MathGroup Archive 2009

[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index]

Search the Archive

Re: Thoughts on a Wolfram|Alpha package

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg101974] Re: Thoughts on a Wolfram|Alpha package
  • From: David Reiss <dbreiss at>
  • Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2009 06:16:10 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <h41f31$rfv$> <>

I am really glad that I catalyzed this discussion.  Though I actually
had very little expectation that I would create a Wolfram|Alpha add-on
because of market concerns (one does have to at least break even--and
the time to create good Mathematica code, documentation, and so on for
public use is quite considerable--I estimate that I have spent 3000 to
4000 hours on  But as David Park
points out, the process of convincing potential users of the value of
such an investment of time is a serious challenge (even with the
minimum wage" value proposition argument).  And of course, this is the
stuff of the case history analyses that MBAs spend much of their time
on.  Marketing is a black art.  And moving an item up in a potential
customer's consciousness to the point where there's a perceived need
and sense of value for a product is also a black art.  And more so if
one takes an approach of honesty towards the advertising process.
Alas, WorkLife will not make back even a small portion of the dollar
value of the time I spent on it.  But it will continue to have great
value to me--and I learned quite a bit in creating it.  I may
eventually change its business model to shareware, just to move it out
into people's work flow.

As for the number of active Mathematica users--that number will never
be truly clear.  But, even if the number is in the order of a million
or more, one has to remember that many use it in a pointillistic way
to solve and explore narrowly focused problems that come up.  So the
sort of packages that David and I wrote are targeted towards the sort
of user that has the perception (or knowledge) that Mathematica can in
essence be one's technical operating system.

With regard to George's comment below about the compatibility of the
"two Davids'" packages with each  new Mathematica version, I think
that part of the reason is something that David Park mentioned: he
created the package for his own use and uses it every day.  This is
also true of my package: I created it so that I could use Mathematica
as my primary focus for essentially all of my work.  Since I use it
every day it, any incompatibilities with a Mathematica version (even
ones in beta) get immediately fixed.  My software quality assurance is
largely though my constant use of it, and also through customers'
problems which get fixed right away (or I send a work around).   So
the "Two Davids'" model of product development is one of active and
necessary personal use.

As for the documentation issue: it's considerable.  And in my case I
wrote (via reverse engineering) tools to create Documentation Center
documentation (I suspect that my package was the first one to have V6
compatible documents).  And that set of tools is--in basic form--
included in the package (the model here is that if it's useful to me I
get it to users as soon as possible).   But the model of WRI of only
including authoring tools in WorkBench is quite limiting to users.  So
I built it myself so that I could stay in Mathematica.

Finally on the Player vs PlayerPro dabate. I actually think that WRIs
model of this is the correct one.  Player allows people to create
active documents of a limited scope (in their activity). Player pro
supplies a low cost platform for the creation of Mathematica driven
applications.  In my case (in some of my consulting work) I have
created a number of sophisticated user interfaces that create inputs
to other non-Mathematica codes.  One is a CAD program, others are for
other simulation codes (written in FORTRAN!).  The legacy approach
that has been used for these is to prepare the parameters for the runs
in very complex ASCII files that are edited **by hand**.  These often
involve many dozens of parameters.  I create a user interface that
does this automatically and then the user run it under Player Pro.
Indeed this is generally for non-Mathematica users.  So, part of my
point here is that there are potential consulting business models that
can be based on Player Pro as a deployment platform.


On Jul 23, 3:56 am, George Woodrow III <george... at> wrote:
> I am very happy to read these comments.
> First, I have David Reiss's "A WorkLife Framework", not David Park's  
> "Presentations" package, at least not yet.
> I have noticed that both these add-ons are usually ready with updates  
> at the same time that new versions of Mathematica come out. My  
> negative comments were not directed at these apps.

  • Prev by Date: Re: Re: TransformationFunctions
  • Next by Date: Re: Read data from an existing file
  • Previous by thread: Re: Re: Thoughts on a Wolfram|Alpha package for
  • Next by thread: Re: Thoughts on a Wolfram|Alpha package