The post where you don’t learn what’s a monad, but where you may want to learn more about it

Since a while I wander how to write another blog on the internet trying to explain what’s a monad. The problem is well known, as soon as you understand what a monad is, you lose the ability to explain it.
The good news is that I still don’t fully understand what’s a monad, so maybe I’m still able to explain it.
I don’t claim to be a mathematician, or Functional Programming (FP) expert. To be honest I am pretty bad in maths, and I use F# when I can, but I still work with C# most of the time.
Thus if you are an expert and see any errors in the FP related blog posts , please do me a favor and correct me 🙂

 

A combination of Failures

To explain monads, I started a first blog post, to explain the math theory and stay at a theoretical level. My draft was quickly 3 pages long, and unclear, even for me. How deep should I dig into the maths? Ok then, let’s try the practical approach.
I started a new blog post, only to focus on a practical example, to show how we can handle error with something close of the maybe monad. I tried to present my work in a local meetup, and to livecode the explanation. By the way it was a 10-minutes talk. No need to say it was also a failure, I hope the attendees learn some stuff, but they certainly still not understand what’s a monad.

 

What’s the point?

It slowly drives me crazy. I was thinking day and night about which metaphor I could use to explain monads. Something different from the railway metaphor from Scott Wlaschin if possible. I started two more blog posts, and was still unhappy with them.
Weeks were running, and I couldn’t explain monads in the simple way I was looking for.
I tried to figure out at which moment in my learning path I finally understood it. I also challenged the really reason to do that? Why should I care? Why a developer should know what’s a monad?

Why should we care?

Because monads are a basic building block in functional programming. I think this tweet  nailed it.
Semigroup, monoid, applicative and monad are building blocks, or design patterns inspired from mathematics. They allow to combine anything.
And because functional programming is all about function composition,  it is important to know these blocks as a functional programmer. But the concepts of FP are helpful for an Object Oriented (OO) developer in many aspects as well, as uncle Bob recently points out.

 

What’s a monad?

Something hard to understand without the maths roots. That’s why I will realease several articles to explain both technical and mathematical aspects, this way you can choose which part is relevant for you. From basic maths to concrete example, choose your path to monads understanding!

 

Ouarzy

 

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