[R] Protocol for answering basic questions

Richard A. O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Thu Dec 2 04:50:19 CET 2004

DupliseaD at dfo-mpo.gc.ca wrote:
	I have been a member for only a few days but I find the tone of some
	responses are inappropriate for a list dubbing itself a "help list".

We have experts giving hours of their time every day to be helpful
FOR *NOTHING* (no money, no honours, just the reward of being helpful)
and people want to drive them away because they are human and
occasionally get fed up at being asked the same question over and
over again?

I'm on mailing lists for several languages and packages.  There's only
one that even comes close to R in volume, and a lot of that is insider
chat with more flaming in a day than I've seen in this mailing list in
a week.  This is more help, more effective, more educational, and more
timely than I've _ever_ had for _any_ software, free or commercial.

	I also completely understand that traffic needs to be kept at a
	modest level to keep advanced users interested; therefore, I
	suggest that a second help list be created to deal with "advanced R

With the utmost possible respect, I've seen this kind of thing tried
before, and the only time it works is if someone moderates the 'advanced'
list.  If someone wants to volunteer for the thankless job of moderation,
well and good, but without moderation, what happens is that the clueless
send their messages to both lists, and the clueful beginners lose the
benefit of the experts who've been driven away from the non-advanced list.

One of my earliest messages in this list got slapped down in what I
_still_ think was an unkind and unwarranted way, but I wasn't so thin-
skinned as to run off crying to Mother.

By and large, the people who are most informative in this list are some
of the very same people who worked on things like the FAQ and the
Introduction and some of the tutorials and some of the books.   It's
not beginner status alone that makes someone say "I can't be bothered
reading anything you have written to help me and made readily available

As for arbitrary thresholds like 2 years, I have been using R since
1996 or 1997, and I would still find it necessary to be on the 'nonexpert'
mailing list.  I beg the keepers of the flame: DON'T split the list.

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