegant/powerful test framework, this is just child's play.

If the concept allows, as some have mentioned, to let non-programmers make changes, then a fully-integrated test framework is absolutely required.

Other questions come to mind:

- How are global 'variables' (config, settings, etc.) represented? As more lines, or traditional named variables?

- Although the Category Oriented Programming seems compelling, I'm not seeing how this visual world will address concurrency in any meaningful way (maybe I'm missing something) - although the profiler is nice.

- Visual programming is also extremely messy when dealing with exceptions: not sure how that is addressed here - again more lines?

Before long you end up with spaghetti... but perhaps they've solved that via views / layers or something.

I highly applaud this effort, but it needs to address the complexities of software development /on the development side/... or it won't get much use by professional developers.

Hello! I belong to the team behind Luna :)

When we are talking about testing framework, we should ask ourselves - what kind of tests are we talking about. In languges such as Python, Ruby or JavaScript (I don't consider JS to be a language, but this is just a side note) everything should be covered with all kind of tests - unit tests, behaviors testing etc. There are languages like C++ or Java, where some testing is not required, because it is done by the compiler - and I'm talking right now about just type system. Luna incorporates much better type system than C++ or Java. In fact Luna will throw compilation error if you want to access head element of an array if it cannot prove this element would be always there (Luna incorporates a complex type inferencer and dependent type system). You can tweak the compiler and allow for more liberal behavior if you like thought.

To sum this up - I'm not talking that test framework is not necessary. It is, it is curtial and need to be polished to allow a language to be widely used. I wanted to clarify, that a great type syste, like the one in Luna, prevents from making errors so much, that you can write much fewer tests and be sure everything works as it should.

Answering other questions: - there are no global variables in the traditional meaning (in fact there are no global variables in purelly functional languages at all). If you want to have something like a global variable you use monads! "Oh no, monads, I'm running away!" - this is a completely understandable reaction for vast majority of programmers. Because of that Luna incorporates an automatic monad management system. What it does is simple and allows using monads without thinking about it. You just put a "State.run" node and you pass all variables to it, that shoudl be accessible from every palce of its sub netwrok. Then you can put "get" node, that will access these "locally global" variables for you. It's just like a State monad in Haskell (this is explanation for Haskellers), but with visual, easy interface.

And one more thing. Global variables are pure evil. I would call them bilion dollar mistake, such as null pointer references. Monadic states are pure and nice solution for it. (btw. Luna of course doesnt have something like `null`).

- The lines you see represent all data dependencies in a graph. Anything not connected with lines (or monadic lines - like two actions that print something to the screen) can be run side by side. Our compiler understands that and can shedule the nodes to be executed in parallel.

- Exceptions are represented on the bottom of our page. Exceptions in the meaning known from imperative programming are messy, ugly and doesnt fit in the visual environment well. In fact they are hard to deal by developers too - have you ever tracked an exception stack of poorly written code? This is pure nightmare. Luna introduces dataflow exceptions - please look at our website and I will answer any qeuestions that could appear after reading it :)

- We have created a really big graphs with Luna without ending with spagetti - each node is build outo of graph of other nodes. If you've got to many nodes on the stage is justl ike writing a collosal 1k lines long function in textual code. You can then select some nodes and collapse them into one (just like refactoring functions out of such code block).

We are aware of all these things and we do what we can to create a REALLY useful visual programming expirence. We've started this project because nobody ever did it and all the tools currently available (excluding some domain specific ones like Houdini, Labview etc) are just toys and cannot be considered programming tools.

> Exceptions are represented on the bottom of our page.

Are you referring to this?

  fileAge = open 'age.txt' . to Int
  age     = age.catch e:
       print 'An error occured: ' + e
       read 'Provide your age: ' . to Int
First, I think you probably meant to write fileAge.catch there. Second, what would that look like as a graph? Having a visual programming language is not really interesting if you have to go back to text for exception handling. Maybe you should show a side-by-side comparison of the other examples as well.

Oh, thank you for spotting the error. Of course, there should be `fileAge.catch` there. I'll fix that in a moment. I will prepare a visual example of exceptions and put it in the website later today. For now think of it like that: running an operation results in a data and this data is transmitted over connection between nodes. If you read data from file it can be "broken" in different ways, for example it did not exist on disk. If you convert it to integer - it still could be broken or become broken (for example we were not able to convert this text to integer). So far you've got such graph of nodes: open --> to Int --> ... and the resulting edge could be broken if one of the exceptions occured. If you put there `catch` node you can either double click it and define its subgraph, that has input of the `e` variable or simply connect other input that would be used if the error occurs. Thats all - in contrast to imperative languages exceptions in Luna do NOT propagate over blocks of code - they propagate over the data dependencies. In fact the exceptions in Luna are just algebraic data structures that could have 2 values - Just ok or Error e - something like Either in Haskell (side note for Haskellers). Does it make sense to you? :)

> We've started this project because nobody ever did it

I don't think that's entirely true. For example there is EMC XProc Designer[1]. XProc is a mature W3C standard with several open-source implementations.

[1] https://community.emc.com/docs/DOC-4382

As far as I can see, EMC XProc Designer cannot translate graphical representation to code and vice versa. Am I wrong here?

Depends on what you call code. It produces XML file of that format, there are "source" and "download" buttons.

By code I mean programming language code - something you enjoy to use and program with. Do you enjoy XML to program with? :D

That's neither here, nor there. There are things like AST, various Lisps, etc. It's in the same realm as XSLT, you're not going to go as far as not calling it a programming language, are you?

With a proper IDE support it's no harder to write than Lisp. So by that definition

> EMC XProc Designer cannot translate graphical representation to code and vice versa.

the answer is yes, it can.

But the most popular tool in this category probably was Yahoo Pipes. They closed Yahoo Pipes.

Thanks for the detailed response. Seems quite compelling.

How can I get my hands on an interesting sample (perhaps a very basic/simple web server that can serve up static html/images?)

I'm happy that I helped! Please apply as Luna tester on our website :) (Hovewer I'm afraid that in the first private Luna alpha release it would not be possible, because we will provide only a very limited stadnard library, without any netwrok utilities. But they should appear shortly after release.)

There are a number of incredibly promising features here. Visualizing code graphs could be incredibly helpful in many contexts, especially in understanding high-level control flows by folding up subroutines as needed. Visual profiling is a dream come true. The functional language features make it seem like joy to use.

With that said, this is still just a concept until a language actually brings all these features together. Will believe it when I see it.

> There are a number of incredibly promising features here. Visualizing code graphs could be incredibly helpful

Excited overuse of the word "incredibly", just like the author of the featured article.

> make it seem like joy to use.

Missing article, just like the author of the featured article. Interesting ;-) (OK, this one happens to a lot of people who come from a Russian background, for example.) If you are involved with this, I'm sure people would be interested to know! Maybe you could answer some questions...

As far as I know neither the author of the post on hackernews neither "soroushjp" are not involved in the project, but I am. I've been answering some questions here, so If you have any specific ones, I would like to help :)

This is brilliant. I work in finance (trading) - and have been trying to learn Clojure and Rust on my own over the last year (no CS background). For people like me - this is phenomenal - if it works. The ability to think logically doesn't translate directly into the ability to program, or vice versa and a person must spend a considerable amount of time learning the tools of programming. This tool could fill that gap for non-CS engineers. Couple of questions (as you mentioned functional language) a) In the opinion of the makers - what is this language NOT good for? b) How good are the mathematical libraries going to be? As a benchmark I'd take Mathematica (not for speed - but width and depth of mathematical functions). If this question is redundant due to the ability to call Haskell - feel free to say so. c) How far does the automatic parallelism go? Is it truly distributed over any scale? Thanks again

Hello! First of all - thank you for a nice greeting! :)

Answering your questions:

a) This language is NOT good for any really low-level stuff like programming realtime hardware systems or low-level processors programming. You should then use pure C or assembler instead. If you are programming other low-level stuff, you could feel comfortable using Luna's textual representation. The visual one gives incredible boost when designing the high-level architecture.

b) At the current stage Luna ships with a very limited standard library, but we will work hard in order to incorporate as many usefull libraries as possible. As you have spotted, Luna is able to directly call Haskell and we also provide foreign C interface, so binding any Haskell library is almost out of the box right now.

c) We are strongly working on this topic. Currently our graphs are able to run in parallel all operations that are not data-dependent in any way. However it does NOT scale well if you're thinking about distributed systems, because it's not easy to determine where to partition your program, so sending data over network will not kill the performance. We will though be working toward addressing it in longer perspective.

Did I answer your question? :)

Thanks for replying! (a) and (b) make sense. (b) will depend on adoption as well, so your answer is fully understandable.

Just a follow-up question on (c) - if you will allow me please. Are the data structures immutable like Clojure and Erlang, so that they could be distributed eventually, once the optimizations are done (and you are able to package the non-functional code like C into their own partitions for the distribution)? Reason I ask is that the page mentions Category Oriented Programming - which I am not at all familiar with. Regards

I would really love to answer any questions regarding Luna, so feel free to ask them as many as you need!

c) Yes, Luna supports immutable data structures in the form of composable algebraic data types. Composability means in this context that you can compose the sum and product types directly using Luna's built-in combinators, so you can for example build data types that share some constructor definitions (this is just a generalization of algebraic data types in general. As a side note, the first Luna release lacks some mechanisms to fully handle this abstraction, but this is understandable as this is an alpha release). Luna data types allow for efficient binary serialization, if you mean it by asking about "own partitions for the distribution". The Category Oriented Programming paradigm, on the other hand, is developed by us. It is widely described in the Luna user manual, that for now will be available for alpha testers only, but we will work towards releasing it to the public as fast as possible.

Did I answer your questions?

Thanks a lot, yes. All the best and look forward to this!

I love the idea of graphical programing, but whenever I use one (nipype, labview, or puredata), I end up with an unreadable mess.

There have been tons of "graphical programming" languages and IDEs trying to pull it off for the last 15 years and pretty much all them have been total shit.

This doesn't look any different. Someone already said it, but the fundamental problem with these are that it's extremely hard to build big and complex software without making it look like a huge mess. In a normal programming you can always call any part of code and make any number of instances and put them almost anywhere you want with very simple, logical and linear code which is executed in a normal standard prodecure (= line after another). With this almost everytime you make some changes you'd have to rethink the whole program flow and move all the components/blocks to different places and there are millions of lines going all around the place.

1/10, will fail.

...the fundamental problem with these are that it's extremely hard to build big and complex software without making it look like a huge mess...

In my view, text based languages could be this way too, except that the habits of making code at least marginally readable (e.g., indentation) and modular (subroutines, local variables, etc.) are drilled into everybody who learns programming, or learned through "the apprenticeship of observation."

Also, those habits require only a bare minimum of physical effort, such as reaching for the tab button or enclosing some code in a function definition.

I think a problem with graphical programming is the sheer physical effort that it requires, encouraging sloppy work. Maintaining readable code as it grows in complexity is a major chore, involving physical and not just mental, effort. In practice it doesn't happen.

That's a lot of snark for someone making such a broad generalization. Look at a program called Houdini and it's shading language. It is domain specific but includes branching and loops. The interface uses openGL and is extremely fluid. If that wasn't enough, it is live, so while you are working you can see your results in real time. You can use it to manipulate geometry, images, sound / animation, as well as the original purpose of writing shaders. That visual programming IDE has been enormously successful.

I have a few questions:

a) When is the first alpha release planned ?

b) Did you go the Coq/Agda route with dependent types (only total functions can be defined), the Haskell (once the DependentTypes extension lands) route (partial/looping functions can be used in types and may need to be evaluated at compile time, the compiler can loop, there is no associated coherent logic), or the Idris route (only total functions can be used dependently) ?

c) How extensible is the Standard AST ? (e.g. would it be possible to define something like the Coq tactic interface from within the language, or through a compiler plugin ?)

Hello! :)

a) We will release it to the first group of alpha testers in couple of weeks from now. This will be couple of weeks, not couple of months.

b) We're going the Haskell route - we allow for non-total functions, and we will extend Luna's type-checker to understand as much as possible. In fact we treat type level very similar to the value-level, very similar to the type of types - level, etc, so there could be functions evaluated at compile-time and they could cause infinite loop. Please note that although we design Luna in order to be fully dependent type language, the compiler just hit the alpha stage and there is much more work to be done in this field.

c) The standard AST is really very extensible. In fact every term that belongs to AST is just different data type. We've written a library in Haskell that allows handling open sum types using all the type-level machinery to help it be bullet-proof. Luna will incorporate a library that allows you to change and manipulate the AST from within a language - something like TemplateHaskell, but without the stage restriction known from GHC. This is not available at the moment though. I doubt though you will ever need to extend the AST using a plugin, because it allows to express really wide logic, however I'm very interesting what idea do you have in your mind here! :)

Looks cool but it doesn't look like it's going to be fully open sourced. I can't spend a minute more of my time on closed platforms, just not worth the lock in and the eventual pull out.

The Language, its compiler and its whole ecosystem will be released as Open Source project. The only thing that we are still considering if releasing or not under Open Source license is the visual editor.

for a minute i thought asana open sourced their internal web framework


Typo: "printing the first hundread to the screen"

Anyway, looks interesting. I'll be keeping an eye on it, even if the whole visual part turns out to be a steaming pile, the text-based language looks quite promising.

You should identify yourselves. This seems like it should be very exciting, but I'm turned off by the "high hat" and anonymous presentation.

Hi! I'm one of the founders of New Byte Order (the company behind Luna). Do you mean that our website lacks information about who we are? Right, we will ad it there! :) In the meantime you can read some of the comments below, where I describe in details who I am and provide link to my linkedin account. Still I would like to apologize for the inconvenience caused by lack of these information at the website! :)

Yes, exactly. Without knowing anything about the people involved I am (was) reluctant to invest further time and attention (I'm studying Category Theory right now with an aim to implement programming tools, so you can imagine I'm very interested!)

It's really great that you're addressing this. Thank you! ;-)

It looks strongly influenced by Python, probably to ease novice users into it.

Edit: Not to be confused with another Luna Language: https://github.com/luna/luna

A small update here! Starting today the official repository of Luna is here: https://github.com/luna . You will not find anything available for the public at the moment, but I wanted to let you know that the original owner of that repository has agreed to transfer it for our purposes ( thank you once again! :) ). You can still find his language here: https://github.com/tj/luna

I don't think so. It looks like haskell.

Not going to argue, it looked like Python with some continuation syntax inspired by others to me. I only have data on my perception until we all get neural implants to argue cyberneticly. ;)

Doesn't matter.

Looks like elements of both, with some Erlang concepts as well.

I can very precisely answer the question as one of Luna designers. Luna's textual syntax is strongly influenced by Python and Ruby, because we think that it is one of the most widely understandable and easy to use syntax out there at the moment - just like wantreprenr007 said.

The concepts in Luna were influenced mainly by Haskell, Idris, Erlang and other functional languages.

That looks amazing but the "functional" bit is offputting me as I am a stupid user and never got functional programming. Something like this for dumb scripting would be a godsend.

How did you try to learn functional programming? What was the most difficult to grasp?

To be honest I did not. I am happy with the procedural/OO code I write in Python. But whenever I even see functional code, I can't even read it.

Hey, if you are scared of it, don't be. It's very easy once you actually start diving in. You are already making functional constructs all the time in your favorite languages. Don't be afraid of the nomenclature. They are just your average programming patterns which are identified/talked about by esoteric names :)

I think people are somehow overly interpreting my post. I just meant that I wished this was available for non-functional programming. I did not mean to "diss" anything.

I don't want to learn something else ;)

> I don't want to learn something else ;)

Maybe programming isn't for you then.

I would estimate that less than 5% of computer science is directly related to programming languages and paradigms. Not wanting to learn a new programming paradigm still leaves open 95% of the other avenues of learning. At least 99.9% of the industry and 95% of academics don't use pure-functional languages, and they don't find this to be limiting in any way. Add to that the fact that the advantages of PFP are rather theoretical at this point while the learning curve is steep, and you get that of all things you can learn in CS, this one is probably one of the least cost-effective among them.

Personally I find those that equate learning new things in CS with learning new programming paradigms (while common on HN/Reddit) to have a very skewed understanding of what computer science is about.

So refusing to look up function definitions in python is the equivalent of using pure-functional languages and learning new paradigms? Please.

Maybe there is a lack of available video courses teaching functional style, it might not be as hard as it seems (wan't for me, but a sample size of 1 is anecdotal). Give it another try perhaps?

Honestly, I nor anyone else has any idea what she or he means by functional since they didn't provide any sort of example, and it's not even clear that the user would even know functional programming if they saw it. They referenced python, so should we assume they don't understand what map does? Map is just a function which is properly documented and easy to find help on. Is the user saying that they aren't able to look up the definition for a function they don't understand? Are they saying they refuse to look up definitions for functions they don't understand? How on earth do they get anything done if they refuse/can't look up function definitions?

What I'm trying to say is that it's very likely the user doesn't even know what "functional" means. They just hear some keyword they don't understand and dismiss anything that follows. Because when you think about it, it doesn't really make any sense that a programmer could be a programmer if they couldn't look up things they don't understand.

Oh yeah, there are not many options nowadays. I know this one which is offered by Coursera: "Functional Programming Principles in Scala". I didn't take it, but it should be helpful if one want to explore that "weird wizardry functional stuff" -and discover that there is not much wizardry at all. Oh and as others stated above, it is not that difficult once you really dive in :)

[1] https://www.coursera.org/course/progfun

In my point of view, there are two problems involved in functional programming in general:

1) Unfortunetally the majority of schools / universities teaches imperative thinking and imperative languages only, but this situation appears to slowly change.

2) Functional (especialy purely functional) languages provide completely different syntax than the "standard one" we know from Python- or Java- like languages. Lets consider Haskell or Erlang for example. If you know any imperative language, reading Python or Java is just "slightly different", but understandable. You cannot understand Haskell, Erlang or Lisp code though. This was a very important factor for us when designing Luna - as you can see from examples on the website - the textual code is widely understandable, keeping at the same time all the design decisions derived from the fact that Luna is purely functional programming language. I think that this aspect of Luna will be very important for new-commers from the imperative world.

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