Friday, July 6, 2007

Haskell in Leipzig

Next Tuesday I shall visit HaL2 in the beautiful city of Leipzig, again. Back in December I already attended, and it has proven to be an excellent platform for encountering members of the functional programming community. Living in a university city myself, I sent a mail to a local Haskell tutor and offered to give a lift to interested people.

To my amazement a student did answer my message and so I won't drive the three hours alone (plus another three backward). It will be a long day, and the last time when I attended with a colleague it has proven very good to have somebody to talk to.

And I expect there will be plenty to talk about. Johan Jeuring will give a short talk, and though I do not expect him to chat about the ICFP contest's secrets, he well may give hints :-)

The functional programming community is sadly very weak in Germany. All the good people fled the country and are doing research in anglophile countries (UK, US, even Singapore) only few universities are actively supporting FP, such as Aachen and Bonn. In any case some serious networking is needed to spread the acceptance of Haskell in this part of the World. Many professionals would love to do a Haskell job, but there is simply no possibility. Small companies are the most likely ones to venture in the Haskell experiment, the big ones are extremely cautious and full of fear. Security relevant applications could be covered first, and when the productivity and maintainability gains are becoming obvious FP could expand into the classical areas of machine steering and automotive software. Germany has a lot of these.

I often use the metaphor of "building pyramids with toothpicks" when some gigantic project is started in Java or (horror!) C++. Who has never written a line of Haskell or Dylan code will never understand this metaphor. Pity.

So what can we do? I am trying to help others who bring people together. We badly need self-confidence and some pioneering folks who stand up and say: "let's do this task in FP for half the cost and 1/10th of the bugs of the conventional approach, even if it takes the same time in the beginning". Who shoots first?

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