Re: Re: Mathematica: Long divison for polynomials
- To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
- Subject: [mg84044] Re: [mg83975] Re: Mathematica: Long divison for polynomials
- From: Daniel Lichtblau <danl at wolfram.com>
- Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2007 03:12:14 -0500 (EST)
- References: <200711301018.FAA04867@smc.vnet.net> <email@example.com> <200712060737.CAA10055@smc.vnet.net>
Caren Balea wrote:
> Thank you for your answers!
> As the reply in the newsgroup is quite slow I did try a different newsgroup
> and receive an answer right after 21 minutes (rather than to have to wait
> a whole day in this newsgroup):
> There is also an interesting discussion about how meaningful it is
> to have a moderation in this particular newsgroup.
> Frankly, I agree with what they are saying.
> I'm curious though whether my post is going to be displayed or not.
> [I am offering a totally free service to those who want to use it.
> You should probably go elsewhere if it does not meet your needs.
> -- Moderator]
There has been substantial commentary in sci.math.symbolic, going back
several years, over the various ups and downs of having a moderated
forum comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica. Here is a URL to a reply I made in
one such thread, a few months ago.
I've had some involvement with this since the beginning so I think I can
clarify and address a few issues. Bear in mind that I am replying as one
who sometimes writes to the forum; neither this reply, nor other posts
to the group, are part of my official job responsibilities.
First, the group began life, and remains, as a moderated mailing list
forum known as MathGroup. It was extended to a Usenet group around 12-13
years ago. I think this was partly in response to a need to remove the
many Mathematica-centric posts from sci.math.symbolic. And also there
was a desire to extend the mailing list reach to more people for whom it
was an appropriate venue, but who might not otherwise find it.
So what are the gripes about this moderated group? They fall into a few
(1) Turnaround time. It takes a day or so for a post to appear. So what
are the disadvantages to the relatively slow turnaround? One is that
feedback to the person posing questions is slow. This, I concede, is a
very real drawback. But short of cloning the moderator, I don't see a
good way around it. Suffice it to say, the advantages to having a
moderator (or at least to having the one we have), in my opinion, far
outweigh this. More below.
(2) Another perceived drawback to the turnaround time is replication of
effort in responses. I've seen this issue raised but frankly I think it
is mostly baloney. The vast majority of responders know good and well
that others are also likely to respond, and they do so anyway. The fact
is, Mathematica is a complex program, and often there are multiple ways
to achieve a stated goal. Responders know this and oftentimes "best
practice", or several reasonable forms thereof, emerge in the
multiplicity of responses. About the only actual drawback is that some
responders might delay an extra day to see if others answer first, and
this can prolong the process per (1) above.
(3) There has been persistent griping about the moderation amounting to
"censorship". Depending on how you define the terms, I suppose perhaps
this can be a valid sort of remark. But the upshot is that whether you
call it moderating or censorship, the moderator keeps a huge amount of
garbage out of the group. If you have not seen similar groups
effectively crippled by rants, be happy. Likewise with spam. Suffice it
to say that these problems have arisen and persisted for long stretches
of time. But never, absolutely never, has such a fate befallen
comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica. The group has remained consistently
useable, with outages only in rare times (like two or three over a
period of a dozen years) when the moderator's systems or ISP have
suffered grievous damage.
(4) One particular censorship gripe concerns the rule against mention of
competing programs. I myself am a bit sympathetic to this one; if there
were a single restriction I could change, this would be it. That said, I
think that unrestricted allowance of such could pose a problem. That is,
we might see the sort of degeneration into rants ("Why can't Mathematica
do X? Program MZZZ does it?" followed, a day later, by "Why can't
Mathematica do Y?..."). In past I've seen at least some tendency toward
such posts, and it is generally thwarted by this restriction, which
means the restriction has some merit. Also it helps to keep the focus on
Mathematica per se, which is what the group is all about.
As to what are the best places to take Mathematica related questions,
answers will vary and to some extent it can depend on what you need.
MathGroup aka comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica remains a compelling venue
when the one day turnaround is acceptable, and high quality of response
is needed. It is the forum with the most expertise. I think this is in
large part because the moderator keeps out garbage, thus making the
signal-to-noise ration quite high. Were it to degenerate to some of the
things I have seen, I doubt most of us would maintain interest for long.
So yeah, the turnaround time is an issue, but there are advantages to
the moderating that, for myself at least, far outweigh this drawback.
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