Workbook for BaBar Offline Users - Origins
Lines Outside our Doors
The workbook approach was first conceived in 1994 to solve a problem
for the SLD collaboration. The main offline software experts for that
collaboration occupied a single hallway at SLAC. As the collaboration
began to take data, near permanent lines formed outside the doors on
that hallway. Offsite collaborators suffered even more frustration
than those waiting in the lines.
New Users Task Force
Joseph Perl was asked to lead a task force to find a solution to this
problem. The task force was staffed with a mix of new and experienced
graduate students and post docs.
- Physicists learn by copying the analysis jobs of other physicists.
Solution: the Workbook Approach
The term Workbook here comes from the commonly used term for the books
of example problems that American physics students work through in
- Create a Workbook, a connected series of example jobs interspersed
with commentary about the software.
Six months later, with the release of the Workbook, the lines outside
the doors disappeared and collaborators on and off the site reported
New Users Workbook became Offline Users Workbook
The name of the document was soon changed from "New Users Workbook" to
"Offline Users Workbook" to reflect its significant usage by
experienced users as well as new ones.
Essentially the Same Problem
Since the BaBar collaboration's programming base is far more
geographically distributed than was SLD's, there were no visible lines
outside any doors, but the frustration of new users was evident in
phone calls, emails and newsgroups.
Documentation, Communication and Information Task Force
Paolo Palazzi was asked to lead a task force to find a solution to
problems of documentation, communication and the exchange of
information in BaBar. The task force was staffed with a mix of
physicists and programmers. The frustrations of new users quickly
arose as a major issue. Even where documentation did already exist,
the new users had no way to know which documents to read, which
archaic ones to ignore, what to learn in what order, and so forth.
Solution, the Workbook Approach
Since Joseph Perl was on the task force, a Workbook was again
proposed. Increased new user satisfaction was again the result.
It's Nothing Special
There is nothing particularly innovative about the Workbook approach.
Similar tutorials are in existence elsewhere in the software world.
For example, between the creation of the SLD Workbook and the BaBar
one, Sun introduced an excellent Java Tutorial
designed along similar lines.
Despite being the natural solution to such problems, none of the four
large HEP collaborations that Joseph Perl joined (MKIII, MKII/SLC,
SLD, BaBar) had this solution before he introduced it. We tend to
focus on shorter term goals. Only later do we realize how much user
frustration and waste of developer time goes into less formal tutorial
Back to Workbook Front Page
Last edited by:
Last modification: 11 Mar 2001
Last significant update: 30 August 1999