Thanks all for pointers to useful info.

To clarify my data science unit: It will be a basic intro to data analysis
and visualisation, with some spreadsheet work and some programming work.

Richard: I wholeheartedly agree that incorrect (but terribly
well-intentioned) error messages are worse than unfriendly ones! But I feel
we could simply rewrite the existing ones to make them more intelligible
and less intimidating. I am aware that this is far less straightforward
than it sounds!

I may have found my next area of research, although as I am a high school
teacher these days, research is rather lower on my agenda than it used to
be.  I finished a PhD on introductory programming 15 years ago, and I
confess I am a little startled at how little progress there appears to have
been in this area. Surely I am missing something???

On 6 April 2016 at 11:41, Richard A. O'Keefe <o...@cs.otago.ac.nz> wrote:

> On 6/04/16 12:47 pm, Luke Church wrote:
>
>> Based on observational studies, I've generally recommended to the Dart <
>> http://www.dartlang.org/> team that the verbose errors state:
>>
>> - *What happened* (e.g. File 'stuff, ln 43:' class B doesn't implement
>> method foo)
>> - *Why it is a problem* (e.g. class B extends class A, which has an
>> abstract method foo. This means that class B doesn't have an implementation
>> of foo)
>> - *What the user can do next* (e.g. consider implementing foo, or making
>> class B abstract)
>>
>
> If I may add an anecdote, I once used a programming system
> whose authors had put enormous effort into writing "helpful"
> error messages.  But I found them infuriating.  Much of the
> text would explain what the program thought you were trying
> to do, but it was almost always wrong about that.
>
> Take this particular example as an example:  maybe the real
> problem is that the student was trying to call food(), not
> foo(), in which case advice to make B abstract is worse than
> useless.
>
> An error is detected when the system expects something and
> something else happens.  Saying clearly *where* the error
> was is important (and I know my own programs are not very
> good at this), as is saying what the system expected and what
> it thinks it got.
>
> In the Haskell world, one group went to the trouble of building
> a whole new system called Helium, in part so that they could
> provide human-friendly error messages.
>
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Dr Linda McIver
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