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

Yihui Xie xie at yihui.name
Sat Feb 8 05:49:27 CET 2014

For those defending mailing lists over StackOverflow, can you merge
these threads so later readers do not have to move between multiple

  1. Re: Should there be an R-beginners list?

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

  3. Re: creating an equivalent of r-help on r.stackexchange.com ?

On Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 9:41 PM, Patrick Connolly
<p_connolly at slingshot.co.nz> wrote:
> 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.

Sometimes "hijacking" in the middle of a thread like this is bad,
because the discussion quickly diverges and we do not remember what
previous hijackers said after a few rounds of replies (you just see
[...], <snip>, > >>, >|, ||, > >|>, ...). For example, what did Liviu

> [...]
> |> > 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).

Seriously, do you have an ad "Windows 7 inside" or "Intel inside" or
an Apple icon on your laptop?... Personally I rarely notice the ads on
StackOverflow. You are free to hate ads as I do, but you are also free
to ignore them. Someone picked up Mathematica SE as an example, but
has anyone really gone to http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/r
and checked if there are ads?

> |> (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.
I'm hijacking here not to say anything but just to prove my first point.
> <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
and here. Can you see me?
> 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>
> best
> --
> ~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
>    ___    Patrick Connolly
>  {~._.~}                   Great minds discuss ideas
>  _( Y )_                 Average minds discuss events
> (:_~*~_:)                  Small minds discuss people
>  (_)-(_)                              ..... Eleanor Roosevelt
> ~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.
> ______________________________________________
> R-help at r-project.org mailing list
> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
> PLEASE do not read the posting guide http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> or provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

Sorry, I do not mean to offend anyone (if you notice anything odd). I
just want to support Barry's opinion: mailing lists are good for
discussions, and SO/SE is good for Q&A's. Nothing is good for

Yihui Xie <xieyihui at gmail.com>
Web: http://yihui.name

More information about the R-help mailing list