[R] creating an equivalent of r-help on r.stackexchange.com ?

Marc Schwartz marc_schwartz at me.com
Tue Feb 4 14:57:24 CET 2014

On Feb 3, 2014, at 8:54 PM, Gabor Grothendieck <ggrothendieck at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 8:41 PM, Marc Schwartz <marc_schwartz at me.com> wrote:
>> Hi All,
>> As I have noted in a prior reply in this thread, which began last November, I don't post in SO, but I do keep track of the traffic there via RSS feeds. However, the RSS feeds are primarily for new posts and do not seem to update with follow ups to the initial post.
>> I do wish that they would provide an e-mail interface, which would help to address some of the issues raised here today. They do provide notifications on comments to posts, as do many other online fora. However, there is no routine mailing of new posts with a given tag (eg. 'R'), at least as far as I can see, as I had searched there previously for that functionality. That would be a nice "push" based approach, as opposed to having to go to the web site.
> You can set up email subscriptions for specific tags.  See the
> preferences section of your account.  I get regular emails of the
> r_filter.
> Here are the first few lines of an email I juist received (I have
> pasted it into this text plain email but they are received as HTML and
> there are links to the specific questions).


Thanks for the pointer Gabor. I did not have an account on SE/SO and had only searched the various help resources there attempting to find out what kind of e-mail push functionality was available. A number of posts had suggested a "non real time" e-mail ability, which indeed seems to be the case.

I went ahead and created an account to get a sense of what was available. As you note, you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions based upon various tag criteria. However, it would seem that you need to specify time intervals for the frequency of the e-mails. These can be daily, every 3 hours or every 15 minutes. So there seems to be a polling/digest based process going on.

I created an e-mail subscription last evening and selected every 15 minutes. What appears to be happening is that the frequency of the e-mails actually varies. Overnight and this morning, I have e-mails coming in every 20 to 30 minutes or more apart. It is not entirely clear what the trigger is, given the inconsistency in frequency. Perhaps the infrastructure is not robust enough to support a more consistent polling/digest e-mail capability yet.

The e-mails contain snippets of new questions only and not responses (paralleling the RSS feed content). I need to actually go to the web site to see the full content of the question and to see if the question has been answered. In most cases, by the time that I get to the site, even right away after getting the e-mail, there are numerous replies already present. There is, of course, no way to respond via e-mail.

I would say that if one is looking for an efficient e-mail based interface to SE/SO, it does not exist at present. It is really designed as a web site only interaction, where you are likely going to need to have a browser continuously open to the respective site or sites in order to be able to interact effectively, if it is your intent to monitor and to respond in a timely fashion to queries. 

Alternatively, perhaps a real-time or near real-time updating RSS feed reader might make more sense for the timeliness of knowing about new questions. It is not clear to me how those who respond quickly (eg. within minutes) are interacting otherwise.

There appear to be some browser extensions to support notifications (eg. for Chrome), but again, you need to have your browser open. There also appear to be some desktop apps in alpha/beta stages that might be helpful. However, they seem to track new comments to questions that are specifically being followed (eg. questions that you have posted), rather than all new questions, thus paralleling the SE/SO Inbox content.

That being said, obviously, a lot of people are moving in that direction given the traffic decline here and the commensurate increase there.



More information about the R-help mailing list