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Re: On the foundation of Mathematica, was Re: Foo /: Plus[b_Foo] := b

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  • Subject: [mg114634] Re: On the foundation of Mathematica, was Re: Foo /: Plus[b_Foo] := b
  • From: truxton spangler <truxtonspangler29 at>
  • Date: Sat, 11 Dec 2010 01:53:22 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <idqcv3$j1o$> <idskuo$6la$>

On Dec 10, 6:30 pm, kj <no.em... at> wrote:
> In <idqcv3$j1... at> "Nasser M. Abbasi" <n... at> writes=
> >On 12/8/2010 3:40 AM, Andrzej Kozlowski wrote:
> >> The behaviour of these attributes is certainly not fully documented an=
> >>  probably will never be. Why? I guess it is because it belongs to th=
e very
> >>  foundations of the Mathematica language and I think there is nobody=
> >>  at Wolfram who still thinks about such issues but this is, of cours=
> >>  just a guess. I think Allan's explanation will always remain as clo=
se as
> >>  anyone will ever come to explaining this matter.
> >I was amazed to read the above.  Isn't the above scary to know?
> I interpreted Andrzej's remark to mean "anyone outside the confines
> of WRI".  It strikes me as highly unlikely that the matter is not
> very well understood internally at WRI, even if it is not a area
> in which they are actively working on right now.
> >You say somethings that "belongs to the very foundations of the
> >Mathematica language", yet at the same time you say "not fully
> >documented".
> >In other languages, there is always an "official Language reference
> >manual" that would contain in it _everything_ about the language.
> The important thing to know is that this omission is not an isolated
> error, but rather a matter of policy.  The entire Mathematica
> documentation is an exercise in revealing the bare minimum that
> they feel they can get away with.  WRI has always flouted the
> standards of documentation you allude to.
> This policy has long been inexplicable to me, to put it mildly.
> I hope that some day someone with first-hand knowledge of what this
> official policy is will divulge it to the world (WikiLeaks, anyone?).
> If that ever happens, I'd be surprised if it didn't turn out to be
> a huge embarrassment for WRI.  It's hard for me to imagine any
> plausible defense for the grossly incomplete documentation that
> WRI churns out, I don't care how pretty it looks.
> In the meantime, WRI staff find it funny that their customers waste
> hours figuring out bugs caused by undocumented details such as this
> one.  Ha-ha.  Hil-a-rious.
> ~kj

I think the documentation on the whole is pretty good compared to
other software I use. Having said that the documentation should be
graded absolutely not relatively. Who cares how other software is
documented. Some documentation of new functionality in version 8 seems
to have been done very well (I'm thinking of the new statistics and
probability functions) but elsewhere there has always been large
chunks of stuff that is poorly or incompletely documented. It would be
nice for complete documentation to be a goal for version 9, i.e.
document every option, attribute etc. with usage examples. Are
mathematica users giving enough feedback when they beta test to help
documenters make relevant usage examples? Possibly/probably not. Do
the documenters ever talk to their tech support people to find out
what users are having problems with? I doubt it, or at least there
doesn't seem to be any evidence of it. Do documenters get given enough
time to do this? So I'd grade the documentation as better than most
but in need of improvement -- just to save users from wasting so much

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