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Maintaining a Mathematica bug list

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg97349] Maintaining a Mathematica bug list
  • From: Maris Ozols <marozols at gmail.com>
  • Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2009 04:25:58 -0500 (EST)

Hello,

Note: I moved the discussion on maintaining a Mathematica bug list to
a new thread.

While the number of Mathematica functions is growing exponentially,
the satisfaction among the users (especially those, who have been
using Mathematica for years) does not seem to increase too rapidly.
The old-fashioned way Mathematica users have to submit their bug
reports is incompatible with the futuristic Wolfram Alpha project.
Also the claim that Mathematica "delivers unprecedented reliability"
does not fit with the words such as "improvement" and "enhancement"
being used to describe the recent changes, instead of calling them
"bug-fixes" and documenting in a proper way. Such descriptions are
appropriate only for advertising a new version of laundry detergent,
not a programming language.

Honestly, I think that maintaining our own list of bugs would be an
act of desperation. I am not sure if that would have any impact on
WRI, but it would definitely make the life much easier for Mathematica
users. I do not have enough experience to set up such a thing (e.g.,
bug tracking system, Wiki, database, etc.). However, I believe that
there are users on this forum who have such an experience.

I would like to encourage Mathematica users to express their thoughts
regarding whether such a step is really necessary. I am certain that
WRI have enough resources to allocate for improving the communication
with the Mathematica user community. I think that it is just a
question of recognizing the problem and willing to solve it.
Mathematica is really a great tool and we all are willing to
contribute to make it even more better!

> Do you know of something like this that exists
> already for any other software product?

Surely, most of the open source projects nowadays have their own bug
tracking systems. However, it is not very common for users of
proprietary software to maintain their own bug lists. Here is one
example that I found on the web:

  The Delphi Bug List
  http://buglist.jrsoftware.org/

If you read this page, you can see that Delphi users had a very
similar experience as we do. It is not clear though whether they
succeeded or not. On their "What's New" page

  http://buglist.jrsoftware.org/whatsnew.htm

you can see that their bug list is no longer maintained, since Borland
has made available their own bug tracking system "QualityCentral".
However, the supplied link

  http://qc.borland.com/

does not respond. Another example of a user-maintained bug list is

  ColdFusion Bug Hunt
  http://www.cfbughunt.org/

There are more examples of companies that actively encourage feedback
from the user community. For example, Adobe, see

  Adobe Public Bug Database and Issue Reporting System
  http://bugs.adobe.com/

and

  Adobe Labs
  http://labs.adobe.com/about/

Even Microsoft welcomes user feedback:

  Microsoft Connect
  https://connect.microsoft.com/

~Maris Ozols~

P.S. Here are the two most ridiculous Mathematica bugs that I know of.

1. If you are using Mathematica 6, try to evaluate this number:

-1/Sqrt[(5-2Sqrt[2]-Sqrt[5-2Sqrt[2]])(5+2Sqrt[2]-Sqrt[5+2Sqrt[2]])/2]

Actually WRI guys are not that evil, since this is fixed in 7.0 (I
reported it on March 2007, though). I was very pleased when I found
that out. Thanks!

By the way, I don't know if that happened by an accident or not, but
their reply to my bug report contained two interesting links:

> Hello,
>
> Thank you for the email.
>
> see
>
> https://bugs.wolfram.com/show?number=54568
> and
> https://bugs.wolfram.com/show?number=76559

Unfortunately, bugs.wolfram.com is not working, so I believe it is an
internal system. So, WRI, please make it publicly available!
Mathematica users would really appreciate that!

2. Open the Documentation Center and press Ctrl+Enter or Ctrl+, in the
search bar at the top. I reported this for 6.0.3. Since 7.0 was
released very soon, probably they didn't have time to fix this for
7.0. So, I hope it has been fixed for 7.0.1, since it should be really
trivial to do this.

> One thing that Mathematica users could do is to set up a Wiki where
> they maintain their own list of known Mathematica bugs. Of course,
> this is really what WRI should do, not us. But, here are a few reasons
> why it might be an advantage for us to do so:
>
> * In this way Mathematica users would declare their position regarding
> the way Mathematica is being developed.
>
> * Individuals and organizations that are considering buying
> Mathematica would see that it actually contains lots of bugs and those
> bugs don't get fixed. That would discourage them from buying
> Mathematica and make WRI to rethink their strategy.
>
> * Mathematica users could check if their bugs are already known
> without wasting their time to submit the bug reports.
>
> * It would be easier to monitor which bugs get fixed and which don't.
>
> ~Maris Ozols~

> Hi. I think this is a wonderful idea and would be willing to volunteer
> time to help out. Do you know of something like this that exists
> already for any other software product? If anyone else thinks this
> would be of help please let your comments be known so the level of
> interest could be gauged. I too, agree that Wolfram should already
> have something like this, and would love to be able to look somewhere
> and see if the bug/problem I am experiencing has already been reported
> rather than waste time reporting something already known. Where would
> be a good place to locate something like this? GREAT IDEA!!!!
>
> -Bob

> Maris Ozols has made a practical suggestion, which SHOULD be discussed
> further about the possibility to really implement it.
>
> ADL


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