Jul 11, 2018

ZuriHac 2018: getting to know the Haskell community

Kiwi.com’s Backend Developer Dimitri Herrero sums up a Haskell event that he attended in June. He describes the unique atmosphere of this untraditional hackathon and provides tips on how to start using Haskell.

Since I’m a huge Haskell fan, I couldn’t miss ZuriHac 2018, one of the biggest Haskell events around. It defines itself as a “collaborative coding festival whose goal is to expand the community and to build and improve Haskell libraries, tools, and infrastructure”.

Firstly, for those who don’t use Haskell on a daily basis, I’d recommend reading the State of the Haskell ecosystem as a great starting point. In the definition above, you can see that Haskell’s ecosystem is still far from being as mature as Python or JavaScript, but still, you should give it a try.

One thing I can promise is that if you take the time to learn Haskell, you’ll write better code in your main programming language, even if it’s not Haskell. In Python, for example, you’ll understand how lazy evaluation works, libraries like itertools and functools will appear much more in your code, and you will start avoiding bugs from dynamic typing.

3 tips for getting started with Haskell:

Photo provided by Zurich Friends of Haskell

Back to the event

ZuriHack wasn’t a hackathon in a traditional sense. There was no competition or specific project for people to work on. The main goal of the event was to share real projects that people are working on and involve more people in their development.

In the beginning, around 30 people shared their open-source projects and then other attendees joined them. I joined the “massiv” project which is for writing NumPy in Haskell, and I was very impressed by its speed benchmarks.

Apart from coding, there were some interesting keynotes and a track for beginners. Not surprisingly, the beginners’ track was where most of the ZuriHac attendees could be found, and I joined them on the last day. It was given by Julie Moronuki, the author of the current best Haskell book “Haskell programming from the first principles”. Her second book “The Joy of Haskell” should be released this year.

Me with Julie Moronuki, the author of “Haskell programming from the first principles”

Some practical tips for next year’s attendees:

  • Zurich is an expensive city, but the organisers did their best to ensure that we didn’t notice it. Staying in the camping provided by ZuriHac is the best choice.
  • Don’t try to choose the project you’re going to work on before the hackathon. You may get more gratification by solving some interesting problems for a project that didn’t catch your attention at first.
  • Bring your own project. The amount of help you will get from the Haskell mentors is priceless.

See you at ZuriHac 2019.

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