[R] R-help mailing list activity / R-not-help?

(Ted Harding) Ted.Harding at wlandres.net
Mon Jan 25 18:14:10 CET 2016

My feelings exactly! (And since quite some time ago).

On 25-Jan-2016 12:23:16 Fowler, Mark wrote:
> I'm glad to see the issue of negative feedback addressed. I can especially
> relate to the 'cringe' feeling when reading some authoritarian backhand to a
> new user. We do see a number of obviously inappropriate or overly lazy
> postings, but I encounter far more postings where I don't feel competent to
> judge their merit. It might be better to simply disregard a posting one does
> not like for some reason. It might also be worthwhile to actively counter
> negative feedback when we experience that 'cringing' moment. I'm not thinking
> to foster contention, but simply to provide some tangible reassurance to new
> users, and not just the ones invoking the negative feedback, that a
> particular respondent may not represent the perspective of the list.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: R-help [mailto:r-help-bounces at r-project.org] On Behalf Of Michael
> Friendly
> Sent: January 24, 2016 5:43 PM
> To: Jean-Luc Dupouey; r-help at r-project.org
> Subject: Re: [R] R-help mailing list activity / R-not-help?
> On 1/23/2016 7:28 AM, Jean-Luc Dupouey wrote:
>> Dear members,
>> Not a technical question:
> But one worth raising...
>> The number of threads in this mailing list, following a long period of 
>> increase, has been regularly and strongly decreasing since 2010, 
>> passing from more than 40K threads to less than 11K threads last year. 
>> The trend is similar for most of the "ancient" mailing lists of the
>> R-project.
> [snip ...]
>> I hope it is the wright place to ask this question. Thanks in advance,
> In addition to the other replies, there is another trend I've seen that has
> actively worked to suppress discussion on R-help and move it elsewhere. The
> general things:
> - R-help was too unwieldy and so it was a good idea to hive-off specialized
> topics to various sub lists, R-SIG-Mac, R-SIG-Geo, etc.
> - Many people posted badly-formed questions to R-help, and so it was a good
> idea to develop and refer to the posting guide to mitigate the number of
> purely junk postings.
> <rant>
> Yet, the trend I've seen is one of increasing **R-not-help**, in that there
> are many posts, often by new R users who get replies that not infrequently
> range from just mildly off-putting to actively hostile:
> - Is this homework? We don't do homework (sometimes false alarms, where the
> OP has to reply to say it is not)
> - Didn't you bother to do your homework, RTFM, or Google?
> - This is off-topic because XXX (e.g., it is not strictly an R programming
> question).
> - You asked about doing XXX, but this is a stupid thing to want to do.
> - Don't ask here; you need to talk to a statistical consultant.
> I find this sad in a public mailing list sent to all R-help subscribers and I
> sometimes cringe when I read replies to people who were actually trying to
> get help with some R-related problem, but expressed it badly, didn't know
> exactly what to ask for, or how to format it, or somehow motivated a
> frequent-replier to publicly dis the OP.
> On the other hand, I still see a spirit of great generosity among some people
> who frequently reply to R-help, taking a possibly badly posed or
> ill-formatted question, and going to some lengths to provide a a helpful
> answer of some sort.  I applaud those who take the time and effort to do
> this.
> I use R in a number of my courses, and used to advise students to post to
> R-help for general programming questions (not just homework) they couldn't
> solve. I don't do this any more, because several of them reported a negative
> experience.
> In contrast, in the Stackexchange model, there are numerous sublists
> cross-classified by their tags.  If I have a specific knitr, ggplot2, LaTeX,
> or statistical modeling question, I'm now more likely to post it there, and
> the worst that can happen is that no one "upvotes" it or someone (helpfully)
> marks it as a duplicate of a similar question.
> But comments there are not propagated to all subscribers, and those who reply
> helpfully, can see their solutions accepted or not, or commented on in that
> specific topic.
> Perhaps one solution would be to create a new "R-not-help" list where, as in
> a Monty Python skit, people could be directed there to be insulted and all
> these unhelpful replies could be sent.
> A milder alternative is to encourage some R-help subscribers to click the
> "Don't send" or "Save" button and think better of their replies.
> </rant>
> -- 
> Michael Friendly     Email: friendly AT yorku DOT ca
> Professor, Psychology Dept. & Chair, Quantitative Methods
> York University      Voice: 416 736-2100 x66249 Fax: 416 736-5814
> 4700 Keele Street    Web:   http://www.datavis.ca
> Toronto, ONT  M3J 1P3 CANADA

E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <Ted.Harding at wlandres.net>
Date: 25-Jan-2016  Time: 17:14:06
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