[SciPy-User] Matlab trademark - was: Re: SciPy-User Digest, Vol 82, Issue 49

Matthew Brett matthew.brett@gmail....
Mon Jun 21 04:58:04 CDT 2010


Hi,

> Wikipedia's quality control process is certainly rigorous enough for some
> purposes (e.g., settling a bet w/ someone who agrees to let Wikipedia be the
> arbiter of truth on the matter, or answering a question with a low cost of
> being wrong)

I find myself in the unfortunate position of unpacking John Hunter's
wry joke about young Jedis earlier on in this thread.

My point is not about Wikipedia's quality control or lack of it.  My
point is about how to have a useful opinion on a technical field, like
law, where there is some inevitable ambiguity.

In law, as for medicine, we are tempted to come out with some 'I would
have thought X was true' statement that has essentially no content.
These statements can be dangerous, in law, as for medicine, because
they often rehearse quite unconscious prejudices that do not reflect
the development of the field.

One approach is to say 'you can't have an opinion on the law unless
you're a lawyer'.  The other approach is to try and get to grips with
the law and precedent, and make a sensible statement based on that.
The disadvantage of the 'lawyer only' approach, is that lawyers, in
general, will tend to advise you to do the safest possible thing,
because they want to avoid any possibility of being sued, and
therefore themselves becoming liable.   If, for some reason, you want
to avoid the consequences of the safest possible approach (here,
because we'd have embarrassing legal cruft in our docstrings) your
only choice is to try and understand on what basis the lawyer might
give her opinion, so you can discuss it with them sensibly.

Wikipedia happens - as so often - to have a nice summary of the issues
- with some detail on the precedents on which they are based.   I sent
the other links so you could see that there were other sensible
sources that say the same thing.

In short - let's read - and argue from sources - and try and have an
informed opinion.  Or not have an opinion because we don't have any
interest in reading about it.   But, I don't think we should allow
ourselves the luxury of not reading about it and laughing at those who
have for their naivety in quoting Wikipedia.

See you,

Matthew


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