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I've been reading the PETSc documentation, and I having a lot of trouble figuring out what PetscBag and some the functions that relate to it are supposed to do.

It's part of Petsc, but PetscBag is just a container struct and doesn't really have a lot to do with computational science per se.

So, are questions about non-numerical aspects of numerical libraries, like containers and IO, on topic?

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  • $\begingroup$ This question might be relevant. $\endgroup$ – Dan Mar 9 '12 at 21:24
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I would be okay with it, because the PETScBag object (in this case) was designed to simplify some aspect of scientific computing. In this case, it's a generic way to hold a collection of PETSc objects and have access to sane I/O routines for the collection instead of dealing with individual objects.

I think almost any non-trivial question about how to use PETScBag, given enough detail, would be sufficiently interesting to merit inclusion on the site.

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sI forget where it is discussed, but technical question specific to the syntax of APIs should really be directed at the appropriate discussion forum of the package provider. E.g., PETSc question should go to its user mailing list.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's not really a syntax question, it's more of a "how does this work" and "what should this be used for" question. $\endgroup$ – Dan Mar 8 '12 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Since somebody implemented PETScBag for PETSc, I believe that their mailing list/forum is the appropriate venue for your question unless their use cases aren't broad enough for you. $\endgroup$ – Deathbreath Mar 9 '12 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ I will say that a problem of mailing lists that Aron has made me aware of is that people don't search the archives to make sure that their question has been answered. On the one hand, I don't want to see scicomp become a replacement for software-specific mailing lists. On the other hand, I would like to see the site become a resource for people for whom software-specific mailing lists aren't a good option (because such a list doesn't exist, developers or power users aren't supportive, or because a question comes up so frequently that it's good to have a scicomp link to it). $\endgroup$ – Geoff Oxberry Mar 10 '12 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ I've been looking for a while now, but I can't find the meta question that you're referring to. On the other hand, I've found this question and this question, which seem to suggest that the question would be on-topic. $\endgroup$ – Dan Mar 12 '12 at 0:46

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