[R] creating an equivalent of r-help on r.stackexchange.com ? (was: Re: Should there be an R-beginners list?)

MacQueen, Don macqueen1 at llnl.gov
Mon Feb 3 21:42:08 CET 2014

Every browser-based interface I've ever seen has a number of features that
I find to be huge deterrents. To mention just two:

- They waste copious amounts of screen space on irrelevant things such as
"votes", the number of views, the elapsed time since something or other
happened, fancy web-page headers, and so on. Oh, and advertisements. The
Mathematica stackexchange example given in a link in one of the emails
below (http://mathematica.stackexchange.com/) illustrates these
shortcomings -- and it's not the worst such example.

- In most if not all cases, one has to login before posting. I have too
many usernames and passwords as it is.

Right now, at this very moment, in my email client's window I can see and
browse the subject lines of 20 threads in r-help. And that's using only
about half of my screens vertical space. In contrast, in the Mathematica
stackexchange example, I can see at most 10, and that only by using the
entire vertical space of my screen. The "From" column in my email client
shows the names of several of the people contributing to the thread, which
the browser interface does not. In the email client, I can move through
messages, and between messages in a thread using my keyboard. In a
browser, I have to do lots of mousing and clicking, which is much less

As it is now, r-help messages come to me. I don't have to start up a
browser. So it's much easier to go take a quick look at what's new at any

True, I had to subscribe to the mailing list, which involves a username
and password. But once it's done, it's done. I don't have to login before
posting, which means I don't have to remember yet another username and

What "...duplicated efforts of monitoring multiple mailing lists)"? I have
no duplicated effort...in fact, I have almost no effort at all, since the
messages come to me. There was some initial setup, i.e., to filter
different r-* messages to different mailboxes in my email client, but now
that that's done, it's as simple as clicking on the correct mailbox.

In other words, in every way that's important to me, the mailing list
approach is superior. I do not support abandoning the mailing list system
for any alternative.


Don MacQueen

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
7000 East Ave., L-627
Livermore, CA 94550

On 2/2/14 1:49 PM, "Liviu Andronic" <landronimirc at gmail.com> wrote:

>Dear Duncan,
>I discovered something interesting wrt to the licensing and mirroring
>of user-contributed material on StackExchange.  Please read below.
>On Sun, Nov 24, 2013 at 9:00 PM, Duncan Murdoch
><murdoch.duncan at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I'm not aware of a discussion on this, but I would say no.
>>> Fragmentation is bad. Further fragmentation is worse.
>>> TL;DR
>>> =====
>>> Actually I'd say all mailing lists except r-devel should be moving to
>>> StackOverlow in the future (disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with it).
>> I would generally agree with you, except for a few points.
>> 1.  I avoid StackOverflow, because they claim copyright on the
>> As I read their terms of service, it would be illegal for anyone to
>> and duplicate all postings about R.  So a posting there is only
>>available as
>> long as they choose to make it available. Postings to the mailing list
>> archived in several places.
>It seems that StackOverflow is officially proposing user-generated
>content for download/mirroring:
>"All community-contributed content on Stack Exchange is licensed under
>the Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license. " And it is currently being
>mirrored at least at the Internet Archive:
>So, in principle, it would be possible/desirable to:
>- spin the 'r' tag from StackOverflow and propose an r.stackexchange.com
>http://area51.stackexchange.com/categories/8/technology . Such a SE
>site would be similar to http://mathematica.stackexchange.com/
>- involve R Core to give blessing for using the R logo, if necessary.
>This would be similar to what Ubuntu does with AskUbuntu:
>- set a mirror on r-project.org for all the user content that is
>produced by r.stackexchange.com , and thus allow R Core to keep the
>info publicly available at all times. The mirroring on Internet
>Archive would still hold.
>> 2.  I think an interface like StackOverflow is better than the mailing
>> interface, and will eventually win out.  R-help needs to do nothing,
>> someone puts together something like StackOverflow that attracts most
>>of the
>> people who give good answers, R-help will just fade away.
>The advantages for such a move are countless (especially wrt to
>efficiently organizing R-related knowledge and directing users to
>appropriate sources of info), so I won't go into that. I would only
>note that most 'r-sig-*' MLs would become obsolete in such a setup,
>and would be replaced by the much more efficient tagging system of the
>SE Q&A web interface (for example, all posts appropriate for r-sig-gui
>would simply be tagged with 'gui'; no need for duplicated efforts of
>monitoring multiple mailing lists).
>R-help at r-project.org mailing list
>PLEASE do read the posting guide
>and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

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