[R] Protocol for answering basic questions

John Logsdon j.logsdon at quantex-research.com
Thu Dec 2 10:19:26 CET 2004

A brief note from someone who has rejoined the list after a year or so.  I
notice that it is more busy that it was - about 50 messages a day.  This
is not surprising - R has essentially taken over from many other packages
for statistical computing these days and has a massive user base.  It is
one of the shining examples of the power of the open source development
community and a great tribute to the core team.

But the excessive amount of mail is a bother - much of it is quite trivial
to an expert but essential to a beginner. 

There are three ways of tackling this as far as I see:

First would be to make the list a Reply to Sender so that most of us don't
see the replies. This would keep the traffic down and if any topic was of
interest to another member, s/he could ask the originator whether it had
been solved or the solution could also be posted as a summary.  One
advantage of Reply to Sender is that it is only the Sender sees the
multiple messages sent saying the same thing from good souls around the
world who haven't seen the N-1 other messages...

Second is to split it and here, there appear to be 3 types of questions on
this list:

a) Installation or questions that are primarily to do with computing -
such as the problem I had that was immediately answered by the ever
helpful Brian Ripley;

b) R-coding and programming questions, such as the one about subsetting
columns in a matrix.  In principle these are RTFM questions but TFM is not
always explicit and may not be to hand;

c) Advances statistical questions, such as the one on lmeControl.

Of course, there is always a crossover, particularly between b) and c) and
this could be done instead of actually splitting the list by subject line
comments like INSTALL, RTFM and ADVANCED much as is done in Allstat.

The third way is more formal and to have a ticket system so that the
request is 'taken' by the first person who wants to help.  This is much
more difficult in an OS environment and would need a dynamic web site
writing ...

I am sure that this has all been thought about and discussed in my year's
absence but sometimes people are too close and busy to have time to see.

I would suggest a combination of the first two approaches would reduce the
traffic to a manageable amount so that members can see the wood for the
trees. Otherwise people will drop in and out as they see the need and
treat it as a service facility without then contributing to the community.

R is really a victim of it's own success.

Best wishes


John Logsdon                               "Try to make things as simple
Quantex Research Ltd, Manchester UK         as possible but not simpler"
j.logsdon at quantex-research.com              a.einstein at relativity.org
+44(0)161 445 4951/G:+44(0)7717758675       www.quantex-research.com

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