Discussion:
some sage download numbers; estimating the number of Sage users
William Stein
2008-03-08 17:38:42 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

This email is about recent Sage download stats, and ends with an estimate
that there are currently perhaps about 5000 Sage users.

Here are the download numbers for Sage during the last 6 days from the three
sites (sagemath.org, sage.math, and modular.fas.harvard.edu) that I administer:

Linux Binary
26
OS X Binary
12
Source
85
VMware
78

TOTAL: 201 downloads


UPGRADES:
Here are the number of "sage -upgrades" during each of the last few weeks:

This last week: 135
Previous weeks: 337, 302, 163, 349, 307, 228, 338, 375, 336, 388, 355,
348, 398, 297, 363

CONCLUSIONS:

1. There are probably 100 downloads/week from all the other 4 mirror
sites combined (probably
a conservative estimate?), so that's about 300*4 = 1200 downloads per month.

2. There are also about 1200 upgrades per month.

3. Adding 1 and 2 we get about 2400 times Sage is installed or
upgraded per month.

4. In my experience with both research mathematicians and students (and my own
personal experience), people do not upgrade regularly unless forced to
or actively
working as developers on projects. Upgrading can break things they are doing,
and that can screw up their workflow, so they put it off until they
have some free
time (e.g., spring break, finals are over, whatever). Such free time
occurs maybe
once every 2 months on average. If n people use Sage and
upgrade/install once every
2 months on average, and there are 2400 upgrade/installs per month, then
there are probably about 2*2400 ~ 5000 sage users.

If anybody else has ideas about estimating the number of Sage users, please feel
free to share them.

---

If the above measure of number of users seems at all reasonable to people who
are much better at this sort of thing (statisticians? marketing droids?) then
we could use them as input to a 2008 goal to raise the number of Sage users
(as defined by a metric as above) to 10,000.

By the way, Maple, Mathematica, and Matlab all claim to have in excess of
1,000,000 regular users... That is definitely the size of use base
Sage aspires to
eventually have.

Estimate of number of Sage users by year:

Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)


Judging by my estimates for Maxima and other open source math software projects,
I think getting over 10,000 serious users for an open source math
project is already
a quite difficult thing to achieve, since it starts taking one outside
the realm of niche
market. Sage has definitely not achieved this (yet).
Going from 10,000 to 25,000 will be quite difficult as well. Going from 25,000
to 100,000 will be crazy hard since by then Mathematica/Maple/Matlab
etc. will have
taken serious notice and start fighting back (hopefully by innovating,
e.g., by geatly
improving their exact linear algebra, group theory, etc. functionality).
And also the range of people one
has appeal to is much larger. On the other hand, 25,000 people will be telling
their friends....

Going from 100,000 to 1 million users would be quite interesting.
There are massive
infrastructure and support issues, and the user base is the same as
Mathematica.
That means the daily traffic to sagemath.org could be about the same as during
the slashdotting, i.e., completely unsustainable without a lot of
reorganization. That
means there would be substantial demand for seminars and training
courses and other
forms of support. There's no way this will work unless we organize some sort
of international network of local people to help out with such
activities for Sage.
This is also the point where Sage would genuinely have reached the goal of
providing a "viable alternative to Maple, Magma, Mathematica, and Matlab" for
almost anybody.

Without a lot of hard work and effort by us, though, the user
base could easily shrink into the low hundreds again, so let's keep
working very very very hard.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washington
http://wstein.org

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Harald Schilly
2008-03-08 19:40:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
If the above measure of number of users seems at all reasonable to people who
are much better at this sort of thing ....
I know the same question bother openoffice.org and firefox - they have
download stats, are included in linux distributions and there are
separate win downloads and silent rollouts inside cooperation.
For OOo and FF, i think the best estimations finally come from the
update checker. Once a week (or less often if not started, disabled in
linux distributions) it retrieves the newest version number from the www.
This could be done by sage, too. On the console it tells the user if
there is an update available or prints out a status message on the top
of the notebook. It should be able to disable it. To also count
numbers behind firewalls (where many computers appear as a single IP)
an anonymous uuid could be generated by sage and attached to the
requested site with the version number. On the server side, access is
logged and evaluated.

But i don't know how important this is. More important is the growth
rate, therefore download numbers and page hits are a good enough
indicator, and most important market share. In the end only the market
share counts...

Something about OOo Market Share: http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Market_Share_Analysis

more reading, link points to the usage goals, but the whole page is
interesting:

http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Strategic_Marketing_Plan#Marketing_Objectives

sooner or later also sage will have to deal with some of those
"boring" questions to make clear in what direction it moves.
Post by William Stein
Going from 100,000 to 1 million users would be quite interesting.
There are massive
infrastructure and support issues, ... the daily traffic to sagemath.org
Yes, until then there are hopefully nice (free) services for open
source products to handle traffic on a global scale. There has to be
support in all kinds of languages (application itself, mailing lists,
forums) and material for universities to learn how to deploy and teach
sage (for a multiplication effect)

But for the near future, i hope the growing rate continues steadily
and new mathematica features like an interactive notebook in a
webbrowser doesn't turn users away.

h
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Martin Albrecht
2008-03-09 16:13:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Hi,

I wonder what the status of this goals is. Is it something we all should
strive for? I guess at the end of the day we all have our own agendas because
Sage is a volunteer driven project but still I am unsure what these goals
mean. To be more specific, I am not sure that I'd aim for 10^6 Sage users. As
William pointed out already this would mean a lot of maintenance and
infrastructure work. Also, I doubt that there are 10^6 mathematicians out
there in need of a mathematics software for their research so I figure by
seriously(!) aiming for way more users than research mathematicians Sage's
slogan would need to drop the "viable alternative MAGMA". You don't get 10^6
users with a sophisticated modell of p-Adics but you might get them with
flashy graphics. Sure we can do both but this is not represented in these
goal figures. Or in other words: I am willing to sacrifice this massive
growth for "critical peer acclaim". If we'd really aim for
maximum "marketshare" we might miss the point where we could have created a
viable open-source alternative to Magma a major contribution to the
mathematical sciences. In my book research papers citing Sage are a much
better benchmark.

To avoid misunderstandings: I am not against 10^6 users, it is just not my
goal.

Thoughts?

From the ivory tower ;-)
Martin
--
name: Martin Albrecht
_pgp: http://pgp.mit.edu:11371/pks/lookup?op=get&search=0x8EF0DC99
_www: http://www.informatik.uni-bremen.de/~malb
_jab: ***@jabber.ccc.de


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mhampton
2008-03-09 16:31:00 UTC
Permalink
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.

One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.

It would be interesting to pick some math departments at random and
see what fraction of faculty had heard of sage.

-M. Hampton
Post by Martin Albrecht
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Hi,
I wonder what the status of this goals is. Is it something we all should
strive for? I guess at the end of the day we all have our own agendas because
Sage is a volunteer driven project but still I am unsure what these goals
mean. To be more specific, I am not sure that I'd aim for 10^6 Sage users. As
William pointed out already this would mean a lot of maintenance and
infrastructure work. Also, I doubt that there are 10^6 mathematicians out
there in need of a mathematics software for their research so I figure by
seriously(!) aiming for way more users than research mathematicians Sage's
slogan would need to drop the "viable alternative MAGMA". You don't get 10^6
users with a sophisticated modell of p-Adics but you might get them with
flashy graphics. Sure we can do both but this is not represented in these
goal figures. Or in other words: I am willing to sacrifice this massive
growth for "critical peer acclaim". If we'd really aim for
maximum "marketshare" we might miss the point where we could have created a
viable open-source alternative to Magma a major contribution to the
mathematical sciences. In my book research papers citing Sage are a much
better benchmark.
To avoid misunderstandings: I am not against 10^6 users, it is just not my
goal.
Thoughts?
From the ivory tower ;-)
Martin
--
name: Martin Albrecht
_pgp:http://pgp.mit.edu:11371/pks/lookup?op=get&search=0x8EF0DC99
_www:http://www.informatik.uni-bremen.de/~malb
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William Stein
2008-03-09 16:38:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
Post by mhampton
One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.
Students would definitely count.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washington
http://wstein.org

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Chris Chiasson
2008-03-09 22:55:18 UTC
Permalink
My guess is that the 2 million users estimate is inflated by students
who do not really learn these systems. When I was in undergraduate
school, most people barely scratched the surface of Mathematica.
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
Post by mhampton
One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.
Students would definitely count.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washingtonhttp://wstein.org
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William Stein
2008-03-09 23:06:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Chris Chiasson
My guess is that the 2 million users estimate is inflated by students
who do not really learn these systems. When I was in undergraduate
school, most people barely scratched the surface of Mathematica.
Well I hope Sage also has some inflated numbers by users who use
it as students by barely scratch the surface too... but then get hooked,
since Sage is (or will hopefully someday be) better than Mathematica.

In any case, Mathematica and Matlab have to have a lot of paying
customers, and here's
an argument to convince you of this.

According to their websites, Mathematica has about 600 full time
employees (maybe more),
and Matlab has over 1,500. If an employee costs $100K/per year on
average, say including
their office, etc. (that is an extremely conservative estimate), then
Mathematica has to take
in at least 60 million/year in revenue, and Matlab at least 150
million/year. With academic
discounts and site licenses, a copy of Matlab or Mathematica probably
costs on average
something like $50/year (at UW it costs $100/year for Matlab, and the
program self destructs
after one year). Thus to get 60 million/year in revenue, Mathematica
would have to sell
1.2 million licenses per year. Likewise, to get 150 million/year in
revenue, Matlab would
have to sell 3 million licenses per year (they sell less, since they
definitely charge more
than $50/year on average).

The website of Matlab says they have "over a million users" and I
believe they have
"over a million paying customers".

-- William
Post by Chris Chiasson
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
Post by mhampton
One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.
Students would definitely count.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washingtonhttp://wstein.org
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washington
http://wstein.org

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Chris Chiasson
2008-03-09 22:56:57 UTC
Permalink
I like to compare the Sage's Google Groups activity to Mathematica's.
Recently there was a big jump in MMA's, but Sage was kicking butt for
a while there.
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
Post by mhampton
One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.
Students would definitely count.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washingtonhttp://wstein.org
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Chris Chiasson
2008-03-09 23:09:35 UTC
Permalink
the full traffic history of the sage cse:

Loading Image...

4074 is the total number of queries in the life of the custom search
engine
Post by Chris Chiasson
I like to compare the Sage's Google Groups activity to Mathematica's.
Recently there was a big jump in MMA's, but Sage was kicking butt for
a while there.
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
Post by mhampton
One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.
Students would definitely count.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washingtonhttp://wstein.org
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Chris Chiasson
2008-03-09 23:22:27 UTC
Permalink
I forgot to mention, the vertical axis is the number of queries per
day. I think the spike is from when sage was featured on slashdot.
http://chris.chiasson.googlepages.com/2008-03-09SAGESearchEngineStats...
4074 is the total number of queries in the life of the custom search
engine
Post by Chris Chiasson
I like to compare the Sage's Google Groups activity to Mathematica's.
Recently there was a big jump in MMA's, but Sage was kicking butt for
a while there.
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
Post by mhampton
One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.
Students would definitely count.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washingtonhttp://wstein.org
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Chris Chiasson
2008-03-09 23:14:27 UTC
Permalink
One other thing that I think is relevant in a situation like this:
software like Mathematica will have a major economic damping factor
applied to its growth, so that after it reaches a large number of
users, it will effectively saturate its market (since others can't pay
for it)

sage will be limited by the cost of the goods that are necessary to
use it - i.e. a computer with a web browser, people with enough free
time and patience to use it, etc
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have, although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
Post by mhampton
One of my hopes/goals for Sage is to make every mathematics researcher
and educator aware of its existence, and for it to be useful to a
large fraction of those folks. Accomplishing that would result in
roughly 10,000 "users", but many of those users would be deploying it
in classes with many students each semester. If you count the
students as users, that would give about 10^5 users.
Students would definitely count.
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washingtonhttp://wstein.org
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Robert Bradshaw
2008-03-10 17:41:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have,
although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable
alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
I agree that 10^6 one good measure of success for our stated goal. If
we claim Sage is a viable alternative and we don't manage to come up
with this many users (transient students and not) than we are just
fooling ourselves--I think the fact that Sage is gratuit will be more
important to the last 9e5 users than the first 1e5 and if people
still want to shell out $1000 the majority of the time we're missing
something (even if it's just marketing/mindshare).

There will almost certainly have to be major changes to the way Sage
is developed, managed, and distributed to reach that goal. Then again
the way Sage was operated 2 years ago could have never kept up with
the pace of development and number of users we have today, so I'm not
worried.

- Robert


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Chris Chiasson
2008-03-11 01:51:13 UTC
Permalink
Another way to look at it:

Sage's page rank for sagemath.org is 6/10

Mathematica's page rank for wolfram.com is 8/10

Matlab's page rank for mathworks.com is 8/10

MathCad's page rank for mathcad.com is 7/10

of course, the scale isn't linear

higher rank helps a lot because it bubbles pages on sagemath higher in
the results (at least when the words on the results page match the
user queries) - so just moving up to 7 should greatly increase sage's
traffic & downloads
Post by Robert Bradshaw
Post by William Stein
Post by mhampton
I agree; I'm not sure 10^6 users is a useful goal to have,
although I
am not against it.
Again, the goal is not 10^6 users, it is "to be a viable
alternative to
Maple, Mathematica, Matlab, and Magma". Any free program that
genuinely attains that goal would *have* to have 10^6 users within
some reasonable amount of time. Thus I consider the 10^6 business
not a goal in itself, but a clear way to measure whether we have achieved
success or not.
I agree that 10^6 one good measure of success for our stated goal. If
we claim Sage is a viable alternative and we don't manage to come up
with this many users (transient students and not) than we are just
fooling ourselves--I think the fact that Sage is gratuit will be more
important to the last 9e5 users than the first 1e5 and if people
still want to shell out $1000 the majority of the time we're missing
something (even if it's just marketing/mindshare).
There will almost certainly have to be major changes to the way Sage
is developed, managed, and distributed to reach that goal. Then again
the way Sage was operated 2 years ago could have never kept up with
the pace of development and number of users we have today, so I'm not
worried.
- Robert
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William Stein
2008-03-09 16:35:29 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 8:13 AM, Martin Albrecht
Post by Martin Albrecht
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Hi,
I wonder what the status of this goals is. Is it something we all should
strive for? I guess at the end of the day we all have our own agendas because
Sage is a volunteer driven project but still I am unsure what these goals
mean. To be more specific, I am not sure that I'd aim for 10^6 Sage users.
Just to clarify, the mission statement of the Sage project is:

"be a viable alternative to Maple, Mathematica, Magma, and Matlab (ASAP)".

Since those systems (except Magma) all *do* have over a million users, and
all of those systems costs > $1000, I think it is highly unlikely that we can
genuinely say that we have really achieved the above goal if Sage doesn't also
have a million users.

To reiterate, the goal is certainly *not* to have a million users.
It's the goal
listed above. One measure of whether Sage has truly succeeded at
that extremely difficult goal is the number of users. I'm not
screwing around;
I really want to achieve the goal in quotes above -- the issue is just that it
is quite vague, so it is useful to have some concrete measures of what it
means.
Post by Martin Albrecht
As
William pointed out already this would mean a lot of maintenance and
infrastructure work. Also, I doubt that there are 10^6 mathematicians out
there in need of a mathematics software for their research
Sage is not just aimed at research mathematicians.
Post by Martin Albrecht
so I figure by
seriously(!) aiming for way more users than research mathematicians Sage's
slogan would need to drop the "viable alternative MAGMA".
Huh? Why??? That just doesn't make any sense.
Post by Martin Albrecht
You don't get 10^6
users with a sophisticated modell of p-Adics but you might get them with
flashy graphics. Sure we can do both but this is not represented in these
goal figures. Or in other words: I am willing to sacrifice this massive
growth for "critical peer acclaim". If we'd really aim for
maximum "marketshare" we might miss the point where we could have created a
viable open-source alternative to Magma a major contribution to the
mathematical sciences. In my book research papers citing Sage are a much
better benchmark.
Your goal is to create a viable open source alternative to Magma, and if
that were achieved you would have succeeded. That's a reasonable goal,
but it's not the goal of the Sage project, which is to be a viable alternative
to Maple, Magma, Matlab, and Mathematica.
Post by Martin Albrecht
To avoid misunderstandings: I am not against 10^6 users, it is just not my
goal.
Thoughts?
Your goal is not the same the as the goal of the Sage project; it's
only 1/4th of the goal.
Post by Martin Albrecht
From the ivory tower ;-)
Indeed -- ivory tower :-).
For a number of different reasons, the more modest goal of just
being a viable alternative to Magma is actually harder long term than
the goal of being a viable alternative to all four systems. I would have to
write a lot to explain this, and I can't write now since I just got up and
I'm hungry. Anyway, here's a quick analogy though.
Imagine if Firefox were an extremely good web browser but it *only* worked
for browsing web sites about mathematics. I probably wouldn't use
it, and I seriously doubt Google would be giving Mozilla $50million
(or whatever)
a year to develop it.

There is an old quote here from Dec 2005 in which
Richard Fateman declares Sage "essentially doomed":

http://sagemath.org/misc/fateman_on_sage.txt

It suddenly seems kind of relevant.
--
Post by Martin Albrecht
--
name: Martin Albrecht
_pgp: http://pgp.mit.edu:11371/pks/lookup?op=get&search=0x8EF0DC99
_www: http://www.informatik.uni-bremen.de/~malb
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washington
http://wstein.org

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William Stein
2008-03-18 01:12:46 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 9:13 AM, Martin Albrecht
Post by Martin Albrecht
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Hi,
I wonder what the status of this goals is. Is it something we all should
strive for? I guess at the end of the day we all have our own agendas because
Sage is a volunteer driven project but still I am unsure what these goals
mean. To be more specific, I am not sure that I'd aim for 10^6 Sage users. As
William pointed out already this would mean a lot of maintenance and
infrastructure work. Also, I doubt that there are 10^6 mathematicians out
there in need of a mathematics software for their research so I figure by
seriously(!) aiming for way more users than research mathematicians Sage's
slogan would need to drop the "viable alternative MAGMA". You don't get 10^6
users with a sophisticated modell of p-Adics but you might get them with
flashy graphics. Sure we can do both but this is not represented in these
goal figures. Or in other words: I am willing to sacrifice this massive
growth for "critical peer acclaim". If we'd really aim for
maximum "marketshare" we might miss the point where we could have created a
viable open-source alternative to Magma a major contribution to the
mathematical sciences. In my book research papers citing Sage are a much
better benchmark.
To avoid misunderstandings: I am not against 10^6 users, it is just not my
goal.
Thoughts?
From the ivory tower ;-)
Hi Martin,

I suddenly have a strong desire to re-open this discussion prompted by
where Sage *is* and is not getting funding and where the people writing most
of Sage are working.

(1) Sage is getting funding so far *only* from people and places
that care deeply about research. I have never successfully got
any nontrivial funding for Sage from non-research organizations.
It's all funding from NSF, math research institutes, etc. Every
education-related grant that me, David, and many others have applied
for Sage related has, I think, been denied. And this has been a lot,
including of course today's GSoC "no".

(2) Most people working on writing Sage are doing so
mainly for research applications. Probably this is 90%
of developers, at least.

(3) I've written a lot of grant proposals lately, and the solidly
number theory research related ones did very well, whereas
all non-research apps have not.

So now I wonder very much if maybe you're right -- perhaps the
mission statement of Sage should be:

Create a viable open source free alternative to Maple, Mathematica,
Magma, and MATLAB for research in the mathematical sciences.

Of course educational applications are nice, valuable, etc. But
numerous important people out there are voting with their dollars,
and their dollars are *by far* mainly votes for Sage's focus being
primarily on research.

Thoughts? Thinking this through could help a lot with deciding the direction
Sage should take this year.

-- William

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Robert Miller
2008-03-18 01:23:32 UTC
Permalink
... for research in the mathematical sciences.
emphatic +1
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mabshoff
2008-03-18 01:37:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Robert Miller
... for research in the mathematical sciences.
emphatic +1
I can certainly sympathize with that sentiment. While this doesn't
mean that Sage will become useful in the educational area down stream
I think that due to the funding sources the research aspect of Sage
will most likely be always the area where most people will set their
priority. But as interact has show it is possible that technology
developed for research is also very helpful in the general educational
sector. Should we change the missing statement? I am not sure, but I
would be fine either way.

My long term hope still is that people from the more educational side
of the tracks will become more involved in Sage development as there
is a delayed reaction for people that encounter Sage to become
developers. Since most early users of Sage were "researchers" it is
natural that those are now the dominant part of developers. But what
we have seen is that areas considered low priority (Calculus) have
started to make the transition from "yeah it is crappy, but it works
for me and I have other things more central to me to work on" to "I
want this to be the best symbolics code on the planet because all the
stuff I want to do requires fast symbolics" [hi Gary] and as more
people with a physics background becomes Sage developers development
in that area Sage will improve. The same will hopefully happen to
other areas of Sage.

Cheers,

Michael
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David Joyner
2008-03-18 01:42:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 9:13 AM, Martin Albrecht
Post by Martin Albrecht
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Hi,
I wonder what the status of this goals is. Is it something we all should
strive for? I guess at the end of the day we all have our own agendas because
Sage is a volunteer driven project but still I am unsure what these goals
mean. To be more specific, I am not sure that I'd aim for 10^6 Sage users. As
William pointed out already this would mean a lot of maintenance and
infrastructure work. Also, I doubt that there are 10^6 mathematicians out
there in need of a mathematics software for their research so I figure by
seriously(!) aiming for way more users than research mathematicians Sage's
slogan would need to drop the "viable alternative MAGMA". You don't get 10^6
users with a sophisticated modell of p-Adics but you might get them with
flashy graphics. Sure we can do both but this is not represented in these
goal figures. Or in other words: I am willing to sacrifice this massive
growth for "critical peer acclaim". If we'd really aim for
maximum "marketshare" we might miss the point where we could have created a
viable open-source alternative to Magma a major contribution to the
mathematical sciences. In my book research papers citing Sage are a much
better benchmark.
To avoid misunderstandings: I am not against 10^6 users, it is just not my
goal.
Thoughts?
From the ivory tower ;-)
Hi Martin,
I suddenly have a strong desire to re-open this discussion prompted by
where Sage *is* and is not getting funding and where the people writing most
of Sage are working.
(1) Sage is getting funding so far *only* from people and places
that care deeply about research. I have never successfully got
any nontrivial funding for Sage from non-research organizations.
It's all funding from NSF, math research institutes, etc. Every
education-related grant that me, David, and many others have applied
for Sage related has, I think, been denied. And this has been a lot,
including of course today's GSoC "no".
(2) Most people working on writing Sage are doing so
mainly for research applications. Probably this is 90%
of developers, at least.
(3) I've written a lot of grant proposals lately, and the solidly
number theory research related ones did very well, whereas
all non-research apps have not.
So now I wonder very much if maybe you're right -- perhaps the
Create a viable open source free alternative to Maple, Mathematica,
Magma, and MATLAB for research in the mathematical sciences.
Of course educational applications are nice, valuable, etc. But
numerous important people out there are voting with their dollars,
and their dollars are *by far* mainly votes for Sage's focus being
primarily on research.
Thoughts? Thinking this through could help a lot with deciding the direction
Sage should take this year.
I don't object to the new wording but, in my opinion, if you want
a large user base then you must involve (undergraduate) students.
To do that, I think you need to have some concern for teaching use.
However, I actually think SAGE is usable already for teaching,
so I don't see the change in development this re-emphasis would involve.
The (few) complaints I had from students wasn't that it lacked
power but that it was hard for them to quickly and easily navigate the
documentation.
With Maple and Mma, almost all of the functions are *designed* to be easy
to use by students. With SAGE almost all the functions are designed
by the developer to be useful for research.

I would also add that what mathematicians regard as useful only for teaching
and education, a mathematically minded biologist or chemist might regard as
necessary for research. So maybe more "really applied types" should be
encouraged to ask for SAGE development grants?
Post by William Stein
-- William
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William Stein
2008-03-18 01:48:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Joyner
Post by William Stein
On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 9:13 AM, Martin Albrecht
Post by Martin Albrecht
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Hi,
I wonder what the status of this goals is. Is it something we all should
strive for? I guess at the end of the day we all have our own agendas because
Sage is a volunteer driven project but still I am unsure what these goals
mean. To be more specific, I am not sure that I'd aim for 10^6 Sage users. As
William pointed out already this would mean a lot of maintenance and
infrastructure work. Also, I doubt that there are 10^6 mathematicians out
there in need of a mathematics software for their research so I figure by
seriously(!) aiming for way more users than research mathematicians Sage's
slogan would need to drop the "viable alternative MAGMA". You don't get 10^6
users with a sophisticated modell of p-Adics but you might get them with
flashy graphics. Sure we can do both but this is not represented in these
goal figures. Or in other words: I am willing to sacrifice this massive
growth for "critical peer acclaim". If we'd really aim for
maximum "marketshare" we might miss the point where we could have created a
viable open-source alternative to Magma a major contribution to the
mathematical sciences. In my book research papers citing Sage are a much
better benchmark.
To avoid misunderstandings: I am not against 10^6 users, it is just not my
goal.
Thoughts?
From the ivory tower ;-)
Hi Martin,
I suddenly have a strong desire to re-open this discussion prompted by
where Sage *is* and is not getting funding and where the people writing most
of Sage are working.
(1) Sage is getting funding so far *only* from people and places
that care deeply about research. I have never successfully got
any nontrivial funding for Sage from non-research organizations.
It's all funding from NSF, math research institutes, etc. Every
education-related grant that me, David, and many others have applied
for Sage related has, I think, been denied. And this has been a lot,
including of course today's GSoC "no".
(2) Most people working on writing Sage are doing so
mainly for research applications. Probably this is 90%
of developers, at least.
(3) I've written a lot of grant proposals lately, and the solidly
number theory research related ones did very well, whereas
all non-research apps have not.
So now I wonder very much if maybe you're right -- perhaps the
Create a viable open source free alternative to Maple, Mathematica,
Magma, and MATLAB for research in the mathematical sciences.
Of course educational applications are nice, valuable, etc. But
numerous important people out there are voting with their dollars,
and their dollars are *by far* mainly votes for Sage's focus being
primarily on research.
Thoughts? Thinking this through could help a lot with deciding the direction
Sage should take this year.
I don't object to the new wording but, in my opinion, if you want
a large user base then you must involve (undergraduate) students.
A huge part of this discussion is whether we actually "want a large
user base", or whether "a large number of research mathematicians"
is what we want. It's an important question.
Post by David Joyner
To do that, I think you need to have some concern for teaching use.
However, I actually think SAGE is usable already for teaching,
so I don't see the change in development this re-emphasis would involve.
The (few) complaints I had from students wasn't that it lacked
power but that it was hard for them to quickly and easily navigate the
documentation.
With Maple and Mma, almost all of the functions are *designed* to be easy
to use by students. With SAGE almost all the functions are designed
by the developer to be useful for research.
The question I hope we can discuss in this thread is whether this is
actually perfectly fine. Maybe it's good that Sage is designed to
be mainly useful for research. Maybe that is us doing exactly the
right thing.
Post by David Joyner
I would also add that what mathematicians regard as useful only for teaching
and education, a mathematically minded biologist or chemist might regard as
necessary for research. So maybe more "really applied types" should be
encouraged to ask for SAGE development grants?
I wish something like that actually worked, but ... nothing I've seen in a few
years suggests so. They just buy MATLAB.

-- William

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Robert Miller
2008-03-18 02:18:28 UTC
Permalink
My personal dream for Sage is for it to become the canonical choice
for mathematicians who want to do some computational work. When you
ask a mathematician how to write a paper in mathematics, they don't
usually say, "Well, there are a few options. There's MathType, or the
equation editor in Microsoft Word if you don't want to buy MathType on
top of it...." etc... They all (just about) will say, "learn LaTeX."
There are few exceptions, and as a result, LaTeX has become very high
quality for typesetting just about anything in mathematics. I'd love
it if when you asked a generic mathematician what to use to write an
algorithm in, that used nontrivial mathematical constructions, the
canonical answer was, "Use Sage." The best way to achieve this goal is
to make it so that Sage can do what the most influential
mathematicians want first, which seems to be what we're doing already.

-- RLM

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mhampton
2008-03-18 03:34:53 UTC
Permalink
One of the things that excited me about Sage early on was its
potential for use in teaching as well as research. I would be
extremely disappointed in the proposed change in goals.

The mathematical research focus of Sage should be viewed as a strength
for teaching mathematics in the long run. However, that focus makes
it most natural for Sage to infiltrate mathematics from the top of the
curriculum on down: first faculty and graduate students use it in
research, then graduate classes, then upper-level undergrad courses
and research, then calculus, then possibly high school education.
That will be a long, long process. I have actually been amazed at the
relative success of Sage in this direction so far.

The great work of William and others on @interact gives us a huge
boost for using Sage in education. I can now see a clear path to
using Sage in all my classes; I could not before this week. It will
take some time for a critical mass of early adopters to form and begin
to have an affect on review committees and funding agencies.

I have no problem with the current developers focusing on the research
end. But please keep the educational goals in place to provide a
vision for others.

It would be interesting to see the growth curves of users for
Mathematica and Maple over the years. Because we have more
competition, it will probably take us even longer to crack the
education market.

Best regards,
Marshall Hampton
Post by Robert Miller
My personal dream for Sage is for it to become the canonical choice
for mathematicians who want to do some computational work. When you
ask a mathematician how to write a paper in mathematics, they don't
usually say, "Well, there are a few options. There's MathType, or the
equation editor in Microsoft Word if you don't want to buy MathType on
top of it...." etc... They all (just about) will say, "learn LaTeX."
There are few exceptions, and as a result, LaTeX has become very high
quality for typesetting just about anything in mathematics. I'd love
it if when you asked a generic mathematician what to use to write an
algorithm in, that used nontrivial mathematical constructions, the
canonical answer was, "Use Sage." The best way to achieve this goal is
to make it so that Sage can do what the most influential
mathematicians want first, which seems to be what we're doing already.
-- RLM
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Iftikhar Burhanuddin
2008-03-18 03:33:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
A huge part of this discussion is whether we actually "want a large
user base", or whether "a large number of research mathematicians"
is what we want. It's an important question.
Hi William et al,

A very important question indeed. The former alludes to the vision
statement and the latter to the mission statement.

The analogy is NASA, which focusses on Aeronautics and Space and the
Technologies as part of its Mission [1], but states via its Vision [2]
that it has the potential to spun-off technologies [3] which would
"benefit the quality of life on Earth".

Loading Image...

Sage should stick to its current Mission statement, which currently reads:

"Provide an open source-high-quality, and free viable alternative to
Magma, Mathematica, Maple and MATLAB."

or *better* still as William proposed:

"Create a viable open source free alternative to Maple, Mathematica,
Magma, and MATLAB for research in the mathematical sciences."

And William (or someone) shold coin a Vision statment which among other
things ("explore, experiment, pioneer, innovate") hints at the potential
Sage has of impacting the domain of education, usage in
resource-constrained environments, etc.

My mantra: focus on Mission and do not lose sight of the Vision.

The bulk of Sage developers should be Mission driven. And a critical mass
of Sage developers should strive toward Vision; services /
products which have perhaps bloomed include Sage Notebook, Calculus
package, Cython, etc.

But given that our favorite free and open source project is primarily
volunteer driven who is to say which is bulk and which is critical.

Regards,
Ifti
M/V-ary

ps: As far as funding is concerned, its seems like we don't have enough
clout in non-number-theory/non-pure-math areas.

====
[1] NASA Mission:
* To advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding
of the earth, the solar system, and the universe.
* To advance human exploration, use, and development of space.
* To research, develop, verify, and transfer advanced aeronautics and
space technologies.

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codez/plans.html
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codez/plans/FlashPlan/INDEX.html

[2] NASA Vision:
NASA is an investment in America's future. As explorers, pioneers, and
innovators, we boldly expand frontiers in air and space to inspire and
serve America and to benefit the quality of life on Earth.

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codez/plans.html
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codez/plans/FlashPlan/INDEX.html

[3]
http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/
http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html


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Craig Citro
2008-03-18 02:10:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
I suddenly have a strong desire to re-open this discussion prompted by
where Sage *is* and is not getting funding and where the people writing most
of Sage are working.
...
So now I wonder very much if maybe you're right -- perhaps the
Create a viable open source free alternative to Maple, Mathematica,
Magma, and MATLAB for research in the mathematical sciences.
I *strongly* endorse this. I use Sage as a tool for my research in
number theory; making Sage good at exactly this is what I'm going to
focus on, and I'm happy if the primary focus of Sage is on this. For
instance, we only have one William, and while he doesn't seem to need
sleep, he can only write so many grant applications and so much code.
I'd much rather have those focused on research than other things,
*especially* since we don't seem to be getting funded for the
non-research related things!

Let me ask some questions. Our applications for funding from
education-related sources have been almost universally denied.

(1) Is there just a lack of interest in Sage as a tool for education,
or are we doing something wrong when we apply?

(2) Is funding development of Sage something that people with little
experience in the software industry just don't understand? For
instance, let's say you apply for funding to buy 100 Maple licenses in
your university. At least in theory, the money that you're
contributing is going to go to the people who are developing the
software (I'm ignoring the bureaucracy, but at least part of it makes
it there). However, from the point of view of an adminstrator, you're
spending money for a *product*. You give $2000, you get a box with a
Maple DVD (or CD?) inside, and a manual. Now, let's say instead you
apply to fund work on Sage. What do you have in your hands at the end
of the day? We all want to jump in and explain how you've contributed
to something everyone gets to use, because we all understand how open
source works, but do people who are approving grants understand that?
Or do they just think that we're having a "conference" so that we all
vacation for a week, and sit by the pool drinking margaritas? Is "time
and effort of Sage developers" just not the right product to sell?

-cc

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Robert Bradshaw
2008-03-18 04:29:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Craig Citro
Post by William Stein
I suddenly have a strong desire to re-open this discussion
prompted by
where Sage *is* and is not getting funding and where the people writing most
of Sage are working.
...
So now I wonder very much if maybe you're right -- perhaps the
Create a viable open source free alternative to Maple, Mathematica,
Magma, and MATLAB for research in the mathematical sciences.
I *strongly* endorse this. I use Sage as a tool for my research in
number theory; making Sage good at exactly this is what I'm going to
focus on, and I'm happy if the primary focus of Sage is on this. For
instance, we only have one William, and while he doesn't seem to need
sleep, he can only write so many grant applications and so much code.
I'd much rather have those focused on research than other things,
*especially* since we don't seem to be getting funded for the
non-research related things!
I strongly disagree--Sage will never have a chance with the
educational community if we explicitly exclude them from our mission
statement, and I think Sage could be a great tool for teaching.

Perhaps the education part of things won't mature for a while--I
think it will probably take someone else stepping up and putting as
much effort into this as William puts into the research side. But we
shouldn't be chasing such people away! Specifically, I don't think
there is anything to be gained from the research side of things by
excluding education people.
Post by Craig Citro
Let me ask some questions. Our applications for funding from
education-related sources have been almost universally denied.
(1) Is there just a lack of interest in Sage as a tool for education,
or are we doing something wrong when we apply?
I think that William is much better known for his research results
than any education results, and this would be why he is having much
better success with the research proposals. Has there been anyone
well-known in the education community who has applied for Sage grants?

- Robert


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didier deshommes
2008-03-18 05:19:01 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 12:29 AM, Robert Bradshaw
Post by Robert Bradshaw
I strongly disagree--Sage will never have a chance with the
educational community if we explicitly exclude them from our mission
statement, and I think Sage could be a great tool for teaching.
I agree with Robert. Personally, I think that penetrating the
education market is going to take more time than we all expect. The
research community is relatively small so ideas spread faster, but the
education community is different and much bigger (of course there is
an overlap). I think we just need more time.

I don't expect much from the education side until:
* installation is faster than 3 hours. This isn't going to change
anytime soon, but having binaries help a lot here.
* Windows is supported (almost) natively. Not easy either. This may
not turn to be a problem if Sage is installed on a server.
* Releases don't occur twice a month but twice a year maximum. As a
user, it is very annoying to find that my software is already behind
by at least 2 releases 1 month after downloading it. And the cost of
upgrading Sage is high for me as a user. Best case scenario is: wait 1
hour till the upgrade finishes ( ~ 2 hours if the upgrade involves
lapack/blas).

didier
Post by Robert Bradshaw
Perhaps the education part of things won't mature for a while--I
think it will probably take someone else stepping up and putting as
much effort into this as William puts into the research side. But we
shouldn't be chasing such people away! Specifically, I don't think
there is anything to be gained from the research side of things by
excluding education people.
Post by Craig Citro
Let me ask some questions. Our applications for funding from
education-related sources have been almost universally denied.
(1) Is there just a lack of interest in Sage as a tool for education,
or are we doing something wrong when we apply?
I think that William is much better known for his research results
than any education results, and this would be why he is having much
better success with the research proposals. Has there been anyone
well-known in the education community who has applied for Sage grants?
- Robert
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-~----------~----~----~----~------~----~------~--~---
William Stein
2008-03-18 05:56:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by didier deshommes
On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 12:29 AM, Robert Bradshaw
Post by Robert Bradshaw
I strongly disagree--Sage will never have a chance with the
educational community if we explicitly exclude them from our mission
statement, and I think Sage could be a great tool for teaching.
I agree with Robert. Personally, I think that penetrating the
education market is going to take more time than we all expect. The
research community is relatively small so ideas spread faster, but the
education community is different and much bigger (of course there is
an overlap). I think we just need more time.
* installation is faster than 3 hours. This isn't going to change
anytime soon, but having binaries help a lot here.
* Windows is supported (almost) natively. Not easy either. This may
not turn to be a problem if Sage is installed on a server.
* Releases don't occur twice a month but twice a year maximum. As a
user, it is very annoying to find that my software is already behind
by at least 2 releases 1 month after downloading it. And the cost of
upgrading Sage is high for me as a user. Best case scenario is: wait 1
hour till the upgrade finishes ( ~ 2 hours if the upgrade involves
lapack/blas).
I just want to make a quick comment that I greatly value
all the discussion and feedback that people are posting
to this topic, and that I'm getting on IRC. Mike Hansen
mentioned that "The key is with this whole direction thing
is to not make others feel like they can't put effort into Sage in a
different way / area." I strongly agree with this. I also
strongly agree with Didier that a native Windows port is
critical if Sage is to have 100K users; it's probably by far
the most critical thing.

It's important to have this sort of discussion regularly and
really think about where we're going as a project. I'm
very happy with a huge amount about Sage; it's vastly
better *today* that I expected it would be two years ago.
Amazing.

Please, everybody who has strong feelings about the direction
of Sage, do share your thoughts. And don't think I'm trying
right now to dictate any particular direction right now. I'm
listening.

-- William

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b***@u.washington.edu
2008-03-18 07:52:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
Post by didier deshommes
On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 12:29 AM, Robert Bradshaw
Post by Robert Bradshaw
I strongly disagree--Sage will never have a chance with the
educational community if we explicitly exclude them from our mission
statement, and I think Sage could be a great tool for teaching.
I agree with Robert. Personally, I think that penetrating the
education market is going to take more time than we all expect. The
research community is relatively small so ideas spread faster, but the
education community is different and much bigger (of course there is
an overlap). I think we just need more time.
* installation is faster than 3 hours. This isn't going to change
anytime soon, but having binaries help a lot here.
* Windows is supported (almost) natively. Not easy either. This may
not turn to be a problem if Sage is installed on a server.
* Releases don't occur twice a month but twice a year maximum. As a
user, it is very annoying to find that my software is already behind
by at least 2 releases 1 month after downloading it. And the cost of
upgrading Sage is high for me as a user. Best case scenario is: wait 1
hour till the upgrade finishes ( ~ 2 hours if the upgrade involves
lapack/blas).
I just want to make a quick comment that I greatly value
all the discussion and feedback that people are posting
to this topic, and that I'm getting on IRC. Mike Hansen
mentioned that "The key is with this whole direction thing
is to not make others feel like they can't put effort into Sage in a
different way / area." I strongly agree with this. I also
strongly agree with Didier that a native Windows port is
critical if Sage is to have 100K users; it's probably by far
the most critical thing.
It's important to have this sort of discussion regularly and
really think about where we're going as a project. I'm
very happy with a huge amount about Sage; it's vastly
better *today* that I expected it would be two years ago.
Amazing.
Please, everybody who has strong feelings about the direction
of Sage, do share your thoughts. And don't think I'm trying
right now to dictate any particular direction right now. I'm
listening.
I've never liked the "world domination" theme. Competing with the 4 M's for performance and for features is one thing. Outwardly competing for market share? I couldn't care less -- but this is more of a personal philosophy than anything: I compete with myself, not others. I don't want to see Mathematica "go down". They aren't worth the effort.

I want Sage to kick ass.

There are a few major problems that I see with Sage right now, and lack of a huge user base isn't on the list.

1) Documentation: Has anybody tried to read the auto-generated documentation as a standalone document? It's nearly useless. I'd like to see something more like the PHP manual. When I did web development, not a single day went by that I didn't look at the PHP manual. I have never seen better documentation for anything.

2) User Interface: Despite everything that William and I have done, the notebook still looks very amateurish. I've tried hard to iron out javascript bugs, but I just don't have the time or patience to make the notebook work like it should. We could really use a graphic designer, an interface designer, and a badass javascript hacker -- I'm none of these things; not even close. My javascript is disgusting -- if you look at what I produce, and the internals of something like jQuery, you'll see what I mean. It's a train wreck.

I'm falling asleep, so I won't elaborate on the next two:

3) Installers.

4) The following pisses me off every time:
sage: sqrt(2)
sqrt(2)

As to the direction of Sage: babies put the craziest things in their mouths. I miss that. Let's not grow up too fast.


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William Stein
2008-03-18 08:12:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
Post by William Stein
Post by didier deshommes
On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 12:29 AM, Robert Bradshaw
Post by Robert Bradshaw
I strongly disagree--Sage will never have a chance with the
educational community if we explicitly exclude them from our mission
statement, and I think Sage could be a great tool for teaching.
I agree with Robert. Personally, I think that penetrating the
education market is going to take more time than we all expect. The
research community is relatively small so ideas spread faster, but the
education community is different and much bigger (of course there is
an overlap). I think we just need more time.
* installation is faster than 3 hours. This isn't going to change
anytime soon, but having binaries help a lot here.
* Windows is supported (almost) natively. Not easy either. This may
not turn to be a problem if Sage is installed on a server.
* Releases don't occur twice a month but twice a year maximum. As a
user, it is very annoying to find that my software is already behind
by at least 2 releases 1 month after downloading it. And the cost of
upgrading Sage is high for me as a user. Best case scenario is: wait 1
hour till the upgrade finishes ( ~ 2 hours if the upgrade involves
lapack/blas).
I just want to make a quick comment that I greatly value
all the discussion and feedback that people are posting
to this topic, and that I'm getting on IRC. Mike Hansen
mentioned that "The key is with this whole direction thing
is to not make others feel like they can't put effort into Sage in a
different way / area." I strongly agree with this. I also
strongly agree with Didier that a native Windows port is
critical if Sage is to have 100K users; it's probably by far
the most critical thing.
It's important to have this sort of discussion regularly and
really think about where we're going as a project. I'm
very happy with a huge amount about Sage; it's vastly
better *today* that I expected it would be two years ago.
Amazing.
Please, everybody who has strong feelings about the direction
of Sage, do share your thoughts. And don't think I'm trying
right now to dictate any particular direction right now. I'm
listening.
I've never liked the "world domination" theme.
Competing with the 4 M's for performance and for features is one thing.
Outwardly competing for market share? I couldn't care less -- but this is
more of a personal philosophy than anything: I compete with myself,
not others. I don't want to see Mathematica "go down". They aren't worth the effort.
"Compete" does not mean "destroy" to me. It means provide at least
similar features.
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
I want Sage to kick ass.
The best way to kick ass is often to identify a competitor, then
try to do better. Working in a vacuum rarely produces greatness.
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
There are a few major problems that I see with Sage right now, and lack of a huge user base isn't on the list.
1) Documentation: Has anybody tried to read the auto-generated
documentation as a standalone document? It's nearly useless. I'd like
to see something more like the PHP manual. When I did web development,
not a single day went by that I didn't look at the PHP manual. I have never
seen better documentation for anything.
What' so good about the PHP manual? Could it just be that PHP is
"really simple" and
it just happens to be the case that PHP itself is really easy to
document? Please
elaborate.
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
2) User Interface: Despite everything that William and I have done,
the notebook still looks very amateurish.
I'm 100% responsible for the design and layout of the Sage notebook,
so should comment
that for the record, it's almost an exact copy of Google Docs, so you're
also saying that they look very amateurish. That's perhaps true, but
it is definitely one of the things
that a lot of people really like about Google apps -- they are simple
and clean. Could you
make a mockup of what you want or an example of a app that looks much
better to you?
Since I have no clue what you want.
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
I've tried hard to iron out javascript bugs, but I just don't have the time or patience to make
the notebook work like it should.
Which is?
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
We could really use a graphic designer, an interface
designer, and a badass javascript hacker -- I'm none of these things; not even close.
My javascript is disgusting -- if you look at what I produce, and the internals of something
like jQuery, you'll see what I mean. It's a train wreck.
I read the source code of jQuery. I've read all the javascript you
wrote for Sage. I
like both. I understand your code better than the jQuery code.
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
3) Installers.
Definitely would be good.
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
sage: sqrt(2)
sqrt(2)
Put

sqrt = math.sqrt

in your init.sage :-)
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
As to the direction of Sage: babies put the craziest things in their mouths. I miss that. Let's not grow up too fast.
I don't have 30 years to screw around.

-- William

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Nathan Dunfield
2008-03-18 15:32:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
 2) User Interface: Despite everything that William and I have done,
the notebook still looks very amateurish.
I'm 100% responsible for the design and layout of the Sage notebook,
so should comment
that for the record, it's almost an exact copy of Google Docs, so you're
also saying that they look very amateurish.   That's perhaps true, but
it is definitely one of the things
that a lot of people really like about Google apps -- they are simple
and clean.    Could you
make a mockup of what you want or an example of a app that looks much
better to you?
Since I have no clue what you want.
William,

I don't speak for Tom to whom you are responding, but I agree that
there is something "amateurish" about the notebook. In particular, I
have it open right now in Firefox next to Google Docs, and the latter
is definitely a lot slicker, even though, as you say, they are
functionally similar.

To be specific, here are a few visual things I notice about the Sage
Notebook.

1) The font on the links "Toggle", "Home", "Published", etc. is a
serif font not matching the sans-serif font used elsewhere.

2) The buttons "Save", "Save & quit", etc. are rather primitive-
looking compared to Google docs.

3) In the input boxes, there is more space above the input text than
below it.

4) It's hard to figure out why the "Save" buttons look so different
looking than the "Use", "Edit", "Text" buttons. In Google Docs, the
latter are shown as Tabs, which makes the difference in functionality
more clear.

More serious are functional problems such as

A) If you don't have the browser window set quite wide, the buttons
"Use", "Edit", "Text" end up stacked on top of each other. In
contrast, Google Docs responds to window resizing much more
gracefully.

B) There is no way to resize the text in the input boxes without also
resizing the interface buttons.

C) If you're entering things in the last cell on the page (as one is
wont to do) and do a tab-query or a ?-query then the answer appears
off screen and you have to manually scroll down to see it.

D) It is not hugely robust. I was just testing C) and so typed
"Matrix\t" in the last input box and the thing hung (traceback
below). Trying Actions->Interupt didn't seem to fix it, so I had to
Control-C out of in in the terminal window...

Best,

Nathan

2008/03/18 10:24 -0500 [HTTPChannel,76,127.0.0.1] Exception rendering:
2008/03/18 10:24 -0500 [HTTPChannel,76,127.0.0.1] Unhandled Error
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 601, in gotResult
_deferGenerator(g, deferred)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 578, in _deferGenerator
deferred.callback(result)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 239, in callback
self._startRunCallbacks(result)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 304, in _startRunCallbacks
self._runCallbacks()
--- <exception caught here> ---
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 317, in _runCallbacks
self.result = callback(self.result, *args, **kw)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/web2/resource.py", line 217, in <lambda>
lambda res: self.render(request))
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
sage/server/notebook/twist.py", line 929, in render
worksheet.check_comp()
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
sage/server/notebook/worksheet.py", line 1434, in check_comp
shutil.rmtree(cell_dir)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/shutil.py", line
161, in rmtree
onerror(os.listdir, path, sys.exc_info())
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/shutil.py", line
159, in rmtree
names = os.listdir(path)
exceptions.OSError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory:
'sage_notebook/worksheets/admin/0/cells/-1'


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-~----------~----~----~----~------~----~------~--~---
William Stein
2008-03-18 15:35:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Craig Citro
Post by William Stein
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
2) User Interface: Despite everything that William and I have done,
the notebook still looks very amateurish.
I'm 100% responsible for the design and layout of the Sage notebook,
so should comment
that for the record, it's almost an exact copy of Google Docs, so you're
also saying that they look very amateurish. That's perhaps true, but
it is definitely one of the things
that a lot of people really like about Google apps -- they are simple
and clean. Could you
make a mockup of what you want or an example of a app that looks much
better to you?
Since I have no clue what you want.
William,
I don't speak for Tom to whom you are responding, but I agree that
there is something "amateurish" about the notebook. In particular, I
have it open right now in Firefox next to Google Docs, and the latter
is definitely a lot slicker, even though, as you say, they are
functionally similar.
FYI: Google Docs looked much different when I implemented the
look of the notebook (nearly a year ago).
Post by Craig Citro
To be specific, here are a few visual things I notice about the Sage
Notebook.
1) The font on the links "Toggle", "Home", "Published", etc. is a
serif font not matching the sans-serif font used elsewhere.
2) The buttons "Save", "Save & quit", etc. are rather primitive-
looking compared to Google docs.
3) In the input boxes, there is more space above the input text than
below it.
4) It's hard to figure out why the "Save" buttons look so different
looking than the "Use", "Edit", "Text" buttons. In Google Docs, the
latter are shown as Tabs, which makes the difference in functionality
more clear.
More serious are functional problems such as
A) If you don't have the browser window set quite wide, the buttons
"Use", "Edit", "Text" end up stacked on top of each other. In
contrast, Google Docs responds to window resizing much more
gracefully.
B) There is no way to resize the text in the input boxes without also
resizing the interface buttons.
C) If you're entering things in the last cell on the page (as one is
wont to do) and do a tab-query or a ?-query then the answer appears
off screen and you have to manually scroll down to see it.
D) It is not hugely robust. I was just testing C) and so typed
"Matrix\t" in the last input box and the thing hung (traceback
below). Trying Actions->Interupt didn't seem to fix it, so I had to
Control-C out of in in the terminal window...
Best,
Nathan
2008/03/18 10:24 -0500 [HTTPChannel,76,127.0.0.1] Unhandled Error
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 601, in gotResult
_deferGenerator(g, deferred)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 578, in _deferGenerator
deferred.callback(result)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 239, in callback
self._startRunCallbacks(result)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 304, in _startRunCallbacks
self._runCallbacks()
--- <exception caught here> ---
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/internet/defer.py", line 317, in _runCallbacks
self.result = callback(self.result, *args, **kw)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
twisted/web2/resource.py", line 217, in <lambda>
lambda res: self.render(request))
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
sage/server/notebook/twist.py", line 929, in render
worksheet.check_comp()
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/site-packages/
sage/server/notebook/worksheet.py", line 1434, in check_comp
shutil.rmtree(cell_dir)
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/shutil.py", line
161, in rmtree
onerror(os.listdir, path, sys.exc_info())
File "/pkgs/sage-2.7.1/local/lib/python2.5/shutil.py", line
159, in rmtree
names = os.listdir(path)
'sage_notebook/worksheets/admin/0/cells/-1'
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washington
http://wstein.org

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Jason Grout
2008-03-18 18:14:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Craig Citro
Post by William Stein
Post by b***@u.washington.edu
2) User Interface: Despite everything that William and I have done,
the notebook still looks very amateurish.
I'm 100% responsible for the design and layout of the Sage notebook,
so should comment
that for the record, it's almost an exact copy of Google Docs, so you're
also saying that they look very amateurish. That's perhaps true, but
it is definitely one of the things
that a lot of people really like about Google apps -- they are simple
and clean. Could you
make a mockup of what you want or an example of a app that looks much
better to you?
Since I have no clue what you want.
William,
I don't speak for Tom to whom you are responding, but I agree that
there is something "amateurish" about the notebook. In particular, I
have it open right now in Firefox next to Google Docs, and the latter
is definitely a lot slicker, even though, as you say, they are
functionally similar.
To be specific, here are a few visual things I notice about the Sage
Notebook.
1) The font on the links "Toggle", "Home", "Published", etc. is a
serif font not matching the sans-serif font used elsewhere.
2) The buttons "Save", "Save & quit", etc. are rather primitive-
looking compared to Google docs.
3) In the input boxes, there is more space above the input text than
below it.
4) It's hard to figure out why the "Save" buttons look so different
looking than the "Use", "Edit", "Text" buttons. In Google Docs, the
latter are shown as Tabs, which makes the difference in functionality
more clear.
More serious are functional problems such as
A) If you don't have the browser window set quite wide, the buttons
"Use", "Edit", "Text" end up stacked on top of each other. In
contrast, Google Docs responds to window resizing much more
gracefully.
B) There is no way to resize the text in the input boxes without also
resizing the interface buttons.
C) If you're entering things in the last cell on the page (as one is
wont to do) and do a tab-query or a ?-query then the answer appears
off screen and you have to manually scroll down to see it.
D) It is not hugely robust. I was just testing C) and so typed
"Matrix\t" in the last input box and the thing hung (traceback
below). Trying Actions->Interupt didn't seem to fix it, so I had to
Control-C out of in in the terminal window...
This is great feedback, I think. Can you make a trac ticket for these?

Thanks,

Jason


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Nathan Dunfield
2008-03-18 23:00:25 UTC
Permalink
This is great feedback, I think.  Can you make a trac ticket for these?
An (expanded!) version of my comments are at

http://trac.sagemath.org/sage_trac/ticket/2589

Best,

Nathan



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mabshoff
2008-03-19 00:04:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nathan Dunfield
Post by Jason Grout
This is great feedback, I think. Can you make a trac ticket for these?
An (expanded!) version of my comments are at
http://trac.sagemath.org/sage_trac/ticket/2589
Best,
Nathan
Oops, I just invalidated that ticket for various reasons. The remark
about discussing this on sage-devel is still semi-valid, but either
way the collection violates the "one issue per ticket" rule. I wrote
some more comments on the ticket. If you got any questions let me
know.

Cheers,

Michael
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David Harvey
2008-03-18 11:50:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
Please, everybody who has strong feelings about the direction
of Sage, do share your thoughts. And don't think I'm trying
right now to dictate any particular direction right now. I'm
listening.
My primary (selfish) goals for Sage, in roughly decreasing order of
importance, are: (1) to be a place to meet really cool people, (2) to
be an excellent free (beer/freedom) tool to do my research, (3) to be
a place to publicise algorithms that I invent and code that I write,
and (4) to be a place to learn about algorithms (particularly related
to computational number theory). Secondary goals include having a
free tool for my classroom --- so far I've used Sage for plotting
some graphs to show my calculus class, but I expect to use it more in
the next year --- and all the altruistic stuff about free software,
competitor to 4 M's, etc.

Everything else is icing on the cake (mmmm very tasty icing so far).

david


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Nathan Dunfield
2008-03-18 14:48:25 UTC
Permalink
I think that Robert Bradshaw is completely right that Sage's mission
should be inclusive. That doesn't mean, though, that in the near
term it is bad to focus on the research side of things. I
particularly like RLM's goal that "use Sage" should be the answer to
"how do I compute blah?" among mathematicians in the same way that
"learn LaTeX" is for the question "how do I type a paper" to the same
audience.

It is easier (though hardly easy!) to become the default application
in smaller user-base area like "research mathematics" than to replace
Mathematica or Matlab. Even if one was to wave a magic wand and make
Sage better than Mathematica in all respects tomorrow, it would still
be a long time before Sage replaced Mathematica, if it ever did.
There are tremendous time costs to switching which swamp the
(comparatively minor in the short-term) monetary gains of not paying
for Mathematica --- my department has developed Mathematica notebooks
for each of our calculus courses, for instance, and those would need
to be replaced. Research mathematicians will also be more willing to
tolerate Sage's initial "rough-edges" than Mathematica users --- they
use LaTeX, after all, which is never going to replace MS Word.

Also, I think we should consider the possibility that Sage is not a
direct replacement for "the 4 Ms" (except, hopefully, Magma) but a new
kind mathematics software, the only one universal enough to work with
exclusively in broad research projects. I've done a lot of work
where I was constantly switching back and forth between GAP, Magma,
Pari, Mathematica and others, and the great thing about Sage is the
promise that I'll be able to do all those things under one roof. From
this point of view, the "killer feature" of Sage is that it is so
(comparatively) easy to incorporate other software packages into it,
i.e. to "build the car".

Best,

Nathan


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photonn
2008-03-18 16:42:42 UTC
Permalink
Although not a developer, I am a big fan of Sage.
I am not a mathematician. I am interested in Sage because I
want to replace the big M's with open source software. I use
sage for physics and engineering design work. In my limited
experience, the biggest users of the M's are engineers.

So, I just wanted to say that I favor inclusion .... and I do not
think that anyone is thinking inclusive enough yet. I see even more
user groups than you guys are talking about right now.

I think of mathematics as the language of all the natural sciences.
I see the majority of Sage's growth, once the math departments are
all aware of your existence, coming from the other departments on
campus. Maybe I am wrong, the easiest way I can think of to change
the number of users by an order of magnitude is to grab the
engineering
audience.

Depressing news indeed about the education funding..... I don't have
a good answer there. Well, unless you believe as I do that the
biggest
growth will come from including other sciences. In that case, maybe
collaboration with some EE, ME, or physics professors might open
up new avenues for funding.

I really hope that you keep the mission of being a direct replacement
for the M's. That is why I started using Sage. The price/performace
ratio is already there to make the switch obvious to me.

Thanks again to all the developers. From installation to mailing list
to irc, my Sage experience has really been great.
Post by Nathan Dunfield
I think that Robert Bradshaw is completely right that Sage's mission
should be inclusive.   That doesn't mean, though, that in the near
term it is bad to focus on the research side of things.   I
particularly like RLM's goal that "use Sage" should be the answer to
"how do I compute blah?" among mathematicians in the same way that
"learn LaTeX" is for the question "how do I type a paper" to the same
audience.
It is easier (though hardly easy!) to become the default application
in smaller user-base area like "research mathematics" than to replace
Mathematica or Matlab.   Even if one was to wave a magic wand and make
Sage better than Mathematica in all respects tomorrow, it would still
be a long time before Sage replaced Mathematica, if it ever did.
There are tremendous time costs to switching which swamp the
(comparatively minor in the short-term) monetary gains of not paying
for Mathematica --- my department has developed Mathematica notebooks
for each of our calculus courses, for instance, and those would need
to be replaced.  Research mathematicians will also be more willing to
tolerate Sage's initial "rough-edges" than Mathematica users --- they
use LaTeX, after all, which is never going to replace MS Word.
Also, I think we should consider the possibility that Sage is not a
direct replacement for "the 4 Ms" (except, hopefully, Magma) but a new
kind mathematics software, the only one universal enough to work with
exclusively in broad research projects.   I've done a lot of work
where I was constantly switching back and forth between GAP, Magma,
Pari, Mathematica and others, and the great thing about Sage is the
promise that I'll be able to do all those things under one roof.  From
this point of view, the "killer feature" of Sage is that it is so
(comparatively) easy to incorporate other software packages into it,
i.e. to "build the car".
        Best,
        Nathan
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mhampton
2008-03-18 20:14:27 UTC
Permalink
I've thought a little so far about how to gain the engineering
audience - I think its an interesting sub-goal of expanding Sage in
education. At a lot of universities, many math classes are primarily
service classes for engineering majors. I teach ODEs and
multivariable calculus every year, and I plan on eventually requiring
Sage in the lab classes for those. At the moment, we use Mathematica
for those labs; the instructors are generally happy with Mathematica
but I don't think the students like it much. When they move on, they
don't use Mathematica in upper-level engineering courses. If I can
interest the engineering faculty in Sage, I can make a strong argument
for continuity in using Sage throughout the curriculum.

Sorry, that's a bit off-topic. But personally I am very excited as I
think its only in the last month or so that Sage has all the must-have
pieces to succeed in education.

-M. Hampton
Post by photonn
Although not a developer, I am a big fan of Sage.
I am not a mathematician. I am interested in Sage because I
want to replace the big M's with open source software. I use
sage for physics and engineering design work. In my limited
experience, the biggest users of the M's are engineers.
So, I just wanted to say that I favor inclusion .... and I do not
think that anyone is thinking inclusive enough yet. I see even more
user groups than you guys are talking about right now.
I think of mathematics as the language of all the natural sciences.
I see the majority of Sage's growth, once the math departments are
all aware of your existence, coming from the other departments on
campus. Maybe I am wrong, the easiest way I can think of to change
the number of users by an order of magnitude is to grab the
engineering
audience.
Depressing news indeed about the education funding..... I don't have
a good answer there. Well, unless you believe as I do that the
biggest
growth will come from including other sciences. In that case, maybe
collaboration with some EE, ME, or physics professors might open
up new avenues for funding.
I really hope that you keep the mission of being a direct replacement
for the M's. That is why I started using Sage. The price/performace
ratio is already there to make the switch obvious to me.
Thanks again to all the developers. From installation to mailing list
to irc, my Sage experience has really been great.
Post by Nathan Dunfield
I think that Robert Bradshaw is completely right that Sage's mission
should be inclusive. That doesn't mean, though, that in the near
term it is bad to focus on the research side of things. I
particularly like RLM's goal that "use Sage" should be the answer to
"how do I compute blah?" among mathematicians in the same way that
"learn LaTeX" is for the question "how do I type a paper" to the same
audience.
It is easier (though hardly easy!) to become the default application
in smaller user-base area like "research mathematics" than to replace
Mathematica or Matlab. Even if one was to wave a magic wand and make
Sage better than Mathematica in all respects tomorrow, it would still
be a long time before Sage replaced Mathematica, if it ever did.
There are tremendous time costs to switching which swamp the
(comparatively minor in the short-term) monetary gains of not paying
for Mathematica --- my department has developed Mathematica notebooks
for each of our calculus courses, for instance, and those would need
to be replaced. Research mathematicians will also be more willing to
tolerate Sage's initial "rough-edges" than Mathematica users --- they
use LaTeX, after all, which is never going to replace MS Word.
Also, I think we should consider the possibility that Sage is not a
direct replacement for "the 4 Ms" (except, hopefully, Magma) but a new
kind mathematics software, the only one universal enough to work with
exclusively in broad research projects. I've done a lot of work
where I was constantly switching back and forth between GAP, Magma,
Pari, Mathematica and others, and the great thing about Sage is the
promise that I'll be able to do all those things under one roof. From
this point of view, the "killer feature" of Sage is that it is so
(comparatively) easy to incorporate other software packages into it,
i.e. to "build the car".
Best,
Nathan
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Chris Chiasson
2008-03-19 02:00:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by mhampton
I've thought a little so far about how to gain the engineering
audience - I think its an interesting sub-goal of expanding Sage in
education. At a lot of universities, many math classes are primarily
service classes for engineering majors. I teach ODEs and
multivariable calculus every year, and I plan on eventually requiring
Sage in the lab classes for those. At the moment, we use Mathematica
for those labs; the instructors are generally happy with Mathematica
but I don't think the students like it much. When they move on, they
don't use Mathematica in upper-level engineering courses. If I can
interest the engineering faculty in Sage, I can make a strong argument
for continuity in using Sage throughout the curriculum.
Sorry, that's a bit off-topic. But personally I am very excited as I
think its only in the last month or so that Sage has all the must-have
pieces to succeed in education.
-M. Hampton
Yea. I was one of the few at my school that stuck with Mathematica (in
mechanical engineering). It seemed like others moved on to stuff like
mathcad and matlab. I would guess that they moved to mathcad because
it is more like pencil and paper and has easy to use unit conversion.
I would guess they moved to matlab because of its good documentation,
ease of finding help online, and simple commands for doing numerical
calculation. Mathematica was just too confusing.

Sage *looks* like matlab in a web browser. I find that kinda
appealing. It also has the "cells" paradigm from Mathematica, which is
probably functionally better than matlab's terminal-like i/o.

O yea, this is what sage needs:

Post by mhampton
Post by photonn
Although not a developer, I am a big fan of Sage.
I am not a mathematician. I am interested in Sage because I
want to replace the big M's with open source software. I use
sage for physics and engineering design work. In my limited
experience, the biggest users of the M's are engineers.
So, I just wanted to say that I favor inclusion .... and I do not
think that anyone is thinking inclusive enough yet. I see even more
user groups than you guys are talking about right now.
I think of mathematics as the language of all the natural sciences.
I see the majority of Sage's growth, once the math departments are
all aware of your existence, coming from the other departments on
campus. Maybe I am wrong, the easiest way I can think of to change
the number of users by an order of magnitude is to grab the
engineering
audience.
Depressing news indeed about the education funding..... I don't have
a good answer there. Well, unless you believe as I do that the
biggest
growth will come from including other sciences. In that case, maybe
collaboration with some EE, ME, or physics professors might open
up new avenues for funding.
I really hope that you keep the mission of being a direct replacement
for the M's. That is why I started using Sage. The price/performace
ratio is already there to make the switch obvious to me.
Thanks again to all the developers. From installation to mailing list
to irc, my Sage experience has really been great.
Post by Nathan Dunfield
I think that Robert Bradshaw is completely right that Sage's mission
should be inclusive. That doesn't mean, though, that in the near
term it is bad to focus on the research side of things. I
particularly like RLM's goal that "use Sage" should be the answer to
"how do I compute blah?" among mathematicians in the same way that
"learn LaTeX" is for the question "how do I type a paper" to the same
audience.
It is easier (though hardly easy!) to become the default application
in smaller user-base area like "research mathematics" than to replace
Mathematica or Matlab. Even if one was to wave a magic wand and make
Sage better than Mathematica in all respects tomorrow, it would still
be a long time before Sage replaced Mathematica, if it ever did.
There are tremendous time costs to switching which swamp the
(comparatively minor in the short-term) monetary gains of not paying
for Mathematica --- my department has developed Mathematica notebooks
for each of our calculus courses, for instance, and those would need
to be replaced. Research mathematicians will also be more willing to
tolerate Sage's initial "rough-edges" than Mathematica users --- they
use LaTeX, after all, which is never going to replace MS Word.
Also, I think we should consider the possibility that Sage is not a
direct replacement for "the 4 Ms" (except, hopefully, Magma) but a new
kind mathematics software, the only one universal enough to work with
exclusively in broad research projects. I've done a lot of work
where I was constantly switching back and forth between GAP, Magma,
Pari, Mathematica and others, and the great thing about Sage is the
promise that I'll be able to do all those things under one roof. From
this point of view, the "killer feature" of Sage is that it is so
(comparatively) easy to incorporate other software packages into it,
i.e. to "build the car".
Best,
Nathan
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mabshoff
2008-03-19 02:10:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Chris Chiasson
Sage *looks* like matlab in a web browser. I find that kinda
appealing. It also has the "cells" paradigm from Mathematica, which is
probably functionally better than matlab's terminal-like i/o.
O yea, this is what sage http://youtu.be/KMU0tzLwhbE
Ahh, monkey boy - better start hiding those chairs ;)

Cheers,

Michael
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William Stein
2008-03-18 20:40:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by photonn
Although not a developer, I am a big fan of Sage.
I am not a mathematician. I am interested in Sage because I
want to replace the big M's with open source software. I use
sage for physics and engineering design work. In my limited
experience, the biggest users of the M's are engineers.
So, I just wanted to say that I favor inclusion .... and I do not
think that anyone is thinking inclusive enough yet. I see even more
user groups than you guys are talking about right now.
I think of mathematics as the language of all the natural sciences.
I see the majority of Sage's growth, once the math departments are
all aware of your existence, coming from the other departments on
campus. Maybe I am wrong, the easiest way I can think of to change
the number of users by an order of magnitude is to grab the
engineering
audience.
Depressing news indeed about the education funding..... I don't have
a good answer there. Well, unless you believe as I do that the
biggest
growth will come from including other sciences. In that case, maybe
collaboration with some EE, ME, or physics professors might open
up new avenues for funding.
I strongly agree with this. I've in fact already had a lot of
interaction with people
in other departments at my university (U Washington) about Sage.
I'm co-organizing a SIAM minisymposium in July on Sage in San Diego
with Randy Leveque, have spoke in the UW computer science colloquium,
and met regularly about Sage with one faculty member from Chemistry.
I see this sort of interaction continuing and growing; it's one of the things
I love about Sage.
Post by photonn
I really hope that you keep the mission of being a direct replacement
for the M's. That is why I started using Sage. The price/performace
ratio is already there to make the switch obvious to me.
Thanks again to all the developers. From installation to mailing list
to irc, my Sage experience has really been great.
Post by Nathan Dunfield
I think that Robert Bradshaw is completely right that Sage's mission
should be inclusive. That doesn't mean, though, that in the near
term it is bad to focus on the research side of things. I
particularly like RLM's goal that "use Sage" should be the answer to
"how do I compute blah?" among mathematicians in the same way that
"learn LaTeX" is for the question "how do I type a paper" to the same
audience.
It is easier (though hardly easy!) to become the default application
in smaller user-base area like "research mathematics" than to replace
Mathematica or Matlab. Even if one was to wave a magic wand and make
Sage better than Mathematica in all respects tomorrow, it would still
be a long time before Sage replaced Mathematica, if it ever did.
There are tremendous time costs to switching which swamp the
(comparatively minor in the short-term) monetary gains of not paying
for Mathematica --- my department has developed Mathematica notebooks
for each of our calculus courses, for instance, and those would need
to be replaced. Research mathematicians will also be more willing to
tolerate Sage's initial "rough-edges" than Mathematica users --- they
use LaTeX, after all, which is never going to replace MS Word.
Also, I think we should consider the possibility that Sage is not a
direct replacement for "the 4 Ms" (except, hopefully, Magma) but a new
kind mathematics software, the only one universal enough to work with
exclusively in broad research projects. I've done a lot of work
where I was constantly switching back and forth between GAP, Magma,
Pari, Mathematica and others, and the great thing about Sage is the
promise that I'll be able to do all those things under one roof. From
this point of view, the "killer feature" of Sage is that it is so
(comparatively) easy to incorporate other software packages into it,
i.e. to "build the car".
Best,
Nathan
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washington
http://wstein.org

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photonn
2008-03-19 00:52:13 UTC
Permalink
William,

There are two ways I can think of to expand the number of proposals
that you can submit for funding Sage work.

The first, just as suggested earlier, go after interdisciplinary work
like:
http://nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=6681
This, of course, involves finding/recruiting victims errrr ..
colleagues
in other departments.

The other that just occurred to me might just be easier, as you can
skip the recruiting step. Given the rather positive relationship
with
Enthought, you can team up and go after SBIR and STTR funding.
http://www.sbir.gov/

Are you familiar with these programs?
 Although not a developer, I am a big fan of Sage.
 I am not a mathematician.  I am interested in Sage because I
 want to replace the big M's with open source software.  I use
 sage for physics and engineering design work.  In my limited
 experience, the biggest users of the M's are engineers.
 So, I just wanted to say that I favor inclusion .... and I do not
 think that anyone is thinking inclusive enough yet.  I see even more
 user groups than you guys are talking about right now.
 I think of  mathematics as the language of all the natural sciences.
 I see the majority of Sage's growth, once the math departments are
 all aware of your existence, coming from the other departments on
 campus.  Maybe I am wrong, the easiest way I can think of to change
 the number of users by an order of magnitude is to grab the
 engineering
 audience.
 Depressing news indeed about the education funding..... I don't have
 a good answer there.  Well, unless you believe as I do that the
 biggest
 growth will come from including other sciences.  In that case, maybe
 collaboration with some EE, ME, or physics professors might open
 up new avenues for funding.
I strongly agree with this.  I've in fact already had a lot of
interaction with people
in other departments at my university (U Washington) about Sage.
I'm co-organizing a SIAM minisymposium in July on Sage in San Diego
with Randy Leveque, have spoke in the UW computer science colloquium,
and met regularly about Sage with one faculty member from Chemistry.
I see this sort of interaction continuing and growing; it's one of the things
I love about Sage.
 I really hope that you keep the mission of being a direct replacement
 for the M's.  That is why I started using Sage.  The price/performace
 ratio is already there to make the switch obvious to me.
 Thanks again to all the developers.  From installation to mailing list
 to irc, my Sage experience has really been great.
 > I think that Robert Bradshaw is completely right that Sage's mission
 > should be inclusive.   That doesn't mean, though, that in the near
 > term it is bad to focus on the research side of things.   I
 > particularly like RLM's goal that "use Sage" should be the answer to
 > "how do I compute blah?" among mathematicians in the same way that
 > "learn LaTeX" is for the question "how do I type a paper" to the same
 > audience.
 > It is easier (though hardly easy!) to become the default application
 > in smaller user-base area like "research mathematics" than to replace
 > Mathematica or Matlab.   Even if one was to wave a magic wand and make
 > Sage better than Mathematica in all respects tomorrow, it would still
 > be a long time before Sage replaced Mathematica, if it ever did.
 > There are tremendous time costs to switching which swamp the
 > (comparatively minor in the short-term) monetary gains of not paying
 > for Mathematica --- my department has developed Mathematica notebooks
 > for each of our calculus courses, for instance, and those would need
 > to be replaced.  Research mathematicians will also be more willing to
 > tolerate Sage's initial "rough-edges" than Mathematica users --- they
 > use LaTeX, after all, which is never going to replace MS Word.
 > Also, I think we should consider the possibility that Sage is not a
 > direct replacement for "the 4 Ms" (except, hopefully, Magma) but a new
 > kind mathematics software, the only one universal enough to work with
 > exclusively in broad research projects.   I've done a lot of work
 > where I was constantly switching back and forth between GAP, Magma,
 > Pari, Mathematica and others, and the great thing about Sage is the
 > promise that I'll be able to do all those things under one roof.  From
 > this point of view, the "killer feature" of Sage is that it is so
 > (comparatively) easy to incorporate other software packages into it,
 > i.e. to "build the car".
 >         Best,
 >         Nathan
--
William Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics
University of Washingtonhttp://wstein.org
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William Stein
2008-03-19 00:58:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Craig Citro
William,
There are two ways I can think of to expand the number of proposals
that you can submit for funding Sage work.
The first, just as suggested earlier, go after interdisciplinary work
http://nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=6681
This, of course, involves finding/recruiting victims errrr ..
colleagues
in other departments.
The other that just occurred to me might just be easier, as you can
skip the recruiting step. Given the rather positive relationship
with
Enthought, you can team up and go after SBIR and STTR funding.
http://www.sbir.gov/
Are you familiar with these programs?
I know nothing about those programs and have never heard of them.

-- William

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mabshoff
2008-03-18 10:52:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by didier deshommes
On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 12:29 AM, Robert Bradshaw
Hi,
Post by didier deshommes
Post by Robert Bradshaw
I strongly disagree--Sage will never have a chance with the
educational community if we explicitly exclude them from our mission
statement, and I think Sage could be a great tool for teaching.
I agree with Robert. Personally, I think that penetrating the
education market is going to take more time than we all expect. The
research community is relatively small so ideas spread faster, but the
education community is different and much bigger (of course there is
an overlap). I think we just need more time.
Yes, we will get there a little later than anticipated, but we will
get there.
Post by didier deshommes
* installation is faster than 3 hours. This isn't going to change
anytime soon, but having binaries help a lot here.
The installation for binaries is nearly instant and also trivial.
Building from source is also relatively painless considering you are
dealing with about five million lines of code.
Post by didier deshommes
* Windows is supported (almost) natively. Not easy either. This may
not turn to be a problem if Sage is installed on a server.
That is happening since MSR is paying for a port. I expect to be done
by the end of 2008.
Post by didier deshommes
* Releases don't occur twice a month but twice a year maximum. As a
user, it is very annoying to find that my software is already behind
by at least 2 releases 1 month after downloading it.
Slowing down releases is very unlikely to happen. The attractiveness
of Sage for many people is that there is a new version with fixes,
improvements and generally fewer bugs in about 12 days on average.
Post by didier deshommes
And the cost of
upgrading Sage is high for me as a user. Best case scenario is: wait 1
hour till the upgrade finishes ( ~ 2 hours if the upgrade involves
lapack/blas).
You don't have to upgrade. Many people are content with the version
they have and only upgrade if a new feature they want has been added
or if they hit a bug and that has been fixed.

I understand that if you have a lab for students you do not upgrade
the software during the course, but install a version in advance and
then test it that it does everything you need. Maple and Mathematica
supposedly also coordinate their release cycle so that installations
of new versions can be done during the downtime in colleges. If you
miss the right testing and installation window you have to wait a
semester or two to get the software updated. While William is
convinced that "a year from now" Sage will be debugged and stable
enough so that people will no longer have to live on the bleeding edge
of Sage I am a little skeptical there, but he is right that it is
"good enough" for some calculus course or algebra course. Time will
tell ;)
Post by didier deshommes
didier
<SNIP>

Cheers,

Michael
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Iftikhar Burhanuddin
2008-03-18 03:38:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Stein
On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 9:13 AM, Martin Albrecht
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Could someone with access to the data make a histograms of the downloads
and other stats and link them to Sage's wiki/homepage?

Regards,
Ifti

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Burcin Erocal
2008-03-18 09:27:12 UTC
Permalink
On Mon, 17 Mar 2008 18:12:46 -0700
Post by William Stein
On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 9:13 AM, Martin Albrecht
Post by Martin Albrecht
Post by William Stein
Feb 2005: 3
Feb 2006: 100
Feb 2007: 500
Feb 2008: 5,000
Feb 2009: 10,000 (Goal)
Feb 2009: 25,000 (Goal)
Feb 2010: 100,000 (Goal)
Feb 2011: 1,000,000 (Goal)
Hi,
I wonder what the status of this goals is. Is it something we all should
strive for? I guess at the end of the day we all have our own agendas because
Sage is a volunteer driven project but still I am unsure what these goals
mean. To be more specific, I am not sure that I'd aim for 10^6 Sage users. As
William pointed out already this would mean a lot of maintenance and
infrastructure work. Also, I doubt that there are 10^6 mathematicians out
there in need of a mathematics software for their research so I figure by
seriously(!) aiming for way more users than research mathematicians Sage's
slogan would need to drop the "viable alternative MAGMA". You don't get 10^6
users with a sophisticated modell of p-Adics but you might get them with
flashy graphics. Sure we can do both but this is not represented in these
goal figures. Or in other words: I am willing to sacrifice this massive
growth for "critical peer acclaim". If we'd really aim for
maximum "marketshare" we might miss the point where we could have created a
viable open-source alternative to Magma a major contribution to the
mathematical sciences. In my book research papers citing Sage are a much
better benchmark.
To avoid misunderstandings: I am not against 10^6 users, it is just not my
goal.
Thoughts?
From the ivory tower ;-)
Hi Martin,
I suddenly have a strong desire to re-open this discussion prompted by
where Sage *is* and is not getting funding and where the people writing most
of Sage are working.
(1) Sage is getting funding so far *only* from people and places
that care deeply about research. I have never successfully got
any nontrivial funding for Sage from non-research organizations.
It's all funding from NSF, math research institutes, etc. Every
education-related grant that me, David, and many others have applied
for Sage related has, I think, been denied. And this has been a lot,
including of course today's GSoC "no".
(2) Most people working on writing Sage are doing so
mainly for research applications. Probably this is 90%
of developers, at least.
(3) I've written a lot of grant proposals lately, and the solidly
number theory research related ones did very well, whereas
all non-research apps have not.
So now I wonder very much if maybe you're right -- perhaps the
Create a viable open source free alternative to Maple, Mathematica,
Magma, and MATLAB for research in the mathematical sciences.
Of course educational applications are nice, valuable, etc. But
numerous important people out there are voting with their dollars,
and their dollars are *by far* mainly votes for Sage's focus being
primarily on research.
Thoughts? Thinking this through could help a lot with deciding the direction
Sage should take this year.
I don't see why this discussion should be choosing focus between
mathematical research and education. I'll quote from your previous
reply to Martin's post.
Post by William Stein
For a number of different reasons, the more modest goal of just
being a viable alternative to Magma is actually harder long term than
the goal of being a viable alternative to all four systems. I would have to
write a lot to explain this, and I can't write now since I just got up and
I'm hungry. Anyway, here's a quick analogy though.
Imagine if Firefox were an extremely good web browser but it *only* worked
for browsing web sites about mathematics. I probably wouldn't use
it, and I seriously doubt Google would be giving Mozilla $50million
(or whatever)
a year to develop it.
There is an old quote here from Dec 2005 in which
http://sagemath.org/misc/fateman_on_sage.txt
It suddenly seems kind of relevant.
If the main question is should Sage try to have a wider user base than
research mathematicians, it definitely should (maybe not in the
education domain though). This doesn't mean that the focus of the
project needs to change. Once Sage provides the best tools and
algorithms for solving certain problems, people who need these will
start using Sage.

It is good to have many users, since they report bugs, sometimes help
with the development, and might help with funding. If an engineer, or a
physicist is using Sage to solve problems, we can expect useful
feedback. If Sage is being used in the classroom, I doubt that there
will be much useful feedback or improvement suggestions. I don't think
making education an immediate goal is a good investment at this point.

Users we gain from the education side are neither concerned in having
the best algorithms for the job, nor having a free software platform
where they can see inside. Their interests are at best orthogonal to
mine, and I guess many Sage developers are also on similar grounds.
However, engineering, and scientific computing applications are
different.


Cheers,

Burcin


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Martin Albrecht
2008-03-18 17:05:31 UTC
Permalink
Hi there,

my impression is that the question "What do 'we' want Sage to be" and "What
can Sage be given the current constraints" should be separated at first.

What do 'we' want Sage to be? The still standing official answer is: "a viable
open-source alternative to M^4". Which is in fact open to interpretation:
what is a viable alternative, how does one measure it? My take is that this
means that Sage should cover a wide range of mathematics, have competitive
fast implementations of all relevant (and many irrelevant) algorithms useful
in mathematics, is well documented etc. It is mainly a statement about the
software itself and does not relate to mass adoption, market share and such.
Mhhh, actually, I said that a benchmark could be the number of research
papers citing Sage and thus I was in fact referring to adoption as a quality
criterion.

Several people on the other hand have expressed that for example the number of
users is a good measure of "a viable alternative ..." and that this number
should be > 10^5. However, with this benchmark one measures the success of a
different 'product' from what I measure. Sage needs a lot of work to appeal
to the 'mass market' and thus -- keeping this benchmark in mind -- I would
have to ask myself: Why am I wasting my time with an SBox class which has
much less than 10^3 potential users when I could work on feature XYZ which
could appeal to 10^4s or more. I don't do feature XYZ and my impression is
that many patches don't focus on feature XYZ either. This was the reason, why
I asked what the status of the 10^6 by 2011 goal was. My (and I claim
other's) actions don't seem to subscribe to this goal. I guess this is also
(2) Most people working on writing Sage are doing so mainly for research
applications. Probably this is 90% of developers, at least.
But for me this is not so much a distinction between research and education
and I honestly regret to have played this card. I don't 'like' research per
se or the other way around but I do care about specific research
topics/fields. The same goes for 'education' some stuff interests me some
doesn't and this will very likely change in the future. Thus, I wouldn't want
the mission statement to be changed.

"What can Sage become given the current constraints?" The question whether
funding agencies fund (number theory) research or education doesn't
necessarily affect what we want from Sage but what we can do under the given
circumstances. The same goes for the number of users: If Sage could only
survive as a project iff 10^6 users were reached by 2011 would I work my ass
off for that: probably yes. Would I that be my benchmark if Sage is a viable
alternative: no. The vote-by-dollar argument is very important and probably
decisive but it only tells us what 'we' can do, not what 'we' would like to
do.

I hope there is at least some clarity in this post, it is rather hard keeping
up with the torrent of replies this thread has generated (which is a good
thing).

Cheers,
Martin
Competing with the 4 M's for performance and for features is one thing.
Outwardly competing for market share? I couldn't care less -- but this is
more of a personal philosophy than anything: I compete with myself, not
others.
but given that 'we' had to compete for market share to get a system which is
performance and feature wise comparable to the M^4 then hell yes I'd work on
that. But again, the answer to this question requires much more background
than "What do we want?"

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