Did you know that Wikipedia horribly blunders? ~ Wikipedia Drama

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Did you know that Wikipedia horribly blunders?

Portal:Kerala: A Featured Wikipedia Portal of stinking stupidity

What is a Featured Wikipedia Portal?
“...portals that are regarded as being particularly useful, attractive, and well-maintained. Of the many portals on Wikipedia, these featured portals are those which stand out.” From Wikipedia:Featured portals

As I write this Wikipedia has 64 Featured Portals. Portal:Kerala is one among them. It surely stands out although for the stupidity it disseminates. See the Did You Know part in the image. Click on the image to view it in actual size. (In this post I will confine myself to dissecting the DYK entries of the portal.) There is something special about those entries. Please note that each of those entries made it into the Wikipedia Main Page as interesting information. Will you believe me if I say most of those entries stem from either ignorance or arch-stupidity? Let me dissect them one by one from bottom to top.

1. ...that the Mahé River in India was
nicknamed the "English Channel" because
it separated British-ruled Thalassery
from French-ruled Mahé?

If it were factual and true, it would really have been a good DYK entry. The fact is that this is fucking bad misinformation collected from a fourth rate website called Tellicherry.com. Among the many blunders listed on the site what caught the fancy of the plagiarist here was the English Channel fantasy. In fact this stupidity was removed from the article Mahé River months ago. And some drama happened in connection with that removal. You can see the page of User:Nosons webarchived here. The page was deleted and Nosons was blocked because the user removed the stupidity and asked the teen admin who posted that misinformation to stop doing so. There is no question of shame beyond a point, as many teen admins of Wikipedia have shown time and again.

2. ...that Yuktibhasa, written by Indian astronomer Jyeshtadeva, is considered to be the first mathematical treatise on calculus?

Firstly, to write the name of the work as Yuktibhasa is unpardonable for a Keralite. It is Yukthibhasha/YukthibhaSha, roughly. You can write the name without ‘h’provided that you add a proper diacritic for ‘s’. You can transliterate the Devanāgarī consonant ष as or S or Sh. However, the important point about Yukthibhasha is that this claim of being the first mathematical treatise on calculus falls within an area of dispute. The claim of Keralese School’s knowledge of calculus itself is disputed. Apparently, the main stream scholars and academics have rejected the idea of this school’s knowledge of calculus while a particular author, whose expertise in the field has been questioned, in his popular work argues in favour of this school’s revolutionary discoveries and even the transmission of these discoveries to Europe. A discussion/dispute is currently going on here.

3. ..that the Periyar National Park, Thekkady is located around the Periyar reservoir formed by the backwaters of the Mullaperiyar dam?

Partly okay, provided the entry doesn’t suggest that the wilderness formed after the man-made lake.

4. ...that Saddam Beach in the Indian state of Kerala was given its name by local Muslim villagers after the Gulf War of 1991 in solidarity with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein?

Silly random trivia. Just reflects the editor’s ignorance of what an encyclopedia is. There were dozens of Moscows in Kerala once. Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s pockets of influence were called thus. Again, there were dozens of Lumumba clubs Saro Wiva Nagars etc. Good luck that these DYK hunting teens are unaware of this not-so-old history of Kerala.

5. ...that Hortus Malabaricus (cover page pictured), the earliest printed treatise on the flora in Asia, contains the first instances of Malayalam types being used for printing?

Another instance of stupidity. This primacy claim of the first use of Malayalam types has been effectively refuted in Wikipedia talk pages months back. See here. You can also see a discussion here. And the teen admin’s reply was thus:

“The statements given by Itty Achutan in Hortus Malabaricus is indeed the first instance of Malayalam types being used for printing. period. Also, you are requested to refrain from posting nonsense about me all over the internet. Attempts at stalking an editor could get you banned.-- thunderboltz(Deepu) 14:04, 5 January 2007 (UTC).”

This teen’s use of “period” is really funny though facts can’t be altered by curt replies. If you want further proof of types being NOT used see this downloadable pdf article which states thus:

“Hortus Malabaricus is the first book in which Malayalam appears in print. As the technology was in its infancy then, engraving the mirror images on each page was done on copper plates. The engravers at Amsterdam had no knowledge of Malayalam language or its script and this resulted in certain distortions. Malayalam has been printed in the book to reproduce two certificates and to depict the names of plants alongside their illustrations. Manilal states that this is not only the first but the only printed book in which both the Kolezuthu and the Aryaezuthu scripts of Malayalam language and numerals are used together, offering scope for further investigations by socio-linguists."

6. There are two more entries. "... that Chemmeen, a popular Malayalam novel, was made into a colour Cinemascope film,...” and “... that Ananthabhadram, a film by Indian director Santhosh Sivan, was inspired by...”

The first one is simply false. Chemmeen was not a CinemaScope film. The first CinemaScope film in Malayalam came about 13 years later in 1978. See here. By the way, the article, Chemmeen, doesn’t have that CinemaScope reference. Maybe, the fellow who added this can blame a Hindu report for this error. However, verifying the information collected from random sources is the editor’s responsibility. The director of a masala flick claims that his film was inspired by so and so. Maybe good for a glossy magazine title. What is its relevance in an encyclopedia? The film was neither of artistic merit nor of popular appeal. And it had neither Kathakali nor Ravi Varma in it.

So, of the seven entries only one would survive. All those entries made it into the Main Page! Each of them represents an article that in all likelihood is a bunch of crap as was the case with Mahé River before User Nosons and an anonymous editor worked on it. Most importantly, those stupid entries survived in spite of some editors’ efforts to remove them with convincing arguments which fell on deaf ears of stupid teens!
Can teens make an encyclopedia? Yes, if they can be encylopedic in their stupidity- from popular cinema to history of mathematics- they certainly can make an Encyclopedia of Blunders.

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