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Haskel (like Lisp) is well designed (on a strong mathematical foundation) to be compiled into efficient machine code, as opposed to a well designed interpreted language like Lua, or badly designed interpreted language like JavaScript.

But Haskel is about as far away from a "consumer programming language" as you can get -- it's quite weird by most people's standards, and has been known to cause people's heads explode. In the ideal world, more people would have less explosive heads, but unfortunately Haskel is just too powerful and esoteric for most people to handle. (Unfortunately, so many people use shitty languages like PHP, so their programs explode instead of their heads.) In the hands of a great programmer (like James Clark), it's astounding what can be done in a few lines of Haskel, and it's interesting to compare the amount of Java code it takes the same programmer to implement the same algorithm.

James Clark (of xml and thaiopensource fame, not to be confused with the suit who founded netscape) is one of the most amazing designer/programmers of our time, and a proficient polyglot, who's designed and implemented extremely sophisticated stuff in many different languages. He uses Haskel as a design language to hash out XML standards, then re-implements them in ordinary "consumer oriented" languages like Java. It's quite interesting to compare the Haskel and Java implementations of Relax NG!

Here's an article I wrote about some amazing Haskel code, a Relax NG schema validator. I like Lua because it's true to Clark's notion of "maximizing composability".


An Algorithm for Relax NG Validation:

Maximizing Composability and Relax NG Trivia

Here's some interesting stuff about the design and development of Relax NG:

James Clark wrote about maximizing composability:

"First, a little digression. In general, I have made it a design principle in TREX to maximize "composability". It's a little bit hard to describe. The idea is that a language provides a number of different kinds of atomic thing, and a number different ways to compose new things out of other things. Maximizing composability means minimizing restrictions on which ways to compose things can be applied to which kinds of thing. Maximizing composability tends to improve the ratio between functionality on the one hand and simplicity/ease of use/ease of learning on the other."

Clark describes the derivative algorithm's lazy approach to automaton construction:

"I don't agree that <interleave> makes automation-based implementations impossible; it just means you have to construct automatons lazily. (In fact, you can view the "derivative"-based approach in JTREX as lazily constructing a kind of automaton where states are represented by a canonical representative of the patterns that match the remaining input.)"

The Relax NG derivative algorithm is implemented in a few hundred elegent declarative functional lines of Haskel, and also in tens of thousands of lines and hundreds of classes of highly abstract complex Java code.

Clark's Java implementation of Relax NG is called "jing", which is a Thai word meaning truthful, real, serious, no-nonsense, and ending with "ng".

Comparing the Java and Haskell implementations of Relax NG illustrates what a wicked cool and powerful language Haskell really is. The Java code must explicitly model and simulate many Haskel features like first order functions, memoization, pattern matching, partial evaluation, lazy evaluation, declarative programming, and functional programming. That requires many abstract interfaces, concrete classes and brittle lines of code.

While the Java code is quite brittle and verbose, the Haskell code is extremely flexible and concise. Haskell is an excellent design language, a vehicle for exploring complex problem spaces, designing and testing ingenious solutions, performing practical experiments, weighing trade-offs, and writing succinct, elegant, mathematically rigorous specifications that actually work. Haskell code is useful as a blueprint for implementations in less luxurious languages like Java.

[More in the article...]


Relax NG: Design-by-Inspired-Individuals vs. Design-by-Committee

In The State of XML, Edd Dumbill explains the secret behind the success of Relax NG:

Incidentally the RELAX NG success can equally well be framed as a case of design-by-inspired-individuals vs. design-by-committee as much as it can be seen as a OASIS vs. W3C thing.


Relax NG Compact Syntax: no to operator precedence, yes to annotations!

James Clark is a fucking genius! He’s the guy who wrote the Expat XML parser, works on Relax NG, and does tons of other important stuff. Relax NG is an ingeniously designed, elegant XML schema language based on regular expressions, which also has a compact, convenient non-xml syntax.

I totally respect the way he throws down the gauntlet on operator precedence (take that you Perl and C++ weenies!):

"There is no notion of operator precedence. It is an error for patterns to combine the |, &, , and - operators without using parentheses to make the grouping explicit. For example, foo | bar, baz is not allowed; instead, either (foo | bar), baz or foo | (bar, baz) must be used. A similar restriction applies to name classes and the use of the | and - operators. These restrictions are not expressed in the above EBNF but they are made explicit in the BNF in Section 1."

You can translate back and forth between Relax NG's XML and compact syntaxes with full fidelity, without losing any important information. Relax NG supports annotating the grammar with standard and custom namespaces, so you can add standard extensions and extra user defined meta-data to the grammar. That's useful for many applications like user interface generators, programming tools, editors, compilers, data binding, serialization, documentation, etc.

[More in the article...]