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[Octave-bug-tracker] [bug #35157] Naive users baffled by "complex scalar

From: Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso
Subject: [Octave-bug-tracker] [bug #35157] Naive users baffled by "complex scalar type invalid as index value"
Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2011 08:16:35 +0000
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv: Gecko/20110109 Jungledinosaur/3.6.13

Follow-up Comment #4, bug #35157 (project octave):

I'm not adverse to making Octave more accessible. It's just that I don't think
this change does that. I don't see any evidence in the four that you posted
that the people tried to understand the error message. For a lot of people,
error messages are invisible and meaningless gibberish, regardless of what you
write there. This is evident by how frequently we have to ask "what's the
error message?" when people say "Octave crashes, help" or "something is wrong,
help". People are so used to not understanding some or most error messages
that they learn to ignore all of them, unless they are blindingly bad
(everyone in the class jumped when "division by zero" was mentioned by the
fminunc code).

In the four examples you posted, the people seemed to have stopped reading as
soon as they faced an error message and made no visible attempt to understand
it. I don't think the mention of complex numbers confused them any further. It
simply happened to be a common error people encountered in this class, but I
don't think the wording of the error is bad.

The most useful error message could be "default uninitialised non-real value
of `i' used as an index value", or something like that which explicitly says
that i was uninitialised and used as an index. However, it would require some
hacks in the parser to recognise the a(i) and a(j) indexing forms and throw an
error about them. It would require a more thorough patch than just finding the
current error message and rewording it.


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