Wolfram|Alpha demonstrates long established GIGO principle

The people at Wolfram|Alpha certainly seem to know how to kick up a hype storm, so I mosied over to see what it was all about.

To start with, I had trouble getting any response at all other than Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input, but finally I got somewhere when I entered “Esperanto”.

Picture 2

So, Wolfram|Alpha gives me concrete information rather than just pointers to pages for me to sift through, and it’s beautifully presented too. Trouble is, it’s complete bollocks.

In July, I’ll be attending this year’s World Congress of Esperanto, to which 1700 people have currently signed up. At the last one I attended, in 2005, I was joined by 2300 Esperanto speakers from 62 countries (out of a total of 2000 in the world, don’t forget); this is actually reckoned to be, in round figures, about 1% of the number of fluent speakers. There will be several dozen native speakers there too; I’ll be having a few beers with two of them the week before. And this year, 150 years since the birth of a certain Ludwik Łazarz Zamenhof, the Congress is to be held in Białystok, the hometown of both Dr Zamenhof and the international language that he initiated. Białystok is not in France.

I’m sure there’s some very clever computational wizardry going on at Wolfram|Alpha, but the traditional garbage in, garbage out rule clearly still applies.

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4 komentoj to “Wolfram|Alpha demonstrates long established GIGO principle”

  1. Skatĉjo Says:

    The search on “Esperanto” was the very first thing I did at the site the day it was opened up to the world.

    The very next thing that I did was submit a comment to them telling them pretty much what you said here: wrong, wrong, wrong and, uh, wrong.

    I hoped that they would have made an extreme effort to insure that the information they presented on their opening day was correct. I suppose that in a lot of areas it probably is. However, they REALLY fell down on the job here, and it puts the results of other queries in doubt (as far as I am concerned).

  2. Mi Says:

    … dum la “ok milionoj” citadataj de e-istoj estas kompreneble tute gxusta kalkulo…

  3. timsk Says:

    If you know Esperantists who are claiming 8 million speakers for the language, then please tell them to stop it, because it’s silly.

    The more often quoted figure is 2 million, which is itself questionable, but is at least based on *some* research with *some* methodology, even if questions could be asked about the validity of those.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto#Number_of_speakers

    UEA have a reasonable quote on their website:

    Numbers of textbooks sold and membership of local societies put the number of people with some knowledge of the language in the hundreds of thousands and possibly millions.

  4. Rosharuo Says:

    Aw, give them credit where it’s due: they got the “eo / epo” part right!

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