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MathGroup Archive 2005

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Re: Re: Mathematica Notebook Organiztion

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg56895] Re: [mg56859] Re: Mathematica Notebook Organiztion
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at earthlink.net>
  • Date: Mon, 9 May 2005 01:46:29 -0400 (EDT)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com

Tony,

With your experience and knowledge, I think what you write has to be taken
seriously.

But my question is: What other document can meld text, interactive
calculations, graphics and animations? That's why I think CAS notebooks are
the ideal medium for technical communication. I would much prefer to do all
these things in one program. I don't see how it is easier to have to master
three or four different applications.

Furthermore, Mathematica notebooks can be kept relatively short because the
output cells can be omitted. Readers, if they have Mathematica, can
regenerate the cells. If one uses pdf documents, say, then there is no
calculational interaction. All the graphics and output cells must be
included and these take a lot of space. I've been told that the physics
archive objects if the files are too long. (Length of files is important to
me because I don't have broadband yet.)

Communicating with people through Mathematica notebooks is pure heaven for
me. The problem is that this is not the universal standard. Many people
don't have Mathematica or dislike it. I don't see yet that Mathematica web
pages are a good method, and the ones that I have seen so far are not
interactive. (Perhaps I don't know how to use them yet. Can you copy them
and paste directly into a private Mathematica notebook?) In the technical
world there are probably going to be huge battles in trying to establish a
standard. Maybe it will never get sorted out to the complete convenience of
users.

In the meantime, I hope WRI will keep working on the notebook interface and
make it better and more intuitive as a method of creating interactive
technical documents.

David Park
djmp at earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~djmp/



From: AES [mailto:siegman at stanford.edu]
To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net

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





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