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The OP of this question is asking if https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/9639 could be reopened. I did not want to act unilaterally, so I want to ask the rest of you whether you think the question should be reopened. Plead your case for or against reopening that question here.


The intent with the poll answers seems to have been misunderstood, so: they're not supposed to be downvoted. It's a poll; vote up whichever of the two you agree with. Otherwise, this confounds the vote counting.

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  • @Noble, I don't know what the other mods might want to do, but I for one am not going to delete it. – J. M.'s technical difficulties Aug 21 '12 at 20:06
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    @NobleP.Abraham if you're new to Mathematica you may not know this, so it's worth pointing out that in many cases, if you don't like the way something works, you can just change it to suit your tastes. This particular feature is really trivial to implement, so in a very real sense the answer to "why isn't it implemented" is: "because you didn't implement it". I suspect that questions asking why someone else did or didn't do something that you can do yourself are not going to be seen as terribly productive by the community. On the other hand, "how" questions are usually well received. – Oleksandr R. Aug 22 '12 at 9:06
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I can speak for myself and why I voted to close. First, let me note that I voted to close as "Not a real question", as did 3 other voters. It just so happens that a mod's choice of close reason trumps that of others and hence it looks like we all voted to close as "Too localized". I do not think it fits the localized description, but I do agree with:

It is difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

I must, at this point, urge the OP to not read into the above sentences personally, but objectively as these are the system's stock descriptions for close votes.

Coming to the question, here are some observations:

  • the title asks "Why is WolframAlpha more intelligent than Mathematica?" while the body offers no reason as to why the choice of adding ==0 to whatever is specified is an "intelligent" option. As several commenters have observed, ==0 is a rather arbitrary choice and might make sense in a program like W|A, which needs to take into account the fact that the average user might not necessarily know how to state it mathematically or know W|A's syntax. However, in a programming language, such "interpretations of intent" will result in ambiguity and is often undesirable.

  • I felt acl's answer showed how one can, if they so desired, program rather loosely with Mathematica by getting W|A to interpret its input. But the OP dismissed it and insisted on knowing why Mathematica can't interpret itself, which wasn't what the question asked.

  • The confusion started when the OP started posting a series of comments and update to the question along the lines of "It is not about syntax or mathematical ability of the user", which made people wonder what it really was about then. There were some more comments on using Mathematica's intuition and guessing in debugging... It was also mentioned that the existing scheme provides an excellent way to debug by generating an error message and pointing to the docs.

  • Finally, after it was closed, the OP mentioned that they thought their question was correctly worded to mean "Is there an option?". Well yes, that was in the question, but given the title and the additional ambiguous comments, it wasn't clear if this really was the crux of the question.

It is very easy to ask "Why is X so?" or "Why is X not Y?" but it is harder to justify why the "Why..." question is important. This is the distinction between a question that arises from idle curiosity (often construed as a lazy question, placing the intellectual burden solely on the answerer) and one that has been given some thought and consideration with reasonable arguments (often construed as a good question that shares the intellectual burden, even if it is unequal). The latter is what makes a question's purpose clear and motivates an answer and makes it a good fit for this site.

Now in light of Daniel's comment, it looks like the OP is trying to reposition their intent as being focussed on the technical aspects/limitations/design considerations etc. of having such a "feature" in Mathematica. This is patently not the intent of the question, at least not of the one that has been asked, without having to resort to mind reading.

This brings us to the OP's choices (in my view):

  • Rephrase the question body and title to better reflect what exactly they're after (now that they have additional info). Perhaps gear it to the specific details so that DL could provide an authoritative answer (to the extent he can) on the implementation details.

  • Let this question run its course (eventual deletion sometime in the future) and ask a fresh question that asks for technical limitations and/or design considerations.

I would suggest the latter option.


At the end of the day, I don't think any of us (I certainly don't) rejoice in closing questions. However, it is necessary at times and things are always done with the community's goals and interests in mind. So given my views above, I would not vote to reopen the question as it stands. However if the OP were to follow the suggestions and rephrase their question, I would gladly vote to reopen.

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    +1 @Noble - Closing a question is not permanent. R.M. highlighted in the reason for closing "cannot be reasonably answered in its current form". This should be an incentive for you to edit it, so that it can be reopened. Like R.M. says you seem to have changed your mind a few times what the question actually was. My answer is to the question as in title. If you think we misunderstood, rephrase the question, be clear, and flag for moderation attention to reopen. For the time being I voted against reopening the question in its current form. – stevenvh Aug 21 '12 at 9:32
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    Even with the clarifications given, the question assumes that there's a well-defined reason why this is the way it is. It's like asking "why is the sigil for Map /@ rather than ¬*?". It's unlikely that every conceivable behaviour was enumerated and each one implemented or not based on its merits. Without proof that this was considered and then rejected, it's impossible to know whether the question has an answer or not. (And personal opinions can't be answers to the question as stated, because nobody's opinion defines reality as we find it.) As such, it's in clear NaRQ territory. +1. – Oleksandr R. Aug 21 '12 at 11:23
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    @Noble Just to clarify, if the comments move away from the question, the best thing to do is to edit the question to remove any ambiguity that was causing the comments to go astray and let the commenters know. Defending the existing question is not always the right way, because that just makes you come across as argumentative. Usually if one person misunderstands, you could justify defending and explaining it only to them. If several users are confused, then it is time to edit the question :) Daniel is the principal kernel developer at WRI, so I'd take his word on internals as canon. – rm -rf Aug 21 '12 at 15:01
  • @OleksandrR. While I mostly agree with it, I think that some questions on why X is the way it is do merit answers (even if the answer is "we didn't consider everything"). This is what I tried to convey with the paragraph on justifying why the "Why" is important or at least stimulate some interest in finding out why. Some old questions by Mr.Wizard on poor optimizations in PatternTest and MatchQ come to mind and there are several more on this site by others. Your map example is a good one that should be closed. – rm -rf Aug 21 '12 at 20:30
  • @R.M I agree that some "why" questions are useful, and will get good answers, particularly when someone can give information on internal implementation or if they stimulate discussion of alternative approaches. I even think that subjective answers or personal opinions can sometimes be appropriate. While the question was open, people tried to give constructive answers, but this OP is very clear that he isn't interested in hearing about what could or should be the case: rather, it's simply a matter of "yes or no, and if not, why not". If there isn't any reason, asking why is meaningless. – Oleksandr R. Aug 21 '12 at 23:07
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    @OleksandrR. Ok, I think we agree then. I too voted to close only after the OP's responses to the commenters and it became clear that they were willing to hear only what they wanted to hear. – rm -rf Aug 21 '12 at 23:27
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For those who'd rather vote than write an answer:

Vote this answer up if you think https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/9639 should not be reopened.

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  • Well ... I was the first who stepped in the double negative gap here ... I voted down :( – Dr. belisarius Aug 21 '12 at 5:22
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For those who'd rather vote than write an answer:

Vote this answer up if you think https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/9639 should be reopened.

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    I originally thought it was an OKish question, and the discussions that ensued provided some good reasons why Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha are and should be different. Most of you are old pro's, but perhaps new users might not appreciate how the two products interact and overlap, so there could be some value in the answers. But I doubt there's anything more to say that hasn't already been said. If closed questions get deleted, then I'd say open it for posterity's benefit. If they don't, then keep it closed... :) – cormullion Aug 21 '12 at 10:21
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    Sheesh, another downvote after my last note? It's a bloody poll... – J. M.'s technical difficulties Aug 21 '12 at 20:03
  • @J.M. Since this is effectively a binary choice, just ignore the downvotes if they confound the situation... – Oleksandr R. Aug 21 '12 at 23:20
  • @Olek, that's what I'm doing. It just irks me when people can't read. (The first two, that was my fault. The third one, however...) – J. M.'s technical difficulties Aug 21 '12 at 23:29
  • @J.M. I think in general, people should be asked to vote for/against an opinion rather than a blind yes/no (and write one if there isn't one). I would be in favour of the OP originating the question and arguing their case as to why it should be opened as the first answer. Others can dissent with their reasoning laid out or agree with the OP's points (or provide convincing arguments either way from a different angle). Right now, it is unclear why someone wants it reopened – Is it because they think the closure was unfair? Is it out of pity? Is it because the situation has changed?... – rm -rf Aug 21 '12 at 23:36
  • @R.M, I'm personally not too inclined towards opening the question myself, but I did want to let the OP and maybe whatever supporters he has plead their case (and if there's sufficient community backing, I must reopen, whether I like it or not). My intention for these polls was that people would say why they voted X in the comments. Anyway, the answer you posted was also fine (and I upvoted it); as you say, people who have something else to say can and should post their own answers. – J. M.'s technical difficulties Aug 21 '12 at 23:45
  • @J.M. Yes, my point was that by starting out with a yes/no option, people get lazy :) As you can see, people were voting up "do not open" without commenting or explaining why, leaving the OP clueless... – rm -rf Aug 21 '12 at 23:48
  • @R.M I guess people are simply saving the OP the work to read the same arguments over and over. – Dr. belisarius Aug 23 '12 at 17:20

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