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Hacking Scala

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April 28, 2013 at 2:45am

Scalaz - Resources For Beginners

Scalaz is very interesting Scala library. It can be pretty scary when you first look at it and at examples of it’s usage. I also find, that at the beginning, advantages of this library are not very obvious. So at some point I asked myself: why are people so enthusiastic about it? So I started to learn it, but found that it’s hard to find any resources that are targeting beginners - people who are new to Haskell, Category Theory, or advanced Scala features like Type Classes or Higher Kinds.

In this post I want to summarize all resources I found about scalaz or related to scalaz that are actually approachable by beginners. I started with question at StackOverflow where I received many good answers. I also noticed, that this question was pretty popular, so I decided to write this post where I can summarize the answers and maybe add something more.

I personally believe that even if you don’t completely understand every aspect of scalaz yet (I’m definitely not), it still can help you to write a better code. As far as I can can see, it helps to write more composable, reusable and side-effect free code. But in order to use it, you need to understand some key concepts that it heavily relies on. So let’s start with …

Type Classes

Type Classes playing important role in Scala and they are really useful concept. They generally allow you to define some additional behavior (methods) to the class independently from this class itself. I believe, that this concept was taken from Haskell and implemented in Scala with the help of implicit parameters. Type classes can also help (at least partly) to solve Expression problem. You can find these presentations helpful on this topic:

I can highly recommend Nick’s presentation - it’s mostly not about Scalaz, but about the concepts it uses. Step by step, he implements these concepts in a simple example. For me personally it was eye opening. Heiko shows some of the features of Scalaz, including interesting of type-safe equals implemented with type class.

I can also recommend you to watch Daniel’s presentation, described in the next section, which touches this topic.

Higher Kinds

Values are to types as types are to kinds - Daniel Spiewak

It’s very nice feature of Scala language, which allows you to work with containers like List or Option in very generic manner. I highly recommend you this watch this presentation on this topic:

Daniel describes 3 concepts: Higher Kinds, Type Classes and Continuations. He also shows, how you can implement heterogeneous list with this knowledge, as an example.

Scalaz Itself

Here are some inspiring presentation about scalaz, which I would highly recommend:

in these videos Chris gives introduction to some useful features of Scalaz, describing them from the more practical perspective.

If you want nice and quick introduction to scalaz, than I can recommend you this very nice Scalaz “For the Rest of Us” Cheat Sheet with correspondent presentation slides by Adam Rosien.

Here are some other resources for beginners:


Lenses are generally something similar to getters and setters in function world. Here are some useful resources about them:

Category Theory

In the hart of Scalaz (as well as Haskell) lies category theory. It’s interesting topic, but can be somehow involving. Heiko Seeberger wrote a great articles on this topic, which I find very beginner-friendly:

If you still wonder what monad is, then following video will definitively give you some hints. I also find it very friendly to Java developers, that want to find out what actually monads are and their advantages. Video includes explanation of Option, Validation and List monads:

A lot of ideas, implemented in Scalaz, are borrowed from Haskell, so it can be helpful to learn some Haskell too. You can find a lot of information on this topic in this chapter of Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! book:


I found, that absorption of completely new concepts, is pretty hard and slow process where getting motivated is very important. I hope, that this material will motivate you and would be helpful in you thirst for knowledge.

If you know some other resources about Scalaz, then please share them with me - I would be very grateful and they will help me to enhance this post with even more material.


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