Behind the design of Numbas - what should I write about first?

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Christian Lawson-Perfect

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Aug 25, 2021, 10:53:46 AMAug 25
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Hi all,
Chris Graham and I have set ourselves the task of writing more this year. I don't enjoy writing prose as much as writing code, so I don't do it much, but we've concluded that we really should write more things down.

Chris is going to write papers about how Numbas is used. I'd like to write about the design of Numbas - the motivation behind the introduction of certain features, the research that went into their design, and what we ended up implementing. While the published documentation for Numbas describes all the features in a functional sense, as a reference for someone wondering what a particular field in the editor does, there isn't much about the theory behind the system or why things work in a certain way, and I think it can be hard to get an idea of the bigger picture.

I've started a site at http://numbas.org.uk/behind-the-design/, and sketched out some drafts of topics that I want to cover. My plan is to build these articles up gradually, expanding different bits as thoughts come to me.

What I'd like to know is what you'd like me to write about first, and if there's anything missing from my list of topics. Please give me your thoughts!

William Haynes

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Aug 25, 2021, 11:54:38 AMAug 25
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Hi Christian.

One thing I would like to see is more information on Marking Algorithm theory.   This is an area where I don’t feel like I have the big picture, and it’s often unclear (to me) what the base algorithms are doing and why — making it hard to know what I can change, and what I should not touch.   This is above and beyond understanding how to make them do what I want, which is a different struggle!

Thanks

Will



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Christian Lawson-Perfect

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Aug 26, 2021, 10:58:14 AMAug 26
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Thanks Will! That's a good place to start - I agree that it's a tricky system to get your head round.

Christian Lawson-Perfect

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Sep 1, 2021, 10:40:34 AMSep 1
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I've got a first draft of a piece about marking: https://www.numbas.org.uk/behind-the-design/marking.html.
I'm trying to record the design process, the implementation, and how it's used, so it's not a great reference if you just want to learn how to write a marking algorithm. I think that kind of thing will go in the main Numbas documentation.

Christian Lawson-Perfect

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Sep 15, 2021, 11:12:37 AMSep 15
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Hi all,
I've finished a first draft of another piece, about pattern matching: https://www.numbas.org.uk/behind-the-design/pattern-matching.html.
This one is very technical, but might interest someone who's wondered how the simplification rules and pattern-matching in Numbas work.

I've also filled out a few more of the other pages, using my notes from when I first set out to start this project, roughly this time last year! Those pages are still in outline form, but you might like to see what I'm planning.
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