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This is the one criticism of Haskell that in my opinion has no merit. Programming languages are not intuitive. They are a learned skill. You know the saying (sometimes said as a joke) "such-and-such language failed because it didn't have C-like syntax" -- but C-like syntax is NOT intuitive! Reading C code is a learned skill.

Maybe it could be amended to "since many programmers learned to program using languages with a syntax inspired by C, wildly different syntaxes learned at a later stage are more difficult to them", which is a more reasonable proposition. This could be fixed by teaching programmers other languages early on.

Haskell is no more or less intuitive than JavaScript. It's just different.




> Programming languages are not intuitive. They are a learned skill.

I can teach someone Python or JavaScript in a few weeks, at a casual pace, where they can accept input from STDIN or a file, do some calculations, and produce output to STDOUT or another file.

Haskell? I'd need a dedicated fucking thesaurus on-hand for them to grok the paradigm, and it would take a few months before they could achieve the same result.

I have another point here:

If the only languages that are considered great are the ones that make people feel smarter than everyone else for being able to understand, we don't need great languages.

Most of us need easy, practical languages that help us solve problems and don't get in our way. (Most of achieving this property comes down to ecosystem rather than language design.)


> Haskell? I'd need a dedicated fucking thesaurus on-hand for them to grok the paradigm, and it would take a few months before they could achieve the same result.

This is one of those assertions people should have to demonstrate with actual experiments.

I can teach someone how to write buggy, unmaintainable code that seems to work but actually doesn't in Python and JavaScript. So? :)


> I can teach someone how to write buggy, unmaintainable code that seems to work but actually doesn't in Python and JavaScript. So? :)

Yes, because that property is totally absent from Haskell.

https://github.com/RNCryptor/rncryptor-hs/issues/2#issuecomm...

Oops. Surely the JS and Python implementations are just as bad?

https://github.com/RNCryptor/RNCryptor-python/blob/649ca23a5...

https://github.com/RNCryptor/rncryptor-js/blob/08250e00a1140...

(END SARCASM)

My point here is that, while working with a "great" and/or "better-designed" programming language can be beneficial, it's the ecosystem that really counts.


No need for sarcasm and my argument wasn't that there aren't bugs in programs written in Haskell.

My argument is that people who claim "writing Python is easier" usually ignore that it's writing buggy/throwaway code in Python that is actually easier (aka "look, I can write bugs fast"). Writing large, maintainable and bug-free code in Python is not easier than in other languages -- it's arguably harder, but since that's debatable, I won't argue it here.


Every language has its faults.

Even a "perfect" language is faulty if the barriers between its current state and mass adoption are insurmountable.

Completely reform education in this country to make purer languages like Haskell more palatable for younger generations than, say, PHP, and I'll totally be wrong in 50 or so years.


I don't think I'm arguing the perfect language exists, nor do I think a complete education reform is needed.

I'm arguing that "Python is easier" is false, simple as that.


And I'm arguing that the average newcomer (if we need a specific definition of average, how about chosen at random among low-income American sixth graders far removed from big cities like San Fransisco or New York?) would have an easier time understanding Python to the level of being capable of basic file/network I/O than they would with Haskell, because Python will be more immediately familiar to them because they don't need to even know what a thrice-damned monad is.


I understand that's what you're saying, and I'm saying you're wrong because:

- Beyond toy examples, writing Python isn't easier. Writing reliable, easy to maintain, bug-free Python programs is just as difficult, and your average person won't be able to do it right off the bat.

- You don't need to really know what a monad is in order to write Haskell as a beginner; that's a red herring.

If you want to argue that it's easier to write toy examples in Python, without regard for good programming practices, then... it'd still be debatable: if I remember correctly, some years ago there was a post here about someone teaching Haskell to highschoolers, to great success. They found it fun and easy.


That's a fallacy. Just because something is harder to operate doesn't mean it can't be better. Example f1 cars vs normal cars, two propeller ships vs single propeller ones.


> That's a fallacy. Just because something is harder to operate doesn't mean it can't be better.

Where did I say it "can't" be better?


Have you tried it?


There is no language that is innately understood. All computer languages are learned, so when they describe "intuitive" I don't think this is what is meant. However, a large portion of early programming education does take place amongst C-style curly-brackets.

It's this learned setting for our precepts that makes other languages intuitive or not. If we were all learning fortran or pascal in college it might be different, but we're not.

That said, having C-style syntax is clearly not a pre-requisite for the success of a language as is attested by the success of Python, Ruby, various flavours of BASIC and other less loved languages like COBOL ...

But "intuitive" is very important for getting traction. Once you can "intuitively" model a problem in a language such that somebody familiar with the problem can understand what's going on, then that's intuitive. I'm talking about a different kind of intuitive here.

Most people engage with computers on imperative terms, i.e. they want to tell it to do things. Imperative languages are "intuitive" because they allow you to map out a list of instructions in order.

So for instance, when you're writing a program to make a cup of tea you issue those steps one by one. You don't want to have refine the model into a functional space, do a handstand and flip the bag into a mug with your little toe while inducing a small raincloud and microwaving the drops on the way down.

Similarly true object oriented langauges (I'm not talking about C or Java here, where classes are glorified structs) model how we think of information in terms of object-relations.

Functional languages to me as an experienced programmer are "intuitive", but even I sometimes flinch when I'm exposed to a stack of lisp ellipses ...


I think you're under-stating some things. Imperative programming languages are hard beyond their initial appeal at the "this is like a recipe" level. It's debatable how people best engage with computers. There are plenty of anecdotes, if you look for them, of people failing to understand that the assignment operator in imperative languages means "place this value in this box" instead of "this means that". It's just that you (and me) are used to this learned mode of understanding.

Modern programs seldom look like a list of imperative actions anyway, beyond toy examples. They look weird and unintuitive. If you can make the leap to "this is what an actual imperative program looks like nowadays", you can make a leap to declarative/functional programs just as well. Doubly so if you don't have to unlearn years of conditioning about how programs are supposed to look :)

It currently is a self-inflicted hurdle. I don't pretend this problem doesn't exist. One way to fix it would be to start teaching programming in a different way, and with different languages.


> There are plenty of anecdotes, if you look for them, of people failing to understand that the assignment operator in imperative languages means "place this value in this box" instead of "this means that".

Are there anecdotes of non-absolute-beginners failing to understand that? For first-year students, sure. Do working software engineers have trouble with it? Do they have bugs and/or lower productivity because of it?

> If you can make the leap to "this is what an actual imperative program looks like nowadays", you can make a leap to declarative/functional programs just as well.

My own suspicion (completely unsupported by data) is that some peoples' brains find imperative languages to be more the way they think, and some find functional languages to fit their way of thinking better. You could run an experiment to test that - you'd take a group (call it A) of functional programmers, and a group B of imperative programmers, and measure their productivity. You'd then split the groups in half. A1 stays functional; A2 starts programming in imperative languages. B1 stays imperative; B2 goes to functional. Two years later, you measure everybody's productivity again. What I expect you'd find is that some of the people who switched (either way) increased productivity, and some declined.

What you might find is that everybody who switched from functional to imperative was less productive, but that might be because the (somewhat rare) people who are already functional programmers are almost exclusively the ones whose minds work better that way. You could fix that by starting with students or with fresh graduates, and arbitrarily assigning them to group A or group B. Then you'd have to wait a couple of years to measure their productivity the first time.

The difficulty, of course, is figuring out a way to at least somewhat objectively measure their productivity...


> Are there anecdotes of non-absolute-beginners failing to understand that? For first-year students, sure. Do working software engineers have trouble with it?

Sorry, I was unclear: I was talking about beginners. My argument was about intuitivity and "it's easier/harder to learn programming this way". Software engineers are already down the road of "I'm used to this, therefore this is the best way" :P

If I understand you correctly, what you say is entirely possible: that some people think best one way or the other, and that there is no universal paradigm that is more intuitive.


So a language is more intuitive if it's similar to what we already know, and we already know math, and therefore "=" for assignment is not intuitive? OK, for first learning a language, I can buy that.

I don't recall ever having trouble with that myself, but that's anecdote, not data...


To be fair, I never had trouble with that either. It was just an example of something I've occasionally read about some people approaching programming languages for the first time.


> Programming languages are not intuitive. They are a learned skill.

True.

> C-like syntax is NOT intuitive! Reading C code is a learned skill.

Also true.

> Haskell is no more or less intuitive than JavaScript.

This does not follow. I have to learn the syntax of any language, true. But that doesn't mean that all languages are equally easy/hard to learn. I learned C by reading K&R over Thanksgiving weekend while in college. I understood everything except argc and argv, even though I didn't have a compiler to experiment with. I had to learn, true; I wasn't born knowing it. But I found it to be pretty intuitive to learn.

I doubt I could have understood Haskell from reading a book over a four-day weekend, without being able to experiment, no matter how good the book.

And, sure, there could be someone out there to whom Haskell syntax is intuitively obvious, and they look at C and wonder what all the crazy symbols mean. But I suspect (but cannot prove) that such people are less common than those who find C more intuitive.

TL;DR: No language is innately known. But some can still be more intuitive (for most people) than others.

Note well: I do not take any position on JS vs. Haskell as far as how intuitive they are.


It doesn't follow because it's just my opinion :)

I don't think the relative intuitiveness of Haskell vs JavaScript is a settled matter. I'm arguing one or the other may seem more intuitive because of past familiarity with similar languages/paradigms.

For example, some people -- though not in this thread, thankfully -- make much about Haskell's allegedly weird syntax and/or operators. Never mind that its syntax is not particularly large, but also there's nothing immediately intuitive about a lot of C code in comparison. What's with all those "{}" and ";" and "*" and "&"? Parsing operators, especially with parens and pointer dereferencing involved, can be difficult, even without deep nesting, and even experienced coders occasionally trip over some production C code. Yet no-one uses this as an argument for C being "too difficult" or "too unintuitive". I argue this is because C was a language they learned long ago, and it has colored their perception of what is familiar or "easy" about programming languages.




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