GHC/Stand-alone deriving declarations
Bjorn Bringert has recently implemented "stand-alone deriving" declarations, documented briefly here . There are a few loose ends which I summarise here:
The current syntax is
deriving Show for T
There seems to be a consensus that this would be better:
derive instance Show T
2 Context on the declaration
Because it looks like a regular instance declaration, it would arguably be reasonable to require the programmer to supply the context. It seems odd to say:
derive instance Show (T a)
and perhaps cleaner to say
derive instance Show a => Show (T a)
(At the moment, the compiler figures out the appropriate context, but at some point that automation may run out of steam.)
3 Alternative Syntaxes
Alternatively the syntax could be:
instance deriving Show a => Show (T a)
instance Show a => Show (T a)
But, why is "derive" or "deriving" even needed? Why not just say an instance is a derived instance unless there is a body? The Haskell 98 instance syntax is:
instance [scontext => ] qtycls inst [where idecls]
I propose that you simply say that a derived instance is:
instance [scontext => ] qtycls inst
The body (where idecls) is already optional to accommodate simple classes without bodies. If a class does not have a body then you can say that all instances of it are derived trivially. Contexts would be used and required exactly as they would with non-derived instances.
4 Interaction with "newtype-deriving"
GHC's "newtype deriving mechanism" (see ) should obviously work in a standalone deriving setting too. But perhaps it can be generalised a little. Currently you can only say
deriving C a for Foo
newtype Foo = F Int newtype Bar = B Bool derive instance C Foo Bar
Which of these thee instances do we want?
instance C Foo Bool => C Foo Bar instance C Int Bar => C Foo Bar instance C Int Bool => C Foo Bar
The obvious way to signal this is to give the instance context (just as above). This is perhaps another reason for having an explicit instance context in a standalone deriving declaration.
Incidentally, notice that the third of the alternatives in the previous bullet unwraps two newtypes simultaneously. John Meacham suggested this example:
class SetLike m k where instance SetLike IntSet Int where newtype Id = Id Int newtype IdSet = IdSet IntSet derive instance SetLike IntSet Int => SetLike IdSet Id
5 Duplicate instances
Suppose two modules, M1 and M2 both contain an identical standalone deriving declaration
derive Show T
Then, can you import M1 and M2 into another module X and use show on values of type T, or will you get an overlapping instance error? Since both instances are derived in the very same way, their code must be identical, so arguably we can choose either. (There is some duplicated code of course.)
This situation is expected to be common, as the main use of the standalone feature is to obtain derived instances that were omitted when the data type was defined.
But, that means whether or not an instance was derived is now part of the module's. Programs would be able to use this (mis)feature to perform a compile-time check and execute code differently depending on whether any given instance is derived or hand-coded:
module MA(A) where data A = A deriving Show module MB(B) where data B = B deriving Show module MC where import MA import MB -- verify that the A and B Show instances were derived -- (they need to be derived to ensure the output can -- be parsed in our non-Haskell code). derive instance Show A derive instance Show B
The writer of MC already knows that MA and MB defined instances of Show for A and B. He just wants to ensure that nobody changes either module to use a non-derived instance; if someone does try to use a non-derived instance:
module MA(A) where data A = A instance Show A where show _ = "a"
then they will get an overlapping instance error in MC.
The result is that programs would be able to require, for any Class, not just that an instance of the class was defined for a type, but that a /derived/ instance was defined. Is this good?