[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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