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Re: [Axiom-developer] Documentation

From: Mike Dewar
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] Documentation
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 13:16:50 +0100

I suspect that one of the reasons why Springer didn't pursue the project
was that the machinery was too specific to generalise easily to other
books.  There is an economic problem in that the normal "production cost"
of a textbook is low - if you assume that its based on existing academic
lecture notes - and so the break-even point is low.  This is
particularly important in Europe where we have very little in the way of
a common University syllabus for mathematics and so the target audience
for a textbook may be quite small.  Adding interactivity pushes the
price up very substantially.

That being said, for a number of years I've been working with Arjeh
Cohen and his group at Eindhoven who have an interactive textbook,
published by Springer, called "Algebra Interactive!" which is "powered"
by a mixture of Java applets and GAP for heavy algebra.  Its about to go
into its second edition and the communication with the "algebra engine"
will be based on OpenMath, so in theory you ought to be able to plug
other engines in.  I'm sure that they'd be interested in looking at
using OpenAxiom once its reasonably stable, and they might well have
some technology you'd like to adopt.

I'm also aware of some commercial activities in this area but I'm not
sure whether they are public knowledge or not.  In any case its a field
which attracts plenty of interest and I'm sure that a free Axiom would
appeal to authors and publishers alike.

Cheers, Mike.

On Wed, Jun 25, 2003 at 07:24:11AM -0400, Tim Daly wrote:
> > I believe that the textbook was an interactive version of Bill Jacob's
> > "Linear Functions and Matrix Theory" book, and it certainly wasn't ever
> > published.  You would need a lot of code (including the stuff from
> > TechExplorer that IBM wouldn't let us distribute) to maike it work.  I
> > saw it demo'd a few times and while a bit flaky (these were early
> > versions) it was pretty nice.  
> > 
> > Mike.
> > 
> > On Tue, Jun 24, 2003 at 08:26:56PM -0400, Tim Daly wrote:
> > > Bertfried,
> > > 
> > > The only name I have is Rudiger Gebauer. He apparently was the contact
> > > with IBM while they developed the interactive textbook based on Axiom.
> > > As far I my IBM contacts are aware it was never published. It would
> > > be useful to either open-source the technology or the whole book
> > > with the technology. Perhaps we can work with them to make it
> > > available again.
> I'm trying to think thru the issue involved in making Axiom open source.
> The key issue, at least in my mind, is to try to communicate from the
> designers (of algebra, of boot code, of system facilities, etc) in this
> generation to the users/maintainers/developers of the next generation.
> IBM and NAG had the luxury of devoting people to the system over many
> years so we tended not to write things down or require extensive docs
> on the algebra code. As the complexity rises it gets harder to extend.
> On the user documentation issue I've been scratching at ideas for how
> to bring the pamphlet file structure to the "next level". Ideally you
> could download a pamphlet file, "drag and drop" it onto a running Axiom,
> automatically fetch any algebra pamphlets (recursively) from the references
> section and have all of the parts updated (e.g. the databases, the docs).
> Along the way to this idea comes the struggle with user-level documentation.
> I'd like to see new algebra added (say as an additional chapter) to an
> Axiom textbook automatically. That way the user could find examples and
> explanations in "the textbook".
> Well, I know that IBM did a lot of work on the textbook subject and
> (a) I'd hate to see it die, (b) I'd hope to steal, ummm, build upon
> the work already done, (c) see how much of the ideas and machinery
> can be reused, and (d) lead the way to a more dynamic form of
> publishing the docs (which perhaps we could convince Springer was
> worthwhile to use as an electronic form of books).
> If I can get the machinery in place then the whole level of Axiom goes
> up a step and it is easier (and harder) to extend, maintain, and change.
> Tim
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