Talk:Shiva Ayyadurai

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Is his claim "controversial" or "false"?[edit]

There has been a minor edit war over whether Ayyadurai's claim to have invented email is "controversial", as currently described in the page, or "false", as several editors have revised it. This suggested improvement was possibly triggered by the recent election of Donald Trump, who has been known throughout his campaign to make claims that are easily documented to be false. As a cautionary tale, these editors seem to be suggesting that to call a false claim "controversial" is to dignify it with a claim to truth that it does not actually possess (stating "Since fraudulent & false claims are now merely 'controversial', it needs to be noted that these claims are false. This is controversial like the moon landings being fake are."). One reverting editor said, "Make your case in Talk before adding here." This section is an attempt to do so. (I am not one of the above editors.)

The traditional media is famous for digging up somebody who'll take the other side of a claim, giving them a minor mention, and thus claiming to present a "balanced" point of view. Wikipedia aspires to a higher standard of the neutral point of view WP:NPOV that mentions the major schools of thought, with proper perspective on each, and leaves out the minor schools of thought as unworthy of an encyclopedia article.

I agree that in general it's socially dangerous to allow false claimants to be represented as merely controversial. Doing so encourages many more people to tell self-aggrandizing lies which, when accepted as "one side of the story", confuse a portion of the public into believing these lies, to their detriment. It also muddles the historical record, particularly at a time when the actual participants are still alive and able to confirm the truth. Later generations should be told the difference between a widely accepted truth; versus a matter on which there is room for argument and no clear consensus; versus a false claim. This is particularly true in an encyclopedia.

The claim that Ayyadurai invented email is easily documented to be false, by many sources, both from before his invention of a program for electronic messaging, and after he made the public claim to have "invented email" many years later. These sources are already well represented in the article. The sources that originally reprinted Ayyadurai's claim to have invented email (almost all of which have since retracted the claim) are also well represented. Is the neutral result of all those sources that Ayyadurai's claim is "false", or merely "controversial"?

Having personally lived through the 1970s, having personally used an email system in 1973 before Mr. Ayyadurai created his email system, and having revised and maintained pre-existing email software in 1975-6, I personally believe that it is "false". But personal experience is not enough for an encyclopedia article. I also believe that the collection of sources referenced in the article support the statement that the claim is false rather than merely controversial. For these reasons, I support changing the word "controversial" to "false" in the lede paragraph of the article, and in the lede paragraph of the "'EMAIL' invention controversy" section of the article. Gnuish (talk) 19:22, 20 January 2017 (UTC)

I appreciate your taking this to Talk, and I respectively disagree. I don't think it's our place as Wikipedia editors or Wikpedia's place as an encylopedia to resolve this question, especially in a WP:BLP. As long as Ayyadurai is making the claim, some news sources have not retracted their stories, and some technologists appear to be in Ayyadurai's court, I think we should error on the side of caution. News sources include Time, whose original Techland story was never retracted and CBS. Technologists include retired MIT professor Deborah J. Nightingale. These and others are listed in Ayyadurai's Techdirt complaint. Are you persuaded? Am I? It doesn't matter. As editors, we should stay as neutral as possible here and trust our readers to come to their own conclusions. Barte (talk) 20:06, 20 January 2017 (UTC)
It's perfectly clear from the second paragraph of the lead that the claim is necessarily false; I don't see there is any risk of a reader being confused on the subject. It is also a controversial claim (and I see nothing wrong with documenting that); some false claims are controversial ("the moon landings were faked") and some are not ("the moon is made of green cheese"). As far as I can see this has absolutely nothing to do with that bozo Trump and I have no idea why you bring him up. Pinkbeast (talk) 21:25, 20 January 2017 (UTC)
I bring up Trump because he has succeeded (in being elected) despite being caught in many lies (or some would say because he has the cojones to lie with impunity). His success may embolden many others to also lie for their own benefit. I believe that Mr. Ayyadurai may be one such person. His ridiculous claim to have invented email when it clearly predated him by at least a decade is like Christopher Columbus' claim to have "discovered" America in 1492 when there were already people living there (a claim that Wikipedia does not make, saying instead that he "initiated the European colonization of the New World", but perhaps the apologists for Columbus have all died off). Wikipedia should not be a support system for such lies. If Wikipedia was a work of fiction, it would be fine to have it filled with entertaining lies. But it purports to be factual, and should not treat obvious lies like facts, even if some minority of sources are taken in by those lies. Gnuish (talk) 23:48, 20 January 2017 (UTC)
Ayyadurai made this claim long before Trump's candidacy was even mooted, let alone taken seriously. In fact, exactly the same objection in regard to causality disqualifies both the claim and the idea that Ayyadura was somehow inspired to make it by Trump's candidacy. (Additionally, of course, Trump hardly came up with the idea of telling whoppers, even if he has demonstrated an exceptional talent for it).
As far as I can see the article does not treat Ayyadurai's claim like a fact. It explains very clearly, early on, why the claim is impossible. So, as with your screed above about his relationship with Drescher, I don't really see that your complaint makes much sense.
Columbus seems to be another one of these curious and dubious digressions you make. If I say I "discovered" a charming pub in the back streets, I don't expect anyone to object on the grounds that doubtless the locals knew it was there already. The issue with Columbus's legacy seems to me to be the horrifically murderous tyranny he oversaw, not what verb one uses for finding something which almost no-one in Europe had any idea was there. Pinkbeast (talk) 04:39, 21 January 2017 (UTC)
I would like to propose a third solution. Simply state that he makes the claim, that is verifiable fact. Then in the next sentence mention the reliable sources that say this is not true. This means every statement follows WP:V & WP:RS and avoids the words "false" conflicts with WP:TRUTH and "controversial" which is a word that has almost no meaning. Ashmoo (talk) 06:58, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

Am I the only one who thinks "controversial" implies "in doubt" or "in need of better proof" or "false but tenaciously believed" rather than "true"? -- Naaman Brown (talk) 12:37, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

I don't think that. But I do think similar things about Ayyadurai's claim. I don't see his claim as having any controversy left to it, it's simply a tendentious redefining of "EMAIL" in order to scrape up some residual glory for him. Andy Dingley (talk) 13:32, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
Per my post above, I still think "controversial" is better than "false. I'd also be fine removing the adjective entirely: " notable for his claim". Barte (talk) 15:05, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
How about "largely-discredited claim" instead of "controversial claim"? That particular wording is well-supported by the sourced info within the main body of the article. Shearonink (talk) 16:02, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
I think we should leave it be (especially if "controversial" does imply something rather than "true", as you say). The current wording is not bad, the claim clearly did cause controversy, and the lead makes it pretty clear that the claim is impossible. Pinkbeast (talk) 17:21, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
I disagree that "controversial claim" should be left as is. That implies by omission that there are some or many that agree with his claim, but the reverse can be verifiably referenced...that is, his claim has been discredited and held by the large majority of experts to be false. (Has anyone seen even one recent reliable source that states unequivocally that Ayyadura did indeed invent what we now call "e-mail"?) I agree with Ashmoo's post above and think the best way forward is to craft the first two sentences into something like the following:
V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai is an Indian-born American scientist and entrepreneur known for his claim to be the "inventor of email". Ayyadura's assertion is based on electronic mail software he wrote as a New Jersey high school student in the late 1970s, which he called EMAIL.
Shearonink (talk) 18:09, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
I think it would be better to leave it alone but I could live with that, and I think most people are in favour of removing "controversial". I notice you have changed the second "claim" to "assertion". Pinkbeast (talk) 18:23, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
The first paragraph has three "claim"s. An "assertion" would provide some variety. Barte (talk) 21:53, 22 August 2017 (UTC)


Regarding this, I checked the 2007-2008 spreadsheets here and Ayyadurai did not appear in any of them. So while he received some sort of grant, he's not a Fulbright Scholar. --NeilN talk to me 17:08, 1 March 2017 (UTC)

You're right, he did not receive a "Fulbright Scholar" program grant - but he did receive a US "Fullbright Student grant"[1]
According to[2], paraphrased slightly: "Fulbright U.S. Student" is the preferred terminology, but: "Because the Fulbright Program is a scholarship program, any participant may refer to himself or herself as a "Fulbright scholar," even if that participant did not receive a Fulbright Scholar Program grant."
So, while it's a bit misleading to call him a Fullbright Scholar, the fault is really with Fulbright for allowing this confusion (imho); and I'm sure he's not alone in taking advantage of it. Snori (talk) 20:26, 8 March 2017 (UTC)
Very helpful, Snori. Thanks. I think the existing sentence accurately portrays the situation? --NeilN talk to me 20:38, 8 March 2017 (UTC)
Yes, the article text is fine currently, but it's nice to have this clarification recorded here in Talk in case of future confusion. Snori (talk) 20:42, 8 March 2017 (UTC)
I've removed the Fulbright Scholars category. It seems inappropriate to me, as it suggests that he is most accurately referred to as a "Fulbright Scholar." I know it's stated less ambiguously in the body of the article, but that context is not provided when looking at the list of names on the category page. It also puts two pieces of information on this page that appear to conflict. The existing sentence is technically accurate, but it probably still leads to many people getting the wrong idea because they're not so familiar with Fulbright as to know that they have several types of scholarships, only one of which is referred to as a "Scholar Grant." The category only adds to that confusion and is, by the most charitable interpretation, misleading, so I removed it. Dscush (talk) 02:57, 18 September 2017 (UTC)


We've been here before, of course, but in the most recent round of edits Arbor to SJ has found a source for his birth year. (Doubtless the source trusted Ayyadurai, but that's not our department).

While I reverted an edit with the specific date on the grounds that Ayyadurai is not a reliable source, which he ain't, does he have any reason to lie about his date of birth? I am inclined given the source for the year to accept that December 2 is accurate, assuming there's not some India-specific reason to be skeptical about that (as if, say, Trump claimed to have been born on the 4th of July). Pinkbeast (talk) 05:59, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

I'm also inclined to include it. For most BLP's including this one, the primary source is all we've got, and I can't see any reason for him to misstate it. Barte (talk) 14:25, 22 April 2018 (UTC)

Marathi, Tamil, or neither?[edit]

Should the first sentence give Ayyadurai's name in Marathi or Tamil: Marathi: "वेल्लियप्पा अय्यदुरई शिव" or "tamil:சிவ அய்யாதுறை"? Or, lacking a source, should it list either one? I see policy guidelines for romanization, but not for the other direction. Barte (talk) 14:39, 28 April 2018 (UTC)

I've removed it as unsourced. Barte (talk) 13:51, 29 April 2018 (UTC)

Hm. I was going to say, stick both in and see who complains, but let's go with remove and see who complains. Pinkbeast (talk) 17:30, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
WP:INDICSCRIPT. Neither. —DIYeditor (talk) 18:22, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Also WP:BLPRS. And see who complains. Barte (talk) 21:16, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
I hadn't seen WP:INDICSCRIPT. Thank you. I was already happy with how it is now, but that makes it clearly best. Pinkbeast (talk) 00:41, 30 April 2018 (UTC)
I hadn't seen it either. Thanks--I think it's definitive. Barte (talk) 02:15, 30 April 2018 (UTC)