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MathGroup Archive 1999

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Re: "At long last, Sir, have you no shame?"

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg18541] Re: "At long last, Sir, have you no shame?"
  • From: sidles at u.washington.edu (John A. Sidles)
  • Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 02:18:42 -0400
  • Organization: University of Washington, Seattle
  • References: <7luk6s$l95@smc.vnet.net> <7m3l4p$si1@smc.vnet.net>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com

>David Withoff <withoff at wolfram.com> wrote:
>>independent experts often disagree about what is or is not a bug. 

Savvy Mathematica users learn not to use the word "bug" when
talking to Wolfram Technical Support!  I suggest the phrase
"unexpected behavior" instead.  This avoids pointless
discussions of what the documentation does or does not
guarantee.

As a concrete suggestion, how about a Wolfram web page
listing, for *every* built-in Mathematica command, the
"unexpected behaviors" that users have reported, together
with workarounds.  Special priority should be given to
Gotchas that occur silently or sporadically --- these 
are by far the biggest threats to software integrity.
In fact, it would make sense to restrict the list to
*only* silently-failing "Gotchas".

How many Mathematica users would consult such a page?  I
sure would.

A "Gotcha" Page solves many problems for Wolfram management
--- for example, it would not obligate Wolfram to release
software patches, or even to acknowledge gotchas as bugs,
because almost all gotchas are easy to work around, *if* you
know about them!  And it would be easy to organize --- just
list the commands in alphabetical order, and then for each
command, sort the reported gotchas in descending order of 
frequency reported.  And it wouldn't be excessively long --
most Mathematica commands have no more than one or two
silently-failing "Gotchas".

And finally, need I say that users and low-level tech support
personnel should be the ones to determine what goes on the
Gotcha page, *not* Wolfram management?  The job of managment
should be to read and learn from the Gotcha Page, not censor it!


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