(Another) status update on GHC maintenance

Tuesday, 08 October 2013, by Duncan Coutts.
Filed under ghc, community, well-typed.

In the previous status update I described how Well-Typed were going through a process of transition in how we help Simon PJ with GHC development and maintenance. This change was due to our long-time colleague Ian Lynagh leaving for new challenges. People who follow GHC development at all will already be aware of our new people and arrangements, but for everyone else here is a brief update.

As I mentioned previously we decided to split the GHC work between two people part-time. This is because GHC work requires a wide range of specialised skills and it also provides a bit of variety for the people working on GHC.

We have been very pleased to welcome Austin Seipp and Adam Gundry to our team at Well-Typed. We decided to assign Austin and our existing colleague Edsko to the task. Austin has been working on GHC as a volunteer for several years, and has become increasingly involved in the last year or so. He has a great understanding of the various technical and social pieces and processes involved in GHC development, so he's been able to hit the ground running. Edsko's academic background (PhD and post-doc in advanced type-system hackery), plus general Haskell wizardry puts him in a good position to help out with some of the more rarefied parts of the compiler. In addition he has been working on GHC itself quite a lot in the last few months as part of other projects at Well-Typed, so he knows his way around the codebase and development processes.

So far this has all been working out very well. The flow of patches has continued and the preparations for GHC 7.8 have been going well. Simon PJ gave a good report on this at the Haskell Implementors Workshop in Boston a couple weeks ago. (Hopefully the video for that will be available soon.) Austin will also shortly post an update here on our blog about the release process and ETA for GHC 7.8.

In summary, GHC development and maintenance is looking pretty healthy. In particular as Simon noted in his talk at the implementors workshop, we've seen quite a few new people working on features, fixing bugs and helping with the release process. An important aspect of Austin and Edsko's job is to help those people and facilitate their contributions.

Other GHC hackery

I mentioned that Adam Gundry had also joined our team. Though we have not initially assigned Adam to GHC HQ, it is worth noting that he has been getting his hands dirty with GHC hackery. After finishing his PhD write-up this summer he took part in the Google Summer of Code (with Simon PJ as his mentor) to implement Simon's proposal for overloaded record fields. The point is to allow different records to share a single field label. This has been a hot topic for years but the huge range of deign options (and no shortage of opinions within the community) had been a drag on getting anything done. Adam and Simon's project is a great step in the right direction. It is both immediately useful and it should also help the design process by getting some practical feedback.