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I'm a techie who is looking to transition to technical writing as a career. It's been suggested that I produce documentation for an Open Source project to demonstrate my ability to do technical writing. I love Math so I thought I'd find a gap in an Open Source Math program and fill that gap.

What poorly documented Open Source Math software can you recommend that I look at?


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I know this probably isn't what you are looking for, but I have been playing around a ton with Blender for 3-d modeling (so it's partially mathematical), and it's a really cool program with not a terrible amount of documentation, from what I could tell. www.blender.org –  Matt Calhoun Mar 20 '11 at 14:42

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R software actually has good documentation in many areas, but it is becoming quite vast with many add-on packages which are not part of the base. I would target a few contributed packages which have bad documentation and offer to improve. Cannot suggest any particulars but refer to all of the contributed packages at: http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/

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Nice suggestion. Thank you. I'd give you a vote up but I'm new here and don't have enough reputation points to do that. –  Sol Mar 20 '11 at 16:34

Consider Maxima, the open-source version of the computer algebra system Macsyma (similar to Mathematica and Maple). If you post a similar question to their mailing list then I suspect that some folks would quickly point you at various parts of the system with little or weak documentation. Since Maxima is a general-purpose system you are more likely to find some area that intersects your interests and expertise.

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Thanks, Bill. I've joined their mailing list and sent my question there. –  Sol Mar 20 '11 at 18:26

I imagine there's room for improvement in the documentation of any open source math project. So instead of looking for a project that's poorly documented, you might look for a project that interests you and then see how you can help.

Most open source documentation is fairly low-level, one step above reading code comments. Often what's missing is high-level introductions or case studies. When a projects as a good "quick start" guide, it is much appreciated. Maybe you could find a project in need of a quick start guide.

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While not purely a mathematics package, OpenSSL is probably the most widely-used software I've ever seen whose documentation is just awful. It's often wrong, very confusing, and after 12 years still says "[STILL INCOMPLETE]" on every section of the documentation.

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OpenSSL is in no way a mathematics package. –  Mitch Mar 20 '11 at 18:34
@Mitch: OpenSSL does have an arbitrary precision arithmetic subsystem. –  lhf Mar 20 '11 at 23:12

If it is also allowed that the software itself is poorly written ;-) then you might be interested in my matrix-calculator MatMate. Here we have much less functionality to describe than in Maxima et al. - just a simple, but nontrivial matrix "pocket" calculator.

Because there are many errors you have even the possibility to include criticism concerning technology/ implementation and concerning the syntax/ semantic-paradigms (which may be interesting for someone who is beginning a writer's carreer). http://go.helms-net.de/sw/matmate/index.htm The exisiting documentation is in german language but possibly gives an idea how to approach a not-too-big introduction/documentation.

(well, even if this all sounds a bit funny/sarcastic when I reread my own msg - that was not intended but -perhaps- unavoidable. Instead maybe such a tiny software is indeed a better start than a full-featured one)

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