Haskell


It is often stated that Foldable is effectively the toList class. However, this turns out to be wrong. The real fundamental member of Foldable is foldMap (which should look suspiciously like traverse, incidentally). To understand exactly why this is, it helps to understand another surprising fact: lists are not free monoids in Haskell.

This latter fact can be seen relatively easily by considering another list-like type:

 
data SL a = Empty | SL a :> a
 
instance Monoid (SL a) where
  mempty = Empty
  mappend ys Empty = ys
  mappend ys (xs :> x) = (mappend ys xs) :> x
 
single :: a -> SL a
single x = Empty :> x
 

So, we have a type SL a of snoc lists, which are a monoid, and a function that embeds a into SL a. If (ordinary) lists were the free monoid, there would be a unique monoid homomorphism from lists to snoc lists. Such a homomorphism (call it h) would have the following properties:

 
h [] = Empty
h (xs <> ys) = h xs <> h ys
h [x] = single x
 

And in fact, this (together with some general facts about Haskell functions) should be enough to define h for our purposes (or any purposes, really). So, let's consider its behavior on two values:

 
h [1] = single 1
 
h [1,1..] = h ([1] <> [1,1..]) -- [1,1..] is an infinite list of 1s
          = h [1] <> h [1,1..]
 

This second equation can tell us what the value of h is at this infinite value, since we can consider it the definition of a possibly infinite value:

 
x = h [1] <> x = fix (single 1 <>)
h [1,1..] = x
 

(single 1 <>) is a strict function, so the fixed point theorem tells us that x = ⊥.

This is a problem, though. Considering some additional equations:

 
[1,1..] <> [n] = [1,1..] -- true for all n
h [1,1..] = ⊥
h ([1,1..] <> [1]) = h [1,1..] <> h [1]
                   = ⊥ <> single 1
                   = ⊥ :> 1
                   ≠ ⊥
 

So, our requirements for h are contradictory, and no such homomorphism can exist.

The issue is that Haskell types are domains. They contain these extra partially defined values and infinite values. The monoid structure on (cons) lists has infinite lists absorbing all right-hand sides, while the snoc lists are just the opposite.

This also means that finite lists (or any method of implementing finite sequences) are not free monoids in Haskell. They, as domains, still contain the additional bottom element, and it absorbs all other elements, which is incorrect behavior for the free monoid:

 
pure x <> ⊥ = ⊥
h ⊥ = ⊥
h (pure x <> ⊥) = [x] <> h ⊥
                = [x] ++ ⊥
                = x:⊥
                ≠ ⊥
 

So, what is the free monoid? In a sense, it can't be written down at all in Haskell, because we cannot enforce value-level equations, and because we don't have quotients. But, if conventions are good enough, there is a way. First, suppose we have a free monoid type FM a. Then for any other monoid m and embedding a -> m, there must be a monoid homomorphism from FM a to m. We can model this as a Haskell type:

 
forall a m. Monoid m => (a -> m) -> FM a -> m
 

Where we consider the Monoid m constraint to be enforcing that m actually has valid monoid structure. Now, a trick is to recognize that this sort of universal property can be used to define types in Haskell (or, GHC at least), due to polymorphic types being first class; we just rearrange the arguments and quantifiers, and take FM a to be the polymorphic type:

 
newtype FM a = FM { unFM :: forall m. Monoid m => (a -> m) -> m }
 

Types defined like this are automatically universal in the right sense. [1] The only thing we have to check is that FM a is actually a monoid over a. But that turns out to be easily witnessed:

 
embed :: a -> FM a
embed x = FM $ \k -> k x
 
instance Monoid (FM a) where
  mempty = FM $ \_ -> mempty
  mappend (FM e1) (FM e2) = FM $ \k -> e1 k <> e2 k
 

Demonstrating that the above is a proper monoid delegates to instances of Monoid being proper monoids. So as long as we trust that convention, we have a free monoid.

However, one might wonder what a free monoid would look like as something closer to a traditional data type. To construct that, first ignore the required equations, and consider only the generators; we get:

 
data FMG a = None | Single a | FMG a :<> FMG a
 

Now, the proper FM a is the quotient of this by the equations:

 
None :<> x = x = x :<> None
x :<> (y :<> z) = (x :<> y) :<> z
 

One way of mimicking this in Haskell is to hide the implementation in a module, and only allow elimination into Monoids (again, using the convention that Monoid ensures actual monoid structure) using the function:

 
unFMG :: forall a m. Monoid m => FMG a -> (a -> m) -> m
unFMG None _ = mempty
unFMG (Single x) k = k x
unFMG (x :<> y) k = unFMG x k <> unFMG y k
 

This is actually how quotients can be thought of in richer languages; the quotient does not eliminate any of the generated structure internally, it just restricts the way in which the values can be consumed. Those richer languages just allow us to prove equations, and enforce properties by proof obligations, rather than conventions and structure hiding. Also, one should note that the above should look pretty similar to our encoding of FM a using universal quantification earlier.

Now, one might look at the above and have some objections. For one, we'd normally think that the quotient of the above type is just [a]. Second, it seems like the type is revealing something about the associativity of the operations, because defining recursive values via left nesting is different from right nesting, and this difference is observable by extracting into different monoids. But aren't monoids supposed to remove associativity as a concern? For instance:

 
ones1 = embed 1 <> ones1
ones2 = ones2 <> embed 1
 

Shouldn't we be able to prove these are the same, becuase of an argument like:

 
ones1 = embed 1 <> (embed 1 <> ...)
      ... reassociate ...
      = (... <> embed 1) <> embed 1
      = ones2
 

The answer is that the equation we have only specifies the behavior of associating three values:

 
x <> (y <> z) = (x <> y) <> z
 

And while this is sufficient to nail down the behavior of finite values, and finitary reassociating, it does not tell us that infinitary reassociating yields the same value back. And the "... reassociate ..." step in the argument above was decidedly infinitary. And while the rules tell us that we can peel any finite number of copies of embed 1 to the front of ones1 or the end of ones2, it does not tell us that ones1 = ones2. And in fact it is vital for FM a to have distinct values for these two things; it is what makes it the free monoid when we're dealing with domains of lazy values.

Finally, we can come back to Foldable. If we look at foldMap:

 
foldMap :: (Foldable f, Monoid m) => (a -> m) -> f a -> m
 

we can rearrange things a bit, and get the type:

 
Foldable f => f a -> (forall m. Monoid m => (a -> m) -> m)
 

And thus, the most fundamental operation of Foldable is not toList, but toFreeMonoid, and lists are not free monoids in Haskell.

[1]: What we are doing here is noting that (co)limits are objects that internalize natural transformations, but the natural transformations expressible by quantification in GHC are already automatically internalized using quantifiers. However, one has to be careful that the quantifiers are actually enforcing the relevant naturality conditions. In many simple cases they are.

Emil Axelsson and Koen Claessen wrote a functional pearl last year about Using Circular Programs for Higher-Order Syntax.

About 6 months ago I had an opportunity to play with this approach in earnest, and realized we can speed it up a great deal. This has kept coming up in conversation ever since, so I've decided to write up an article here.

In my bound library I exploit the fact that monads are about substitution to make a monad transformer that manages substitution for me.

Here I'm going to take a more coupled approach.

To have a type system with enough complexity to be worth examining, I'll adapt Dan Doel's UPTS, which is a pure type system with universe polymorphism. I won't finish the implementation here, but from where we get it should be obvious how to finish the job.

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A couple of weeks back one of my coworkers brought to my attention a several hour long workshop in Japan to go over and describe a number of my libraries, hosted by TANAKA Hideyuki — not the voice actor, I checked!

I was incredibly honored and I figured that if that many people (they had 30 or so registered attendees and 10 presentations) were going to spend that much time going over software that I had written, I should at least offer to show up!

I'd like to apologize for any errors in the romanization of people's names or misunderstandings I may have in the following text. My grasp of Japanese is very poor! Please feel free to send me corrections or additions!

Surprise!

Sadly, my boss's immediate reaction to hearing that there was a workshop in Japan about my work was to quip that "You're saying you're huge in Japan?" With him conspicuously not offering to fly me out here, I had to settle for surprising the organizers and attending via Google Hangout.

Commentary and Logs

@nushio was very helpful in getting me connected, and while the speakers gave their talks I sat on the irc.freenode.net #haskell-lens channel and Google Hangout and answered questions and provided a running commentary with more details and references. Per freenode policy the fact that we were logging the channel was announced -- well, at least before things got too far underway.

Here is the IRC session log as a gist. IKEGAMI Daisuke @ikegami__ (ikeg in the IRC log) tried to keep up a high-level running commentary about what was happening in the video to the log, which may be helpful if you are trying to follow along through each retroactively.

Other background chatter and material is strewn across twitter under the #ekmett_conf hash tag and on a japanese twitter aggregator named togetter

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Recently, a fellow in category land discovered a fact that we in Haskell land have actually known for a while (in addition to things most of us probably don't). Specifically, given two categories $\mathcal{C}$ and $\mathcal{D}$, a functor $G : \mathcal{C} \rightarrow \mathcal{D}$, and provided some conditions in $\mathcal{D}$ hold, there exists a monad $T^G$, the codensity monad of $G$.

In category theory, the codensity monad is given by the rather frightening expression:

$ T^G(a) = \int_r \left[\mathcal{D}(a, Gr), Gr\right] $

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Luite Stegeman has a mirror of the packages from Hackage.

He uses it to power his incredibly useful hdiff website.

During a Hackage outage, you can set up your local cabal configuration to point to it instead by (temporarily) replacing the remote-repo in your ~/.cabal/config file with:


remote-repo:
hdiff.luite.com:http://hdiff.luite.com/packages/archive

and then running cabal update.

I have a ~/.cabal/config that I use whenever hackage goes down in my lens package.

If you use travis-ci, you can avoid build failures during hackage outages by first copying that config to ~/.cabal/config during before_install. -- You'll still be stuck waiting while it first tries to refresh from the real hackage server, but it only adds a few minutes to buildbot times.

Lenses are a great way to deal with functional references, but there are two common issues that arise from their use.

  1. There is a long-standing folklore position that lenses do not support polymorphic updates. This has actually caused a fair bit of embarrassment for the folks who'd like to incorporate lenses in any Haskell record system improvement.
  2. Access control. It'd be nice to have read-only or write-only properties -- "one-way" or "mirrored" lenses, as it were. Moreover, lenses are commonly viewed as an all or nothing proposition, in that it is hard to mix them with arbitrary user functions.
  3. Finally there is a bit of a cult around trying to generalize lenses by smashing a monad in the middle of them somewhere, it would be nice to be able to get into a list and work with each individual element in it without worrying about someone mucking up our lens laws, and perhaps avoid the whole generalized lens issue entirely.

We'll take a whack at each of these concerns in turn today.
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No, I don't mean like this, but rather, If you spent any time trying to figure out xkcd's Umwelt April Fool comic this year, you may be interested in the Haskell source code. They used all sorts of information about you, the browser you were using, the resolution of your screen, to the geocoding of the network address you came from, etc. to serve up a custom web comic.

Today, davean posted to github the code for waldo, the engine he wrote to drive that comic.

Alas, he was not kind enough to actually supply the code for the umwelt comic strip itself, so you'll still be left wondering if the internet managed to find all of the Easter eggs. (Are they still Easter eggs when you release something a week before Easter?) You may find the list of links below useful if you want to get a feel for the different responses it gave people.

[ Article | xkcd's Forum | Hacker News | /r/haskell ]

[Update: Jun 10, 9:09pm] davean just posted a rather insightful post mortem of the development of waldo that talks a bit about why xkcd uses Haskell internally.

In light of the burgeoning length of the ongoing record discussion sparked off by Simon Peyton-Jones in October, I would like to propose that we recognize an extension to Wadler's law (supplied in bold), which I'll refer to as the "Weak Record Conjecture" below.

In any language design, the total time spent discussing a feature in this list is proportional to two raised to the power of its position.

  • 0. Semantics
  • 1. Syntax
  • 2. Lexical syntax
  • 3. Lexical syntax of comments
  • 4. Semantics of records

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Andrej Bauer recently gave a really nice talk on how you can exploit side-effects to make a faster version of Martin Escardo's pseudo-paradoxical combinators.

A video of his talk is available over on his blog, and his presentation is remarkably clear, and would serve as a good preamble to the code I'm going to present below.

Andrej gave a related invited talk back at MSFP 2008 in Iceland, and afterwards over lunch I cornered him (with Dan Piponi) and explained how you could use parametricity to close over the side-effects of monads (or arrows, etc) but I think that trick was lost in the chaos of the weekend, so I've chosen to resurrect it here, and improve it to handle some of his more recent performance enhancements, and show that you don't need side-effects to speed up the search after all!

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Last time we derived an entailment relation for constraints, now let's get some use out of it.

Reflecting Classes and Instances

Most of the implications we use on a day to day basis come from our class and instance declarations, but last time we only really dealt with constraint products.

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Max Bolingbroke has done a wonderful job on adding Constraint kinds to GHC.

Constraint Kinds adds a new kind Constraint, such that Eq :: * -> Constraint, Monad :: (* -> *) -> Constraint, but since it is a kind, we can make type families for constraints, and even parameterize constraints on constraints.

So, let's play with them and see what we can come up with!

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As requested, here are the slides from Dan Doel's excellent presentation on Homotopy and Directed Type Theory from this past Monday's Boston Haskell.

I am very pleased to officially announce Hac Boston, a Haskell hackathon to be held January 20-22, 2012 at MIT in Cambridge, MA. The hackathon will officially kick off at 2:30 Friday afternoon, and go until 5pm on Sunday with the occasional break for sleep.

Everyone is welcome -- you do not have to be a Haskell guru to attend! Helping hack on someone else's project could be a great way to increase your Haskell skills.

If you plan on coming, please officially register, even if you already put your name on the wiki. Registration, travel, some information about lodging and many other details can now be found on the Hac Boston wiki.

We have confirmed space for about 30 people, so please register early! Beyond that we'll have to either seek additional space or close registration.

We're also looking for a few people interested in giving short (15-20 min.) talks, probably on Saturday afternoon. Anything of interest to the Haskell community is fair game---a project you've been working on, a paper, a quick tutorial. If you'd like to give a talk, add it on the wiki.

We look forward to seeing you at MIT!

Last time, I showed that we can build a small parsec clone with packrat support.

This time I intend to implement packrat directly on top of Parsec 3.

One of the main topics of discussion when it comes to packrat parsing since Bryan Ford's initial release of Pappy has been the fact that in general you shouldn't use packrat to memoize every rule, and that instead you should apply Amdahl's law to look for the cases where the lookup time is paid back in terms of repetitive evaluation, computation time and the hit rate. This is great news for us, since, we only want to memoize a handful of expensive combinators.

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You never heard of the Millenium Falcon? It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.

I've been working on a parser combinator library called trifecta, and so I decided I'd share some thoughts on parsing.

Packrat parsing (as provided by frisby, pappy, rats! and the Scala parsing combinators) and more traditional recursive descent parsers (like Parsec) are often held up as somehow different.

Today I'll show that you can add monadic parsing to a packrat parser, sacrificing asymptotic guarantees in exchange for the convenient context sensitivity, and conversely how you can easily add packrat parsing to a traditional monadic parser combinator library.

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Today I hope to start a new series of posts exploring constructive abstract algebra in Haskell.

In particular, I want to talk about a novel encoding of linear functionals, polynomials and linear maps in Haskell, but first we're going to have to build up some common terminology.

Having obtained the blessing of Wolfgang Jeltsch, I replaced the algebra package on hackage with something... bigger, although still very much a work in progress.

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In the last few posts, I've been talking about how we can derive monads and monad transformers from comonads. Along the way we learned that there are more monads than comonads in Haskell.

The question I hope to answer this time, is whether or not we turn any Haskell Comonad into a comonad transformer.

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Last time in Monad Transformers from Comonads I showed that given any comonad we can derive the monad-transformer

 
newtype CoT w m a = CoT { runCoT :: w (a -> m r) -> m r
 

and so demonstrated that there are fewer comonads than monads in Haskell, because while every Comonad gives rise to a Monad transformer, there are Monads that do not like IO, ST s, and STM.

I want to elaborate a bit more on this topic.

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Last time, I showed that we can transform any Comonad in Haskell into a Monad in Haskell.

Today, I'll show that we can go one step further and derive a monad transformer from any comonad!

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Today I'll show that you can derive a Monad from any old Comonad you have lying around.

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