It’s been a little over a month since we announced that we were working on the book, so what have we been up to?
Don is busy writing up his PhD and preparing to move to the United States, so he’s going to remain hors de combat for a little while longer, but John and I have been doing a lot of writing. We blew through our first deadline: we needed to have drafts of two chapters written by June 30, and we had them ready two weeks early.
We’re doing our writing in DocBook XML, as it’s the form most amenable to O’Reilly’s internal editorial workflow. (Round-tripping from a more palatable format is, alas, too much work to be worth the trouble.) This choice has not been without its kinks: John uses Debian; Don uses OpenBSD; I use Fedora; and Mike, our editor, uses OS X. No two of us has exactly the same DocBook or XML toolchains, so we’ve had a number of cycles of inadvertant build breakage.
I’ve written an automated tool for grafting chunks of Haskell source files into the book. This lets us write real, testable Haskell source files, and have the appropriate pieces of them show up in the right places. This is much more reliable than cutting and pasting code snippets, so the book should be full of robust, real code for which you’ll be able to download complete examples.
I wrote another tool that captures interactive sessions with
ghci, a Haskell interpreter. Once again, this gives us assurance that our examples really work and won’t bitrot as we make changes to either our prose or the sessions. I submitted the low-level library component of this code for inclusion in the standard Haskell
unix library, so with any luck, Haskell should soon acquire good pseudoterminal handling capabilities.
We are not yet particularly close to publishing early chapters from the book. We’d like to get at least half a dozen early chapters written and through at least a minimal round of editing before we put anything up. We’d also like to have a web framework in place for gathering feedback, about which I’ll post more soon. My guess is that we might be able to post these early chapters in about two months.
If you’ve contacted us about potentially reviewing chapters of the book, we are very grateful for your interest, all 150 of you! If you’re worried that we’ve chosen someone other than you personally, take heart. We have not responded to anyone yet, because we’re not in a position to say anything more than “thanks!” for now. Don’t worry; we’ll get around to it in a few weeks.
Things have so far gone remarkably well. Mike, our editor, has been great: he’s very responsive and has lots of useful things to say. John and Don are, of course, a pleasure to work with. It’s very exciting to have some chapters already under our belts, and we’re looking forward to Don being able to start writing in the near future. Stay tuned for more news and, in the not-too-distant future, actual content!