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

John Sorkin jsorkin at grecc.umaryland.edu
Mon Jan 25 18:35:48 CET 2016

When we read acerbic replies we should remind the poster to reply in a more moderate tone. On the other hand  noting that the list is not intended to be a source of answers to home work questions is 100% appropriate. This philosophy is intended both to keep the list from being flooded with questions and to make sure that no student has an unfair advantage.

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> On Jan 25, 2016, at 12:17 PM, Ted Harding <Ted.Harding at wlandres.net> wrote:
> My feelings exactly! (And since quite some time ago).
> Ted.
>> 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
> This message was sent by XFMail
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> PLEASE do read the posting guide http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

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