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Re: Maintaining a Mathematica bug list

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  • Subject: [mg97524] Re: Maintaining a Mathematica bug list
  • From: Bill Rowe <readnews at>
  • Date: Sat, 14 Mar 2009 18:14:20 -0500 (EST)

On 3/14/09 at 5:34 AM, szhorvat at (Szabolcs Horv=C3=A1t) wrote:

>Presently the only way to learn about bugs is to follow MathGroup
>closely, but even when I remember that I've seen a bug (that might
>be relevant to me at the moment) mentioned a couple of months ago, I
>cannot always find the posts that described it.

Given Wolfram doesn't post bugs to Mathgroup, it is clear there
has to be another way to learn of bugs which is to experience
them yourself. The advantage of a bug list is that it (ideally)
provides a means to check whether some unexpected result you get
is a bug or not. But, without Wolfram's involvement I doubt this
ideal will be achieved with a third party bug list.

There are several issues. First, what criteria will be used to
determine a given result is a bug? A new user might see
Mathematica's failure to simplify Sqrt[x^2] to x as a bug.
Mathgroup is full of posts from less experienced users labeling
results as "bugs" more experience users know are expected and
are not bugs.

Assume for the moment all entries on the hypothetical bug list
are truly bugs. How will the list be organized and the bugs
cataloged? Given many functions in Mathematica are
interdependent, a single bug could impact more than one
function. Would there be a separate entry for each function
affected by the bug? And for a reported bug that is validated,
without the source code, how can anyone know if the bug is
limited to just the specific function reported? Similarly,
without the source code, how could you determine two separate
reports for differing functions are really separate
manifestations of the same bug?

My guess is without Wolfram's involvement, the bug list will
rapidly become a list of unexpected results rather than a true
bug list. As a consequence, this bug list will become no more
useful than Mathgroup with respect to finding information on bugs.

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