Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hoogle 5 is coming

Summary: I'm working on Hoogle 5. If you like unfinished software, you can try it.

For the last month I've been working on the next version of Hoogle, version 5. It isn't finished, and it isn't the "official" version of Hoogle yet, but it's online, you can try it out, and anyone who wants to hack on Hoogle (or things like hoogle-index) should probably take a look now.

How do I try it?

The purpose of this blog post isn't to solicit beta testers, it's not ready for that - I'm mostly reaching out to Hoogle developers. That said, I know some people will want to try it, so it's online at hoogle.haskell.org. Beware, it isn't finished, and haskell.org/hoogle remains the "official" version to use (but hey, use whichever you want, or both, or neither).

What's new for users of the website?

  • It isn't finished. In particular, type search hasn't been implemented. But there are also lots of other pieces in all the corners that don't work properly.
  • It searches all the packages on Stackage by default.
  • There is a drop-down to allow you to restrict focus to only a single package, or an author, or a tag.

What's new for everyone else?

  • There is no library, it's not on Hackage and the command line tool isn't designed for users. These things will be coming over time.
  • It's hosted on a haskell.org virtual machine, served through Warp rather than as a CGI program. Thanks to the Haskell Infrastructure team for all their help. As a result, I'm free to experiment with Hoogle without accidentally making the Haskell homepage say "moo".
  • Generating database for all of Stackage (minus download time) takes about 40s and uses < 1Gb of memory. The databases are built directly out of the .tar.gz files, without unpacking them.

What's next?

Update: the hogle code is now on the master branch of the hoogle repo, and the hoogle v4 code is on branch hoogle4.

Hoogle 5 is a complete rewrite of Hoogle, stealing bits as they were useful. At the moment Hoogle 4 is hosted at https://github.com/ndmitchell/hoogle while version 5 is at https://github.com/ndmitchell/hogle. The next step is to rename and move github repos so they are sensible once again. My best guess is that I should rename hoogle to hoogle4, then rename hogle to hoogle and move the issue tickets. I'm open to other suggestions.

Once that's resolved, I need to continue fixing and improving Hoogle so all the things that aren't finished become finished. If you are interested in helping, I recommend you create a github ticket describing what you want to do and we can take it from there.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

User Interfaces for Users

Summary: When designing a user interface, think about the user, and what they want to know. Don't just present the information you know.

As part of my job I've ended up writing a fair amount of user interface code, and feedback from users has given me an appreciation of some common mistakes. Many user interfaces are designed to present information, and one of the key rules is to think about what the user wants to see, not just showing the information you have easily to hand. I was reminded of this rule when I was expecting a parcel. On the morning of Saturday 10/1/2015 I used a track my parcel interface to find:

The interface presents a lot of information, but most of it is interesting to the delivery company, not to me. I have basically one question: when will my parcel arrive. From the interface I can see:

  • The parcel is being shipped with "Express AM" delivery. No link to what that means. Searching leads me to a page saying that guarantees delivery before 1pm on a business day (some places said noon, some said 1pm). That is useful information if I want to enter into a contract with the delivery service, but not when I'm waiting for a parcel. What happens on Saturday? Do they still deliver, just not guarantee the time? Do they wait until the next business day? Do they do either, as they see fit?
  • My parcel has been loaded onto a vehicle. Has the vehicle has left the depot, or is that a separate step? How many further steps are there between loading and delivery? This question is easy to answer after the parcel has been delivered, since the additional steps show up in the list, but difficult to answer before.

On Saturday morning my best guess about when the parcel would arrive was between then and Monday 1pm. Having been through the complete process, I now know the best answer was between some still unknown time on Monday morning and Monday 1pm. With that information, I'd have taken my son to the park rather than keeping him cooped up indoors.

I suggest the company augment their user interface with the line "Your parcel will be delivered on Monday, between 9am and 1pm". It's information they could have computed easily, and answers my question.

The eagle-eyed may notice that there is a plus to expand to show more information. Alas, all that shows is:

I think they're trying to say my puny iPhone can't cope with the bold font that is essential to tell me the status and I should get an iPhone plus... Checking the desktop website also showed no further information.