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Re: Stephen Wolfram's recent blog

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  • Subject: [mg129833] Re: Stephen Wolfram's recent blog
  • From: JUN <noeckel at gmail.com>
  • Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2013 04:11:14 -0500 (EST)
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On Friday, February 15, 2013 10:08:24 PM UTC-8, djmpark wrote:
> Still it would be nice to know: What is the purpose of releasing a "Core"
> 
> Mathematica language; who is going to use it and what are they going to use
> 
> it for?
> 
> 
> 
> My worry is that this is another project dug up from the "to do" list that
> 
> will divert WRI from what, to me at least, seem like much more urgent tasks.
> 
> I thought "a system for doing mathematics by computer" was a nice slogan,
> 
> and I thought Theodore Gray's design of the notebook Front End was the right
> 
> thing. All this led to the impression, which I'm sure WRI meant to give,
> 
> that Mathematica was a medium for writing active, literate technical
> 
> documents. (Rather than being just a graphical calculator or a programming
> 
> input sheet where results are copied out and used elsewhere.)
> 
> 
> 
> However, to say that one can write literate technical documents with
> 
> Mathematica is one thing, actually doing it is another. There are design
> 
> aspects of Mathematica that are so awful and difficult that they turn
> 
> Mathematica into a something of a kludge. I would guess that only a very
> 
> small percentage of users use Mathematica as both a writing and calculating
> 
> system - a shame because most people will do better work if they write about
> 
> what they are trying to do, so they could refer to the work sometime later
> 
> when they may have forgotten some of the ideas and objectives, or
> 
> communicate it to someone else to obtain help.
> 
> 
> 
> The user interface to Mathematica, in the sense of the types of commands
> 
> available to the user, could be greatly improved. To say that in Mathematica
> 
> "everything is an expression" is a bit like Andrzej's "Anything that is
> 
> spoken by people in England is English by definition." (What about the guy
> 
> who spoke English to his wife, French to his mistress, and German to his
> 
> horse?) It would mean something if "Expressions" were composed of intuitive
> 
> sematic units that could be combined in natural ways. Or if this carried
> 
> through to lower semantic units. This is quite often not the case.
> 
> 
> 
> For example in graphics it would be nice if "everything was a graphics
> 
> primitive" and one just drew one thing after another. So axes, frames, and
> 
> various labels might be something you drew instead of using Options. But,
> 
> instead, graphics consists of a large collection of special-purpose plot
> 
> types that are confusing and illogical in methods to combine or modify them.
> 
> Generally a large set of Options is used to modify them or add elements.
> 
> 
> 
> Or take the matter of specifying custom tables. Tables are specified by a
> 
> Grid for the content and everything else is specified through Options.
> 
> (Options have their uses but Mathematica is getting to be more and more
> 
> programming by Options. And Option names are getting to be more and more
> 
> Strings. And it's not always easy to get a list of them or what to do. So
> 
> maybe the new language could be called Options?) And the Grid Options seemed
> 
> to be tuned to producing striped or plaid tables. Most custom tables won't
> 
> look like that. Never mind, WRI sort of provided a way and it's up to you to
> 
> figure it out. I wonder how many users design nice custom tables as part of
> 
> their documents? I provided a TableMaker facility in Presentations that
> 
> let's one make a table more like one would draw a graphic. But there is a
> 
> Grid bug such that one can't adjust the size of a row if the row contains
> 
> any spanned elements. That was there in Mathematica 6  and they were aware
> 
> of it, and the bug still there in Mathematica 9. 
> 
> 
> 
> Or take the matter of writing extended Applications, which more people
> 
> should do. Documentation depends on Workbench and Workbench has never been a
> 
> finished program. There are lots of little inside tricks you have to know,
> 
> and warnings you should ignore. You can't do things like write a Tutorial in
> 
> your own style sheet and have linking done. There is no facility for
> 
> developers to include a template menu. It's not exactly intuitive at all. 
> 
> 
> 
> All the doo-dads are to me a nuisance. The one thing I liked was the Ctrl+K
> 
> (which I could type faster than you can say Jack Rabbit) command completion.
> 
> But now Ctrl+K is gone and what replaces it is ill-conceived and horrible.
> 
> 
> 
> So, please get back to the original concept, polish it and complete it,
> 
> Stephen.
> 

Thanks for the clear words which I think are spot-on. Some may (or will?) call it a rant, and will get defensive about the existing idiosyncrasies, but I think you point to a list of concrete improvements that should be taken very seriously.



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