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MathGroup Archive 2008

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Wolfram User Interface Research?

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg87944] Wolfram User Interface Research?
  • From: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>
  • Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2008 03:23:36 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Stanford University

My understanding is that at least some vendors of larger software apps 
do a substantial amount of research into how users interact with their 
products -- e.g., they set up experiments in test rooms where they 
observe, record, and/or videotape how "ordinary users" perform various 
typical tasks using their products -- how they approach them, what 
mistakes they frequently make -- and try to interpret from these 
observations what mental constructs these users seem to be working 
under, why they make the mistakes they make  and so on.

A curiosity based question along this line for Wolfram:

If one examined a bunch of notebooks generated by some representative 
set of users, I particularly wonder what would be the relative frequency 
of use for all of the numerous non-alphabetic operators in Mathematica? 
-- that is, all the innumerable codings like  \.   \\.   \@   ->   &   @   
@@   @@@   \*   <<   %  and on.  Which of these are frequently used, 
which are very seldom used, by different classes of users?  (And which 
are most frequently misused or lead to errors when used?)

One might of course ask the same thing about many of the alphabetically 
named computational and display commands in Mathematica  (There are more 
than 1000 of these, is that not so?)

Seems like data like this could not only "improve the product" but 
provide some really useful guidance for what to focus on in the 
development of manuals, tutorials, and other documentation for new or 
less experienced users (assuming, of course, that Wolfram will ever 
again have any interest in providing this kind of documentation) (sorry, 
couldn't resist that jab).


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