[R] Protocol for answering basic questions

Carlos Javier Gil Bellosta cjgb at wanadoo.es
Thu Dec 2 00:55:53 CET 2004

Here we are facing two problems:

	1) Traffic at the r-help list should be kept at a reasonable level lest 
it becomes completely unmanageable and un-r-helpful.

	2) People will continue to misread, overlook or disregard the manuals 
and come up with questions that many others will consider silly.

R comes with superb documentation and, certainly, the "An Introduction 
to R" is a must for a beginner. But I am sure that my first (and many 
other's) hours with R would have been much more productive spending them 
in front of a computer with an expert in it than reading the document 
and toying at the keyboard. How long does it take until a novice in R 
starts finding more answers than questions while browsing the huge 
documentation? How often would he think "this is a silly question, but I 
cannot find the answer for it; should I had someone to ask it, a simple 
word would put me back on track"?

In fact, most basic questions that appear on r-help are, essentially, 
answered with a simple word (usually preceded by a question mark and 
perhaps accompanied by an invitation to re-read the manuals).

Couldn't the R-community come up with a more economical and less stark 
way to help these newcomers? Couldn't it devise a procedure to provide a 
somewhat more interactive way --even more than a mail-list-- to provide 
them with this one-word answers without having to replicate it in 
thousands of mailboxes throughout the world?

Over the years, while learning C, Java or Python, I have found very 
useful a few IRC channels on those languages where one could get (and 
provide!!) peer-to-peer support. Should a rather informal, open and 
publicited one exist for R, I believe it could channel many of these 
basic questions and, probably, many others some novices do not dare ask.

Perhaps, it does not sound as a very "serious" procedure but... there 
goes my "granito de arena" on the topic.

Carlos J. Gil Bellosta

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