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InfoQ Homepage News New Haskell Foundation to Foster Haskell Adoption, Raises $200,000 USD

New Haskell Foundation to Foster Haskell Adoption, Raises $200,000 USD

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Simon Peyton Jones, lead designer of the Glasgow Haskell compiler and principal researcher at Microsoft Research, recently announced the establishment of the Haskell Foundation. The Haskell Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to broadening the adoption of Haskell, by supporting its ecosystem of tools, libraries, education, and research. The foundation, which already gathered $200,000 in funding from corporate sponsors, will add a board of directors and an executive director that will set the technical agenda and priorities for the language.

The Haskell Foundation is dedicated to foster the adoption of Haskell and support the Haskell ecosystem. In his announcement talk at Haskell eXchange 2020, Peyton Jones explained the trends that led to the creation of the new Haskell organization:

Do we really need another organization in the Haskell ecosystem? […] Haskell’s steady espousal of purely functional programming has made Haskell an increasingly widely used and successful language in production so now whole companies are using Haskell in a mission-critical way. […] This very success brings its own challenges. [I distinguish] four under-served needs:

  • the full user experience
  • the technical infrastructure and glue
  • the community connective glue
  • resources and funding

Peyton Jones identified key drivers of Haskell users’ experience: installation, documentation, error messages, libraries, upgrades, platform support, education, training, and more. While the Haskell community has dedicated groups addressing one or several of these drivers, none covers the entire user experience, in all its stages and aspects. Members of the Haskell community previously reported on pain points that adversely affect the experience of Haskell users.

Using Haskell in mission-critical ways may require using a large set of tools (e.g., installers, package managers, profilers) that could benefit from a unified experience. Peyton restated how one central institution has the potential to consolidate and amplify the efforts of dispersed groups:

Each of these things does have people that pay a lot of attention to them but somehow […] bits may fall in the cracks between our various little silos. [These things] are really important to get right but it’s really hard to get all of it right.

It takes a lot of hours and a lot of our volunteers.[…] It’s hard to sustain [the efforts] across the whole piece. […] it’s quite easy for one group to accidentally do something that perhaps messes up with work from another group […] The Haskell Foundation may provide a mechanism to help with better communication. and connect up different groups so that we can work more productively together.

The Haskell Foundation additionally serves as a credible and visible donation target that can secure funding more effectively than separate groups with less scope and visibility. The Haskell Foundation already succeeded in raising 200,000 dollars from a set of corporate sponsors, including GitHub, IOHK, Obsidian, SkillsMatter, Tweag, and Well-Typed; with plans to add more. IOHK, which builds cryptocurrencies and blockchain applications, is, to date, the largest contributor with a $125,000 donation.

The foundation will be run by a board of directors which provides the strategic leadership and direction to further the goals of the foundation. The board will strive to represent the Haskell community to the world: liaise with sponsors, public bodies (ACM, standards committees), and other relevant institutions; receive and review financial accounts. The foundation starts with an interim board that will elect a permanent board of directors, which will then hire an executive director and ratify the technical agenda. Interested candidates may submit their application to nominations@haskell.foundation before Monday 11 January 2021.

Peyton Jones repeatedly insisted on the fact that the new foundation is seeking to empower the community and serve as a multiplier of the community efforts. The foundation is not seeking to take over or replace existing groups but to support them so they can do more, more effectively. Peyton Jones elaborated:

I’d really like all of you to think of this new entity as our thing, not their thing. This is not something that somebody else is doing to us. […]
Please, please regard all this positively and try to shape it to be something that you would be proud of, that you would be excited to participate in. I really think it does serve a need.
I think it could fail but I think it’s much more likely to succeed if we all pull together.

Michael Snoyman, vice-president of engineering at FP Complete and founder of multiple Haskell open source projects, welcomed the foundation with cautious optimism:

I’m a pessimist by nature. I see the worst possible outcomes first. Those abound, and always will. But the HF is the first initiative in a long time in the Haskell community that is trying to bring everyone to the table, and improve the state of the Haskell ecosystem.

The Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC) started as part of an academic research project funded by the UK government at the beginning of the 1990s. While keeping faithful to its academic roots, Haskell has been increasingly used over the years in open-source and commercial applications. The Elm front-end framework is written in Haskell. Facebook maintains Haskell-based Haxl, a data access library used to implement its anti-spam programs.

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