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To be fair, monadic code does not necessarily have side effects. It's just a useful way of thinking about computational steps. `Maybe` is a monad that is completely pure and has no side effects: http://www.haskell.org/ghc/docs/latest/html/libraries/base/s...

I understand that this article is geared towards beginners, so this is probably just a simplification on the author's part. Other than that it's a great article.

There is a highly theoretical point of view which states that a "side effect" is anything other than a function A → B which takes an A and returns a B. This includes things like exceptions (A → err + B, which is Haskell's Either), state (A → (S → B * S), Haskell's State monad), and Maybe (A → () + B, as mentioned.) In fact, Haskell is only mostly pure, because it contains the nontermination effect (A → ⊥ + B, i.e. functions might not always return a value because of infinite loops.)

It's true that most of these "effects" are implemented in terms of pure functional code, e.g. the state monad—which models a very imperative construct—is also pure and has no side effects from the implementation's point of view[1].

The point is that from one point of view, these are 100% pure: "Of course, it's implemented in pure terms, so of course it's pure!" There's another point of view that they're entirely impure: "I'm manipulating state in this function, so of course it's impure!" All of which is to say, if you ignore the plumbing, the water appears out of nowhere. [invocation of Clarke's 3rd law excised for triteness]

The same could be said about Haskell itself: "Of course it's impure, because there's a call stack being destructively modified as it runs!" (Conal Elliott went the other way and suggested that C was a pure functional language[2].) It's just that, of all the monads, some of them (e.g. the IO monad, the X monad, &c) use some kind of "magic" to interface with external effectful functions, while other ones mimic state using pure functional constructs. Still—to a programmer, the Cont monad appears to jump throughout your code, making it "effectful" from an appropriate level of abstraction.

[1]: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Haskell/Understanding_monads/St...

[2]: http://conal.net/blog/posts/the-c-language-is-purely-functio...

"so this is probably just a simplification on the author's part."

I guarantee that: http://blog.ezyang.com/2011/04/the-haskell-heap/

Yes, I've always thought of Monads as a programmatic way to "compose" computations, or, a "programmable semi-colon."

The problem with the simplification is that you really need to understand which monad code is using to read the code. foo >>= bar >>= baz has very different behaviors in the IO monad (it's like a shell pipe foo | bar | baz) and the Maybe monad (it's like a short-circuiting foo && bar && baz).

Not really... you're perfectly capable of reading Python code:

  x = foo()
  y = bar(x)
Knowing that any of these functions could throw an exception. How is it any different, from the reader's perspective? (Yes, it's /very/ different from an implementation perspective, but that's not what we're dealing with here...)

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