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New post on static type annotations.

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KirinDave committed Nov 3, 2011
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+---
+title: The Unbearable Lightness of Modern Typed Programming
+date: 11-02-2011
+tags: programming, static, dynamic, types
+author: Dave Fayram
+description: Static typing need not be an epic stone around your neck.
+---
+
+Recently I've been seeing a lot more debate online about the relative
+merits of static and dynamic typing for the "averae programmer". I
+think it's great that we're having this conversation, but I've been
+picking up on a subtle point I wanted to briefly talk about. It
+started when I read [this post by Jeremy Askhenas](https://mail.mozilla.org/pipermail/es-discuss/2011-November/017872.html). It's
+mostly Jeremy asking for a better tomorrow. It's a noble rallying cry, but I
+can't help but note this sentiment:
+
+<blockquote>
+If I had my druthers, JS.next would generally embrace the spirit of
+JavaScript's dynamism (and freedom), and try to push those aspects further
+-- with better introspection and more flexibility -- instead of
+compromising with more restrictive static languages and adding lock-down
+keywords so that some programmers might "feel safer".
+</blockquote>
+
+This echos
+[a tweet by DHH, another strong opponent of static typing](http://twitter.com/#!/dhh/status/123773621771583488),
+which says:
+
+<blockquote>
+I've never had that as a real problem in the wild. Passing "the wrong
+thing" to a method is a fantasy boogeyman of the
+explicits.</blockquote>
+
+Now, maybe 5 years ago I might have read this and nodded. Before I
+took my excursion into functional programming, I just sort of assumed
+that all static typing is like C++ and Java 1.2: agony on stilts. It's
+all keywords and nonsense and repetitive cruft, right? Turns out I was
+wrong, and these guys have a very dated view of what modern static
+typing is.
+
+
+When I sit down and write code in Haskell (something I don't get to do
+very often), I am not suddenly burdened with the unbearable weight of
+types. If anything, they're there as something I can lean on to help
+me reason about my code. When I refactor, the types are likewise there
+to help (something that only a battery of cleverly written unit tests
+can give you in dynamic land).
+
+## Modern Type Inference, With & Without Types
+
+As an example, I've excerpted a bit of code from a library I use to
+manage my chef 0.9 environment. I have to switch between several
+configurations and amazon keys throughout my work day. This code shows
+a nice string ("ubuntu@production" or "none") explaining what my knife.rb says about my
+which chef environment I am currently pointed at:
+
+~~~~~~{.haskell}
+import System.IO
+import Data.List
+import Data.Maybe
+import Control.Monad
+import HSH (glob)
+
+isQuote x = x == '"' || x == '\''
+isntQuote = not . isQuote
+lineWith pat strs = find (isInfixOf pat) strs
+
+fileLines floc = do
+ cH <- openFile floc ReadMode
+ lines `fmap` hGetContents cH
+
+knifeLines = do
+ g <- glob "~/.chef/knife.rb"
+ case g of
+ a:_ -> fileLines a
+ _ -> return []
+
+getQuotedValue line =
+ takeWhile isntQuote startOfValue
+ where startOfValue = drop 1 $ dropWhile isntQuote line
+
+userString user env = user ++ "@" ++ env
+
+main = do
+ kl <- knifeLines
+ let klWith = (`lineWith` kl)
+ qname = getQuotedValue `fmap` klWith "node_name"
+ qenv = getQuotedValue `fmap` klWith "builder_cluster"
+ name = liftM2 userString qname qenv
+ putStrLn $ fromMaybe "none" name
+~~~~~~
+
+This code, as written, has no explicitly written types. The types of a value are
+mentioned in text only once, on the final line. This code compiles and
+works. Now, it's a little unrealistic to write Haskell this way. Not
+because it's terribly difficult (it is not), but rather because the
+way we often start thinking about writing a module is by thinking
+about what we want to write...
+
+~~~~~~{.haskell}
+lineWith :: String -> [String] -> Maybe String
+fileLines :: FilePath -> IO [String]
+knifeLines :: IO [String]
+getQuotedValue :: String -> String -> String
+~~~~~~
+
+... and then start writing from there. This is analogous to a
+lightweight test-first process. We can lay out these type annotations
+and then sketch the code in underneath them. Like in the dynamic
+programming world, it's fairly easy not to make the mistake of passing
+the wrong item to a function. Unlike the dynamic programming world, we
+have the compiler watching out back and making sure we don't get
+distracted and commit that subtle error.
+
+Even better, later we can use those type signatures to help write
+randomly generated tests that help us catch the edge cases we
+*weren't* thinking of. So not only do the type signatures give us a
+nice starting point for writing a unit of code, but they also can go
+above and beyond later in the code life cycle when we start to ask hard
+questions about how durable our software is.
+
+## The Call Him, "The Straw Man"
+
+This is what a modern type system offers for you. You will spend time
+interacting with it, but more as a partner and a tool for letting you
+write more expressive code (the only reason we could use liftM2 was
+because we had type inference figuring out that qname and qenv are
+Maybe's). And you don't need to go all the way into the Haskell world to
+get these benefits; there are several languages for a variety of
+runtimes that give you modern, powerful type systems that act as your
+ally instead of your taskmaster.
+
+So let's stop spreading the misconception that static typing is all
+about "keywords" and "const" circa 1999. Sure, some statically typed
+languages use these constructs. But, that's not really related to
+static typing so much as their heritage and Let's stop straw-manning a very promising
+branch of the programming language family that has come a long way
+over the past 20 years.
+
+And of course, I'd like to thank the folks who helped suggest how to
+clarify my code on Freenode. In particular: shachaf, luite, c_wraith,
+and Nimatek.

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