[R] Protocol for answering basic questions

Kjetil Brinchmann Halvorsen kjetil at acelerate.com
Thu Dec 2 12:34:44 CET 2004

Stuart Leask wrote:

>reasons! Most things in life a worth what you pay for them - 
? I did'nt pay for my wife.


>the currency
>here seems to be whether folks consider that a questioner has made an
>effort; if so, respondants seem happy to match it.
>I think it is astonishing that the R list maintains such an enthusiastic
>body of world-class contributors. I look at many other help lists
>(commercial and open-source) and see great oceans of unanswered queries.
>Hands up anyone who has time to politely answer swathes of questions already
>covered elsewhere. That folks complain that they have not had a reply in 48
>hours is a testament to the tremendous effort that is put in.
>What I would be in favour of is another list: R-complaints! Here folks with
>bruised egos and/or higher expectations of their fellow man can pursue
>threads like this one into the next millenium....
>----- Original Message ----- 
>From: "Marwan Khawaja" <marwan.khawaja at aub.edu.lb>
>To: "'Robert Brown FM CEFAS'" <r.g.brown at cefas.co.uk>;
><r-help at stat.math.ethz.ch>
>Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2004 8:41 PM
>Subject: RE: [R] Protocol for answering basic questions
>Well, if you do not like the way some people answer queries, why not just
>the reply without reading the response.
>Since we're not paying anyone for answering questions, we should be grateful
>those who put their time in replying to our basic questions.
>And why join this community? -- if you think most are 'conceptually naïve'!
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch
>>[mailto:r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch] On Behalf Of Robert
>>Brown FM CEFAS
>>Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2004 6:46 PM
>>To: r-help at stat.math.ethz.ch
>>Subject: [R] Protocol for answering basic questions
>>I have been following the discussions on 'Reasons not to
>>answer very basic questions in a straightforward way' with
>>interest as someone who is also new to R and has had similar
>>experiences.  As such it with sadness that I note that most
>>seem to agree with the present approach to the responses to
>>basic questions.  I must thank those respondants to my own
>>questions who have been helpful, but there are some whose
>>replies are in my opinion not only unhelpful but actually
>>rude.  Indeed I've now started using Splus instead of R so as
>>to have access to a 'proper' support service.  Indeed, the
>>main thing I've learned from R is a new respect for the
>>values of commercial software and a scepticism regarding free
>>software. In the end my experience of r help is that you get
>>what you pay for. Many of the so called socratic responses
>>(in this list and the wider academic community) can be seen
>>as simply way to avoid additional work of a complete reply.
>>Experienced R users don't seem to understand how difficult
>>the program can be to new users. Responding that the
>>questioner should read the 'Introduction to R' or a similar
>>document is like  answering a question for directions to
>>one's house with 'Buy a map'.  Most likely both such
>>questioners have already tried that and are asking because
>>that approach failed.  R is a language and like all languages
>>it is simple to those that understand it and complex to those
>>who do not. Every schoolboy in Spain speaks Spanish, but I
>>know from experience that for most English people it is very
>>difficult to learn Spanish and take years of study.  If I'm
>>asked a question from a novice of a language (be it Spanish
>>or R) do I reply 'consult the dictionary'. I would hope not!
>>I can tell repondants that whilst many of my basic questions
>>may seem simple it is not for lack of studying the very
>>sources they refer to.  If only learning was so simple.  I
>>suspect that the same is true of most question!
>> ers.
>>I speak as someone with a PhD and many years as a researcher
>>in my speciality as well as someone close to completing a
>>masters in statistics with distinction. As such I am not a
>>total novice and would suggest that if I'm having problems so
>>are many; and it is not a result of lack of study as so many
>>responses seem to suggest.  Indeed it is revealing that
>>several responses suggest that they want to discourage
>>questions so they don't overwhelm r-help.  Understandable but
>>not a recipe to encourage the use of R by other than experts.
>>The R community needs to decide of they really only want
>>expert statisticians users and make this clear if it is the
>>case.  Alternatively if they are to encourage novices the
>>present approach is not the way to do it.
>>I can appreciate that many of the respondants are busy, but
>>if that is the case it would be better if they didn't reply
>>at all. I was taught many years ago that if you can't say
>>anything nice/useful then to say nothing at all.  Something
>>similar could well be applied to this list.  I must say that
>>some respondants are very helpful; and I thank them.  Leave
>>these simple questions to such people.  Indeed it seems
>>surprising that some exteremely experienced R users choose to
>>reply to these basic messages at all; and it seem it is
>>mostly these people who are rude.  I would have thought it
>>might be better for them to concentrate on complex problems
>>more suited to their skills and interests and leave the
>>simple questions to more sympathetic souls.
>>Perhaps there is a case for two r help lists catering to
>>basic and advanced questions? Certainly if the R community is
>>serious about appealling to users outside advanced
>>statisticians there is a need for a change of approach in r
>>help and elsewhere.  Russ Ackoff identified much of the
>>failure of management science as due to those who were
>>'mathematically sophisticated but conceptually naive' and
>>much the same could be said for many in the R community.
>>Finally, let me once again thank those who have responded
>>helpful to my queries in the past and ask them to continue in
>>that vein; their assistance and effort is greatly appreciated.
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Kjetil Halvorsen.

Peace is the most effective weapon of mass construction.
               --  Mahdi Elmandjra

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