[R] A comment about R:

Heinz Tuechler tuechler at gmx.at
Wed Jan 4 12:37:47 CET 2006

At 13:11 03.01.2006 -0500, Peter Flom wrote:
>>>> "Ben Fairbank" <BEN at SSANET.COM> 1/3/2006 12:42 pm >>> wrote
>One implicit point in Kjetil's message is the difficulty of learning
>enough of R to make its use a natural and desired "first choice
>alternative," which I see as the point at which real progress and
>learning commence with any new language.  I agree that the long
>curve is a serious problem, and in the past I have discussed, off
>with one of the very senior contributors to this list the possibility
>splitting the list into sections for newcomers and for advanced users.
>He gave some very cogent reasons for not splitting, such as the
>possibility of newcomers' getting bad advice from others only slightly
>more advanced than themselves.  And yet I suspect that a newcomers'
>section would encourage the kind of mutually helpful collegiality
>newcomers that now characterizes the exchanges of the more experienced
>users on this list.  I know that I have occasionally been reluctant to
>post issues that seem too elementary or trivial to vex the others on
>list with and so have stumbled around for an hour or so seeking the
>solution to a simple problem.  Had I the counsel of others similarly
>situated progress might have been far faster.  Have other newcomers or
>occasional users had the same experience?
>I, for one, have had this experience.  I am usually hesitant to post
>elementary questions here.
My experiences are similar. Since you are expected to search for hours all
available documents before asking a question, I am sometimes inclined to
try for hours to solve a trivial problem that would be solved by an answer
like "see FAQ 3.3.3" (my yesterday's problem).
I would be happy, if it was accepted to ask also trivial or very basic
questions, and one way not to bother the experts could be, instead of
splitting the list, simply to flag such questions in the header by some
keyword like "basic or BQ". (Starting the subject with the keyword, not
replacing it! It's not too convenient for readers, just to state "newbie
question" _instead_ of a meaningful subject.)
This keyword should be defined in the posting guide.
This way, every reader/expert can decide on a personal level to split the
list by filtering the messages accordingly.


>However, I think that the 'cogent reasons' given by 'one of the very
>senior contributors' are valid.
>I think that  a 'newcomers list' would only really be useful if it
>included some experts who could respond,
>out of generosity.  I don't think the R community lacks generosity -
>obviously not, given all the thousands of 
>hours people have spent writing the language and all the packages and
>so on.  
>But these generous people have different abilities and get pleasure in
>different ways.  Some people get a thrill
>out of answering complex questions that require them to come up with
>novel solutions involving complex code.
>Some people get a thrill out of helping newbies over the humps. 
>Dividing the lists might help the experts, as much as it helps the
>R-help at stat.math.ethz.ch mailing list
>PLEASE do read the posting guide! http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html

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