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

Patrick Connolly p_connolly at slingshot.co.nz
Sat Feb 8 04:41:06 CET 2014

On Tue, 04-Feb-2014 at 01:11AM +0100, Liviu Andronic wrote:

|> Dear Don and Bert,
|> Allow me to address some of your concerns below.

Which you do very clearly by positioning your responses underneath
what you're commenting on.  That doesn't seem to be possible on SE.


|> > On Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 12:42 PM, MacQueen, Don
|> > <macqueen1 at llnl.gov> wrote:
|> >> - 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.

|> >
|> Well, I've seen my fair share of advertisements on Gmail, Yahoo Mail
|> or what have you. I know some use dedicated clients, but not all do.

Thunderbird with an IMAP setup avoids advertisements entirely even on
Gmail and Yahoo Mail (and is quicker).

|> (And sofar I haven't noticed one single intrusive or distracting ad on
|> SE.)

They do take up screen space where something more usable could use it.


|> >> 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 efficient.
|> >>

|> Again, fair point, but with SE you quickly realize that this is
|> irrelevant. On ML, even more so on r-help, the only sane way to
|> sort and filter the messages is using time. ...

Call me insane but I find sorting by thread within subject far more
useful.  Seeing who else has already commented on the subject helps to
give me a good idea whether it's a subject I'm interested in.  If not
I delete the whole thread and leave space on my screen where I can see
75 subject lines without scrolling.  If it's an interesting thread, I
save it to an appropriate folder on my disk.  A browser interface
can't come close to that usability.  Many people have never seen mail
displayed in threads and so have little idea what I'm referring to.


|> It is also much easier to filter questions by topics: if you're
|> interested in GUI or plyr related questions, just display those
|> tags, and then answer relevant questions. On r-help you may only
|> guess from the subject line what the question could possibly be
|> about.

My mail client allows me to filter by any string in the body of the
message.  It's rather useful.

<rant> I'm evidently in a decreasing minority group who learnt to use
computers with punch cards (and patch panels for differential
equations) which probably colours my view.  The fact that simpler
effective means of communications are being taken over by whizz-bang
complicated inefficient ones is a cause for concern.  I belong to a
group (as distinct from the aforementioned minority group) which has
never known the delights of an efficient mailing list and flounders
around trying to communicate via Facebook.  The level of communication
is appalling: nobody ever knows what's going on. We might as well be
using punch cards.</rant>


   ___    Patrick Connolly   
 {~._.~}                   Great minds discuss ideas    
 _( Y )_  	         Average minds discuss events 
(:_~*~_:)                  Small minds discuss people  
 (_)-(_)  	                      ..... Eleanor Roosevelt

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