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When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia

27 replies on 2 pages. Most recent reply: Aug 16, 2005 11:57 AM by Venkat Subramaniam

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Kay Schluehr

Posts: 302
Nickname: schluehk
Registered: Jan, 2005

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 1, 2005 4:43 AM
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> > Strong-typing on the other hand is the requirement to
> fix
> > the types of all values at compile time.
>
> This is not a broad enough definition to cover programming
> languages which support dynamic typing.

Hi Chris,

some authors like Pierce do not even consider dynamically typed languages as "typed" but as being runtime "tagged". It is not clear what it means for a language like Python being type-safe because type information is generated dynamically and names may be "re-bound" at runtime too. Does it really matter that there are no type casts? There is also no formal model that can be used to explain what it means to be well-behaved ( well-defined behaviour ) at least in some respects in those languages. Ruby folks started to 'invent' funny concepts like "duck-typing" which I personally don't understand at a certain level because I don't know how to derive anything from it: if two entities behave equal than they must be equal. This is nothing but Leibniz identity principle in funny terminology but since each object can be modified which meta-information can be derived/ensured?

Concluding remark: I agree that the informal Wikipedia definition is weak, but the existence of dynamically typed languages may be disputed by means of a formal definition of "type".

Kay

Keith Ray

Posts: 658
Nickname: keithray
Registered: May, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 1, 2005 10:06 AM
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It seems like wikipedia isn't the place to discuss experimental, no-one-else-uses-it, programming languages. It's trying to be an encyclopedia. I've only made one minor change to a wikipedia entry, almost a year ago, and that page has never been changed since then.

You would do better to start a page at http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?FrontPage because that is meant to be a place for _discussion_ as well as a repository of information.

Michael Feathers

Posts: 448
Nickname: mfeathers
Registered: Jul, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 1, 2005 11:58 AM
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It's funny about wikipedia.. the Oxford English Dictionary started out pretty much the same way. Lots of contributions from non-experts. Now it is pretty much the definitive reference for the English language.

Ged Byrne

Posts: 22
Nickname: gedb
Registered: Nov, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 1, 2005 12:44 PM
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Chris,

Personally I've always been suprised on the level of quality within the Wikipedia.

Surely the fight you had to put up to keep the entry for Heron from being deleted shows that it isn't simply a free for all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Heron_programming_language

Peter Hickman

Posts: 41
Nickname: peterhi
Registered: Mar, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 1, 2005 3:18 PM
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> I agree with John. Update the Wikipedia article.

There are a lot of articles to fix and nothing to stop some idiot changing them after you have fixed them.

So I would say ignore Wikipedia, shame really as it looked like a such great idea.

There's the theory (wisdom of the crowds etc) and then there's the practice (wikipedia, blogs, forums).

Peter Hickman

Posts: 41
Nickname: peterhi
Registered: Mar, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 1, 2005 3:25 PM
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> It's funny about wikipedia.. the Oxford English Dictionary
> started out pretty much the same way. Lots of
> contributions from non-experts. Now it is pretty much the
> definitive reference for the English language.

There are some shit hot people working at Oxford, I know I have worked with some. If wikipedia was to develop along the same lines then it would have paid editors who commissioned experts in their field to write the entries and a post room and staff to handle the outside contributions.

Not like wikipedia at all really.

Michel Parisien

Posts: 25
Nickname: kriggs
Registered: Jul, 2005

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 1, 2005 10:15 PM
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I think what you forget here is that the Oxford dictionary is over 100 years old, while Wikipedia is not even 5. Meanwhile, wikipedia has over 500,000 articles and, if you do a search for a random topic, it will probably be better researched (have more diverse scholarly sources) than if you spent an hour googling the information. This being said, to use Oxford as "the bar" is just plain crazy. You want something right, get a dictionary or encyclopedia. You want something quickly or something unique/hard to find (particularly pop-culture or geek-culture), go to wikipedia or c2.

The problem as I see it isn't with wikipedia. It is just in the way people search for information. In social science, I learned the following:
- Peer reviewed sources are better than non-reviewed sources.
- Original data is better than an interpretation of that data.
- Quantitative data is (generally) better than qualitative data.

There are other rules, but what I want to get at is, in terms of finding sources for online arguments (or discussions), the following:
- Avoid making assertions without 3 sources of greatly differing backgrounds.

I don't take anyone seriously who does not present me with enough unbiased information. Particularly if I do a quick google and the first 3 matches disprove them right off the bat. And I won't be fooled by three articles that have the same sentence word for word, as they've obviously tainted each other.

As for cdiggins vs. wikipedia... in my opinion, it is a base and primative battle on both sides. It is always the same thing. One side says the other side sucks, they fight it out, and ends with Wikipedia creating anti-Christopher articles and Christopher creating anti-Wikipedia articles.

So to sum up:
1) You have good sources if I agree with you, and pathetic sources if I don't.
2) Oxford isn't the bar. I am the bar.
Thank you.

Brendan Johnston

Posts: 10
Nickname: bjsyd70
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 2, 2005 1:47 PM
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Definitions are not facts. They are agreements between people about meanings.

In the end arguments about definition have no content.

Although some shit hot people may work for the Oxford english dictionary, most don't.

Based on the articles I have read in WikiPedia, some shit hot people contribute there too.

However, in my opinion, shit hot people are not what makes the Oxford most authoritative. What makes the Oxford authoritative, is that people agree to use it as a reference in certain circumstances.

I think the c2 wiki seems to be more of a free for all than WikiPedia, but I think the discussion about typing was more interesting.

The upshot on the particular topic mentioned was that people do not all understand the same thing about what strong typing means, so if you want to communicate say something else, like static typing, or say safe typing.

In the mean time I will treat the WikiPedia descriptions of honey and bumble bees as good enough for answering my 4 year old's questions.

Merriodoc Brandybuck

Posts: 225
Nickname: brandybuck
Registered: Mar, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 10, 2005 9:56 AM
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Up until two days ago, I would have been inclined to defend wikipedia, but then I saw this while I wsa poking around

"Recursion in computing

Recursion is the method through which computers work. Every recursion increases the depth of a function and in the realm of computers this depth equates to memory and processor time. Non-optimal programming can result in bogged-down memory and slow processing time. In computer science, "Big-O" analysis is used to determine how many resources a function will consume through various methods, including the iterative method."

That first sentence just grates on me, as how computers work has nothing to do with recursion. The rest of it are facts about recursion, but don't really describe what recursion is .

Derek Parnell

Posts: 22
Nickname: derekp
Registered: Feb, 2005

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 10, 2005 8:36 PM
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> Up until two days ago, I would have been inclined to
> defend wikipedia, but then I saw this while I wsa poking
> around
>
> "Recursion in computing
>
> Recursion is the method through which computers work.... "

> That first sentence just grates on me, as how computers
> work has nothing to do with recursion. The rest of it are
> facts about recursion, but don't really describe what
> recursion is .

So, improve it. That's what you can do. If what you write is better than the existing words it will probably stay, and thus you'd be helping someone.

Merriodoc Brandybuck

Posts: 225
Nickname: brandybuck
Registered: Mar, 2003

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 10, 2005 10:43 PM
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The first sentence has been updated to be more correct. I still think that Chris' point stands, though. Wikipedia is not necessarily an authoratative source for computer science jargon. If I sent some green kid over there to get an idea of what recursion was and he had no idea how computers did work, then he would be taken down a bad path.

Something as basic as recursion being incorrectly defined also really makes me wonder how many hotshots really do care about wikipedia definitions at all. It was mentioned in previous posts that some did. I remain unconvinced. None of this is to say I haven't used it, but this example certainly demonstrates it isn't an authoratative source on everything. Of course, I can't find anywhere that it claims to be, but it does often get treated that way.

I think wikipedia is, at best, like any other 'news source'. You may get a good starting point, but you better cross reference the information to get a clue as to whether it is correct or not.

Derek Parnell

Posts: 22
Nickname: derekp
Registered: Feb, 2005

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 10, 2005 10:56 PM
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>... Wikipedia is not necessarily an authoratative source
[ ... ]

> I think wikipedia is, at best, like any other 'news
> source'. You may get a good starting point, but you better
> cross reference the information to get a clue as to
> whether it is correct or not.

I'm with you on that! Even the established encyclopediae regularly publish errata.

The upshot is, 'always cross check your sources' whatever they may be.

Venkat Subramaniam

Posts: 1
Nickname: venkats
Registered: Jul, 2004

Re: When it comes to Computer Science, don't reference Wikipedia Posted: Aug 16, 2005 11:57 AM
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Chris, sorry I did not see this thread until today.

My intent was not to use it as an "authentic" reference,
but to indicates that the mixing of term is not unique to
myself or unusual, as mentioned at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strong_typing.

Enjoyed reading all the different opinion in this thread and glad to be part of this stir :)

Flat View: This topic has 27 replies on 2 pages [ « | 1  2 ]
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