laborantin-hs: an experiment management framework

[ apache, experiment, library, program ] [ Propose Tags ]

[Skip to Readme]
Dependencies aeson (==0.6.*), base (==4.6.*), bytestring (==0.10.*), cmdlib (>=0.3.5), containers (==0.5.*), directory (==1.2.*), hslogger (==1.2.*), mtl (==2.1.*), random (==1.0.*), text (==0.11.*), transformers (==0.3.*), uuid (==1.2.*) [details]
License Apache-2.0
Author lucas dicioccio
Category Experiment
Home page
Uploaded by LucasDiCioccio at Sun Oct 20 19:19:25 UTC 2013
Distributions NixOS:
Downloads 3640 total (28 in the last 30 days)
Rating (no votes yet) [estimated by rule of succession]
Your Rating
  • λ
  • λ
  • λ
Status Docs uploaded by user [build log]
All reported builds failed [all 1 reports]
Hackage Matrix CI



  • Laborantin
    • Laborantin.CLI
    • Laborantin.DSL
    • Laborantin.Implementation
    • Laborantin.Types


Maintainer's Corner

For package maintainers and hackage trustees

Readme for laborantin-hs-

[back to package description]


Initially, Laborantin is a Ruby framework for controlling and managing experiments. Laborantin-Hs is the Haskell port of Laborantin.


Designing scientific experiments is hard. Scientific experiments often must test an hypothesis such as does parameter X influences the outcome of process A ? Experimenters must write code to run the process A, a task that may be daunting when it comes to setting up machines remotely or calling half-a-dozen of shell scripts to edit configurations such as firewall settings for computer networks. As a result of spending time to prepare and debug the code for process A, little time is left for writing the code around parameter X.

In general, running scientific experiments requires a number of actions such as:

  • writing code for the experiments themselves
  • preparing the system for conducting experiments
  • actually conducting the experiments
  • organizing results for the experiments
  • documenting the experiments
  • analyzing the results of experiments

Analyzing results itself is an experiment because a sound analyses also requires steps such as:

  • writing code for the analyses themselves
  • actually conducting the analyses
  • organizing results for the analyses
  • [...]

After each analysis step, the scientist may want to run extra experiments if some questions are not fully answered, or if new questions arise. These extra experiments again ask for the same care in preparing/conducting/analyzing experiments. Laborantin is a framework to help you along this iterative process.

Laborantin is moving away from Ruby and adopted Haskell for two distinct reasons. First, Haskell is a functional programming language and it is easier to reuse chunk of codes in declarative DSLs (Domain Specific Languages) with functional programming languages than scripting languages (although Ruby is great for DSLs too). Second, Haskell has a very powerful type system and it allows to catch a whole set of bugs at compile time. While I may consider the first point on DSLs open for debate, this second point is the nail in the coffin: real-world experiments generally involve a time-consuming phase where we act on the physical world (e.g., sending hundreds of network packets spaced in time). You do not want to lose minutes because a typo crashed your experiment: it is infuriating and stressful. You typically cannot write tests for this type of "effects on the real-world-only" code. Nor it is possible to mock and write unit tests for the whole world when you are under pressure for getting results for your research. Thus, Haskell's opinionated choices to segregate effectful code from pure code and Haskell's obnoxious type system are a time saver in code for running experiments. One drawback of using Haskell is that Laborantin-Hs needs a compilation phase now (i.e., Laborantin-Hs is more a library than a command-line utility). Somehow, I think that the pros far outweigh the cons. Plus, it seems possible to write a labor-like script for Laborantin-Hs that will compile the project or call runhaskell underneath.

Laborantin-Hs brings the following to the experimenter:

  • a clean DSL to express scenarios, parameters, as well as raw data an product analysis
  • an execution engine that runs scenarios, exhausting the parameter space for you
  • a default backend to store executed scenarios data and metadata in the filesystem
  • auto-documentation features to later generate simple HTML reports
  • the full power of Haskell type-system to catch runtime errors at compile time

With releasing Laborantin for free and under an open-source license, our goal is to make sure that your precious expert time is used in productive efforts. This is not a purely altruistic goal because I want to benefit from your good science asap. Another goal of Laborantin is to empower scientists who want to open their code and datasets more easily than possible nowadays.

Historical anecdote

A pattern I started with, and that I have seen often while observing my peers is to encode parameters in filename such as process_A_parameterX1.dat to store a data result and process_A_parameterX2.dat. For instance ping_grenouille.com_1500.dat. Such a scheme is okay for a first shot but quickly becomes opaque past a few parameters, or when you have special characters in string parameters. Plus, with evolving version of process A into finer and finer refinements a whole genealogy of experiments unrolls and the number of required result files explodes. A similar effect happens as the number of result files needed grows or as the number of parameters increases.

After failing to manage sound experiments with mere bash scripts encoding parameters in filenames, an obvious next step is to use a build system such as make to run experiments. Makefiles help, but they only work for so long. Make is a build system for managing dependencies in a build process. I think you can use make to explore a set of parameters, but it looks totally unnatural to write rules for encoding and decoding parameters in filenames. In the end, your Makefile is barely decipherable and you need the Rosetta stone to remember what %< means because your web search engine will simply ignore the glyph. Thus, documenting the experiments while evolving the set of experiments quickly becomes painful. You can try to work around by combining make with shell scripts and environment variables but the coupling between different files becomes so tight that your experiment project is impossible to maintain and it will fail in absurd and totally obscure manner. Similarly, I let you imagine how annoying it is, when you spent a full day writing and debugging your Makefile and it turns out you need to spend another day to make sure make clean does not wipe all your results because you had an experiment crash.

The only way around managing results for an exploding parameter space is to use a sort of database, and to let the computer manage the database. If you ever start encoding parameters values or experiment names in filenames, you are doing it wrong. It is exactly the same as that using a spoon to drive a screw: it works but it is a lot of effort. Laborantin is out, free, and open-source: use it, fork it, or clone it.



  • save timing of scenario executions in default backend
  • standalone query expression module
  • use Text rather than String where appropriate
  • dependency type with annotations to execute missing dependencies
  • dumb dependency solver
  • selector to load prior results
  • "require" helper that sets a dep+selection
  • exports to propose exported files using "show-exports" command