[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

RE: [Axiom-developer] Knuth's literate style

From: Bill Page
Subject: RE: [Axiom-developer] Knuth's literate style
Date: Mon, 14 May 2007 18:03:52 -0400

On May 14, 2007 3:55 PM Martin Rubey wrote:
> Bill Page writes:
> > I agree with all that but I think it is relevant to point 
> > out that TeX has not really survived the development of
> > the World Wide Web - 
> ... 
> That may well be, but note that in the mathematical world, 
> there is *only* LaTeX, or among more conservative people,
> TeX or AmsTeX.

Of course this actually has very little to do with literate

But yes, of course I agree with you. However there are also
a lot of mathematicians involved in the MathML and OpenMath
projects which both involve defining XML name spaces for
mathematics. There seems to be a strong desire - at least on
their part - to replace the current "hacks" that allow one to
produce mathematical documents and computer algebra system
output for the web from LaTeX as a source or as an intermediate
language, which is what we do right now on the Axiom wiki.

But my point in mentioning this is not TeX versus HTML.  TeX
is the basis for the Axiom hyperdoc browser and it was also
the basis for the Techexplorer browser which was part of NAG's
commercial release of Axiom for Windows:

(Unfortunately techexplorer was never released as open source.)

What I was thinking was that in spite of Knuth's extensive and
detailed literate documentation of TeX and even it's fairly wide
spread use, Tex was not the mark-up language used in the prototype
implementation of the WWW, so it is not (normally) the language
we use today to write documents for the web. So just documenting
Axiom may not be such a big factor in it's longevity. There are a
lot of other factors, including some over which we have no control,
that may determine whether Axiom lives another 30 years or whether
future computer algebra developers will be writing in Python.

> For example, the arXiv accepts other formats then TeX only 
> very reluctantly. All the large (math-) publishers use TeX
> for typesetting.  I have not yet been to any conference which
> would accept something other than LaTeX source.

You might be surprised how many people I work with who want so
badly to write their scientific and technical documents in
Microsoft WORD. I would say that the number of authors who are
LaTeX users in our environment is currently less than 50% and
it is falling. :-(

> Even wikipedia uses LaTeX style mark-up for math related
> entries.

Yes! The fact that wikipedia is a wiki makes this a very logical
choice, just as it was for us in the Axiom wiki.

> .. 
> Since we are dealing with math, I guess there is no way 
> around LaTeX for us.

I agree fully.

> Just keep in mind that, at least in the long run, our target 
> audience are mostly mathematicians, and those will also be
> our main contributors.  They all know LaTeX, and I think that
> using some other mark-up language instead will unnecessarily
> make the entry barrier higher.

I agree fully.

> Finally, I'd like to state that more important than talking 
> about literate programming is providing documentation, or,
> if you like, literate programming. I think it's quite sad
> that so little documentation has been provided to the
> algebra sources yet.

Yes I agree. We should discuss why this is the case.

Surely one reason is that analyzing an existing program is still
much more difficult than writing a new program. Witness for
example how happily SymPy and Sage developers are to re-write
existing code in their own favourite language.

Another is the issue of "ownership". People are often very
reluctant to change something someone else has written - even
when invited explicitly to do so.

> I think, one especially worthwhile project would be the
> integration world.  Another one, maybe a lower hanging fruit, 
> the factorization routines.  There are excellent sources on
> the web (especially wikipedia), and certainly documenting the
> factorization setup (especially the design of the categories)
> will ease cleaning up those terrible bugs.

How can we make doing this attractive to other people? (This
is especially biting since neither you nor I have done much
in this area - although your guess package for Axiom does
provide a good example for newly written code.)

How will they obtain appropriate "credit" and peer recognition
for this work? What other motivation can we offer them?

Bill Page.

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]