[SciPy-user] [SciPy-dev] Re: [Numpy-discussion] Purchasing Documentation
Fernando.Perez at colorado.edu
Thu Oct 6 15:26:03 CDT 2005
Travis Oliphant wrote:
> Yes, yes. Fernando knows me pretty well in that regard. I'll probably
> contribute to it with useful selections from the book (once I have the
> book finished). It really motivates me to produce more (of
> everything) when I see people actually purchasing the documentation.
To reiterate before my reputation is tarnished forever: the bet was with John,
who is the doughnuts-eating one. Being a man of taste, I eat bagels :) [and I
wasn't present when the bet was made]
With that critical point out of the way, on to minor details.
> It would be great if somebody could at least post the pydoc output for
> the core. That is a good start. I'll add basic C-API calls to free
> documentation and we'll be ready to go.
While I fully respect the opinion of those concerned about Travis' decision, I
have to say that I am personally not so worried. At scipy'05, when Travis
announced the book idea, I asked a very simple question: 'are the docstrings
complete?'. His answer was 'yes'.
There was a good reason for my asking this question: I personally find that
when coding, the most productive and efficient to learn a library is by typing
if I want to see the source (for python-implemented things).
I understand that some people prefer to read manuals/books, and there are
topics beyond the single-function API that are best discussed in a book
format. But given the instantaneous response of the above, I would rather use
this than wade through an index in most cases. In fact, I'd like docstrings
to provide (simple) examples in them, and one thing on my radar now that
ipython is growing GUI/XML legs is to add support for latex in docstrings.
I think that a library where all individual methods/functions have full,
accurate and example-loaded docstrings, and where class declarations and
top-level module docstrings provide the higher-level overview, is extremely
usable as is. Especially when you can also keep pydoc running in html server
mode (pydoc -p) to browse at your leisure, and trivially dump that HTML info
to disk for static reference if needed.
If this is done, I think that the space for a 'real book' is better defined,
providing less of a detail reference and more of a teaching coverage. I sense
that this is Travis' approach, and I personally have no beef with it
whatsoever. If he had deliberately stripped or crippled all docstrings from
new_scipy to artificially create a need for his book, that would be a
different story. But he certainly didn't do such a thing.
I do think that there's a lot of room for higher-level books on python for
scientific computing. Langtangen's is already out there, and Perry's
excellent tutorial is already free for all to use (while slightly focused on
astronomy, I find it a very useful document).
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the _library_ documentation can be
considered to be a (good) set of docstrings. As long as scipy ships with such
a thing (which can be improved with the easiest of all patches by users, since
no code is touched), I am not so worried that it will be perceived as lacking
Please note that I am not discussing the price/time constraints of his
licensing, which is strictly his choice to make.
Again, this is just my _personal_ opinion. And while I have great
appreciation for Travis, he's not paying me to say any of this :)
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