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MathGroup Archive 2005

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Re: Re: Mathematica Notebook Organiztion

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg56885] Re: [mg56859] Re: Mathematica Notebook Organiztion
  • From: Chris Chiasson <chris.chiasson at gmail.com>
  • Date: Mon, 9 May 2005 01:46:06 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <200505060701.DAA06272@smc.vnet.net> <d5htns$jsg$1@smc.vnet.net> <200505071935.PAA27011@smc.vnet.net>
  • Reply-to: Chris Chiasson <chris.chiasson at gmail.com>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com

To Tony Siegman, Stanford University:

>   ". . .the same markup language that describes text layout and
>   formatting [being] the language [that is ] used to [do calculations,
>   create graphics, and] execute (inter)active content . . "

> count me as skeptical -- VERY skeptical.  This is a very BAD idea, that
> will inevitably cause much more damage than the dubious and limited
> benefits it may produce.

> Basically, I'd argue that attempting to combine both of these quite
> different functions into a single language or package and a single user
> interface is an absolute guarantee that the language and the system and
> the interface will all become so complex, so convoluted, so hard to
> learn and use and remember between uses, that ordinary users (meaning,
> e.g., ordinary working engineering and science professionals) will
> abandon such a system for simpler individual tools with easily
> interchangable file formats which will enable them perform these two
> separate functions separately, much more easily, with much less of a
> learning curve, and with enormously less aggravation.

Are you saying that most ordinary users have abandoned Mathematica?

Mathematica already describes notebooks in the same language that it
takes commands. Take a look at the raw format of a Mathematica style
sheet or a regular Mathematica notebook.

Notice how the first parts are commented out like this: (*stuff*)

Notice that the entire content section of the stylesheet/notebook is
actually one expression that looks like this: Notebook[stuff]

I would guess that even the slightly fancy Publicon notebooks are laid
out in the same manner.

It seems to me that WRI uses the Mathematica language to describe
notebooks. Do you agree?

Compare that to the current system for web content: First one needs
Apache to serve web pages. Then one needs CSS (which has a different
syntax than XHTML) to format XHTML. Usually there could be PHP for
dynamically generating the server's XHTML (perhaps a list of updated
urls for a sidebar) and JavaScript for client side scripting.

It would be very attractive to me to eliminate the need for using many
different languages to deliver rich web content. Mathematica can
already do animations, scripting, and dynamic code generation
(NotebookWrite). Given the above, why do you think it's such a bad
idea to use Mathematica for the web?

Regards,



On 5/7/05, AES <siegman at stanford.edu> wrote:
> In article <d5htns$jsg$1 at smc.vnet.net>,
>  Chris Chiasson <chris.chiasson at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> > In addition, I hope that one day the internet will run on an
> > _executable_ markup language. XHTML and CSS are great for specifying
> > static documents, but they lack the power of executing code on the end
> > user's machine. That is why, for instance, GMail is written (in part)
> > in Java script.
> >
> > Mathematica is most of the way there, because the same markup language
> > that describes text layout and formatting is the language used to
> > execute (inter)active content.
> 
> and in article <d5htv0$jt3$1 at smc.vnet.net>, DrBob <drbob at bigfoot.com>
> wrote:
> 
> > WRI, please take notice. David is truly a guru on visual presentation and
> > organization of information.
> >
> > Bobby
> 
> I don't claim to be a "guru" on any of this, but I do claim to have a
> very large amount of ordinary user experience (multiple decades of
> experience) with (a) markup systems for presentation of technical
> material (books, reports, class notes, seminar slides), and (b) software
> for extensive numerical and symbolic computation and preparation of
> graphics.
> 
> Based on this long experience, when I read about
> 
>    ". . .the same markup language that describes text layout and
>     formatting [being] the language [that is ] used to [do calculations,
>     create graphics, and] execute (inter)active content . . "
> 
> count me as skeptical -- VERY skeptical.  This is a very BAD idea, that
> will inevitably cause much more damage than the dubious and limited
> benefits it may produce.
> 
> Basically, I'd argue that attempting to combine both of these quite
> different functions into a single language or package and a single user
> interface is an absolute guarantee that the language and the system and
> the interface will all become so complex, so convoluted, so hard to
> learn and use and remember between uses, that ordinary users (meaning,
> e.g., ordinary working engineering and science professionals) will
> abandon such a system for simpler individual tools with easily
> interchangable file formats which will enable them perform these two
> separate functions separately, much more easily, with much less of a
> learning curve, and with enormously less aggravation.
> 
> I think this concept of having such a single, universal language keeps
> emerging (mostly among "computer types"?) because it poses real and
> difficult and very interesting intellectual challenges to computer types
> just to accomplish this -- and that's fine; intellectual challenges are
> what creative people live for, and no one can blame or criticize
> computer types for being challenged by these goals.
> 
> The problem is, the *only* advantage of such a unified tool *for the
> user*, so far as I can see, is that you only have to double-click on one
> icon to start if up; and the difficulties it then produces for ordinary
> users are immense and unending.  I won't attempt to list at this point
> all the different ways these difficulties arise (inherently, and
> unavoidably) in such a system; but if this debate continues I may get
> motivated to respond with such a list.
> 
> I love Mathematica, I love TeX, I'm very fond of Acrobat and Illustrator
> and BBEdit and . . . but the more people try to stuff the capabilities
> of all of these into Mathematica, the surer I am that this is a terrible
> idea.
> 
>    --Tony Siegman, Stanford University
> 
> 


-- 
Chris Chiasson
http://chrischiasson.com/
1 (810) 265-3161


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