[R] (Off-Topic) Time for a companion mailing list for R packages?

Jim Lemon drj|m|emon @end|ng |rom gm@||@com
Thu Jan 13 22:15:42 CET 2022

I wasn't going to contribute to this, but I've got a couple of minutes
and the morning caffeine has hit me.
My 5 Point Plan for taking life as it comes:
1) I don't like to help people, I'd rather trick them into doing it themselves.
2) I'm lazy and intolerant. If somebody wants me to do their work for
them, that's what the delete key is for.
3) I'm not omniscient (and lazy, remember). If I can't provide an
answer, see 2) above.
4) I can read most HTML messages well enough. Be thankful they're not
sending TikTok videos.
5) I've got a good memory and I still blush at some of the stupid
questions I have asked.


On Fri, Jan 14, 2022 at 7:09 AM Marc Schwartz via R-help
<r-help using r-project.org> wrote:
> Eric,
> With respect to your second point, as one of the moderators for the
> R-Devel list, where the same considerations apply to all "official" R
> lists like R-Help here, the issue of plain text content restrictions is
> multi-factorial, partly with security considerations in mind, but has
> historically been imposed by the university (ETHZ) that hosts and
> archives all of these R related lists. It is also, historically, very
> common with open source communities generally.
> If one sends a message to the list that is only HTML, or perhaps a
> multi-part MIME message with both HTML and plain text sub-parts, the
> HTML markup will be stripped, leaving only the plain text part. You will
> usually see a line at the end of the post/reply as follows:
>    "[[alternative HTML version deleted]]"
> when that occurs.
> When we see some messages here that appear to be a single, longish,
> unformatted and largely unreadable paragraph, with no obvious line/para
> breaks, where the sender may have actually formatted the message in HTML
> before sending, that is the result of the HTML filtering by the ETHZ
> server, perhaps also influenced by how the sender's e-mail client
> formatted the plain text sub-part of the message.
> That is why it is best, and recommended, to format the e-mail message
> natively in plain text only to begin with, and there are numerous e-mail
> clients that support that functional distinction.
> Also, there are still folks out there that use plain text only e-mail
> clients, yes in 2022, where we have to recognize and be sensitive to
> that reality as the official R support venues.
> With respect to attachments, a limited set of them are allowed here for
> the R lists. Primarily, these are PDF, [E]PS, PNG and JPG, which would
> generally accommodate the graphics related scenarios that you mention.
> As has been noted elsewhere in this thread, there are a number of other
> venues that provide R specific, community based, support using online
> forums with varying levels of, perhaps more "modern" functionality. The
> most prolific likely to be StackOverflow which, without any doubt, and
> to some extent via the gamification on that platform, has markedly
> reduced the traffic volume here over the years. That shift initially
> started in circa 2009 when that platform began, and then rapidly grew,
> with traffic volume on R-Help peaking in 2010. I occasionally run
> traffic volume reports comparing the two venues over time, and having
> been a part of the R community for ~20 years now, the drop-off here post
> 2010 is quite noticeable. I don't label that phenomenon as good or bad,
> it is simply the reality of the situation and this is not a competition
> for traffic.
> As noted in this thread, other locations find R related interactions as
> well, which would include LinkedIn, ResearchGate, RStudio's forums, and
> some package developers provide support via their GitHub repos, using
> the Issues functionality, even if not a bug. In the case of RStudio,
> having their own support forums, and as comes up here, there is
> frequently a lack of distinction between RStudio the third party GUI,
> and R itself, resulting in confusion by users, and subsequent
> "energetic" discussion here.
> I am not advocating the general use or non-use of any specific platform,
> but am primarily addressing the limitations here on the official lists
> as currently implemented. For the record, I am not an RStudio user and
> do not participate on StackOverflow, albeit, in the latter case, Google
> searches on technical subject matter do lead me there on occasion.
> We have had numerous online and offline discussions over the many years
> of sub-setting the official R lists by common subject matter. The
> challenge is always, how much granularity do you impose on the list
> structure, even if you just create an "R-Newbie" list, which
> specifically has been discussed many times over the years. The more
> granularity you impose, the more difficult it becomes to manage and
> interact with those "stove pipes", when there may not be a clear
> separation in subject matter, and there will be the inevitable overlap
> in content. You also need relevant, volunteer, community members to then
> be willing to moderate, subscribe to and participate on those multiple
> lists, if they are to be of value.
> That would be the challenge even with an R-Packages list. Will every, or
> most, or the most popular, third party package developers subscribe to
> that list, so that if someone posts a query, they are likely to get a
> timely reply? Would enough community members with relevant experience do
> so? Or would a useR then re-post the query to R-Help after a period of
> time of no replies anyway, and in time, give up on the other list due to
> the lack of traffic?
> For many third party packages, especially those that have a longer
> history and have a reasonable useR base, posting here is fine in my
> mind, and helpful community replies are reasonable to expect. For
> others, communicating with the package maintainer directly may be the
> only recourse, because there is perhaps not broad experience with the
> package in the community. It may be difficult for the useR of such a
> package to make that distinction a priori, unless they (hopefully) take
> the time to search the list archives first, perhaps using rseek.org or
> Google, which is also recommended.
> I always begin with the assumption that the question that I have has
> been asked before, and hopefully an answer will also be present. That
> may be in the relevant documentation, including package vignettes where
> available, or otherwise online here or elsewhere. Certainly, if there is
> a bug or a reasonable suspicion of one in a third party package, the
> package maintainer should be the primary point of contact.
> Regards,
> Marc Schwartz
> Eric Berger wrote on 1/13/22 12:25 PM:
> > Re: constructive criticism to make this list more useful to more people:
> >
> > Suggestion 1: accommodate questions related to non-base-R packages
> >                         This has been addressed by many already. The current
> > de facto situation is that such questions are asked and often answered.
> > Perhaps the posting guide should be altered so that such questions fall
> > within the guidelines.
> >
> > Suggestion 2: expand beyond plain-text mode
> >                          I assume there is a reason for this restriction but
> > it seems to create a lot of delay and often havoc. Also, many questions on
> > this list relate to graphics which is an important part of R (even base R)
> > and such questions may often be more easily communicated with images.
> >
> > Eric
> <...earlier content snipped...>
> ______________________________________________
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> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

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