RE: [R] Protocol for answering basic questions

From: Henrik Bengtsson <>
Date: Thu 02 Dec 2004 - 07:02:46 EST

To many "beginners questions" are send to the r-help list cluttering up the mailbox making it hard to see "real" questions.

To get fewer "beginners questions".

Being "rude". I don't like the word rude here, but that's the word used in this thread.

Will we get less beginners questions by being rude? It will certainly prevent people from doing the same "mistake" again, but it does obviously not prevent (some? most? any?) *first-time* submitters.

The first "PLEASE do read the posting guide!" you will see is when you sign up (, but that, I bet, is missed by many eagerly scrolling down to fill in their email adress (I doubt there is a solution to this). The second one is when they start received messages from the list, which might be in a reply to your own very first question asking you to "PLEASE do read the posting guide!".

1) Is it possible in MailMan to force beginners to read the FAQ before their, say, first ten messages get through to the r-help list?

2) In addition, it could be useful to anyone who replies to see for how long the person has been on the list, or how many questions he or she has asked and how many questions he or she has answered. Having this information, in addition to helping you to answer a question, I assume the one who receives an answer could see what "experience" the answerer has. Of course, counters are just proxies, but it would indeed work almost automatically.

I skimmed through the MailMan pages/docs (, but could not find anything on this. [ Maybe I should send a "beginners question" to their list(s!) ;) ]

3) I have been thinking to do a first proof-of-concept of the following many time. It should be straightforward to have a popup message (tcltk or at the prompt) when starting R giving you a random tip or FAQ. Experiences users will know how to turn this off (hmm, maybe this will generate "How can I turn of the tip/FAQ message?" questions). I'll see if I ever get the time to do this. I believe this would be useful not only for basic R, but for many large package.

Best wishes

Henrik Bengtsson

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of Jari Oksanen
> Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2004 7:14 PM
> To:
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: [R] Protocol for answering basic questions
> On 1 Dec 2004, at 19:46, wrote:
> > I have been a member for only a few days but I find the
> tone of some
> > responses are inappropriate for a list dubbing itself a
> "help list". I
> > also completely understand that traffic needs to be kept at
> a modest
> > level to
> > keep advanced users interested; therefore, I suggest that a second
> > help list
> > be created to deal with "advanced R help". Belong to both
> lists if you
> > wish
> > and filter your email for cursory glances or a detailed
> reading. Users
> > must
> > judge themselves the level of their queries and perhaps a
> note saying
> > something like "requests to the advanced list are generally made by
> > users
> > who already have a very good working knowledge of R" or
> some very rough
> > benchmark for judging your level like 2 years.
> >
> > I do not know how much work this would involve or resources
> available
> > for
> > this - it is a blind proposal. I think it might deal with
> many of the
> > problems both beginner and advanced users have with the
> present list.
> >
> You may have not been long enough on this list to see that
> some of the
> old-time gurus have reached a demigod like status. Demigods have all
> rights to be `rude' (that's almost a definition of a
> demi-deity). That
> said, I do know your sentiments: I'd be afraid to post a question to
> this list. I also remember that I was shocked that the first
> message I
> sent here got answers from people like V&R (both) and many
> others, and
> these were friendly and useful answers (although I could have
> found the
> answer to my question with careful reading of documents -- it
> was about
> specifying offset in glm).
> This is a subscribed mailing list. As such, this is a
> restrictive list
> with more stringent rules than open newsgroups. Well,
> newsgroups can be
> really harsh places, too. I don't think that it would be wise to
> establish a parallel novice mailing list. That would add only
> one extra
> irritation: cross-posting to several lists. However, I do think that
> novice questions could be be better served in a newsgroup
> (Usenet) than
> in a closed mailing list. There have been several suggestions of
> transforming this mailing list into a newsgroup, but these
> suggestions
> have been rejected, and rightly. However, if you want to have novice
> group with slacker netiquette, you could try to establish a parallel
> and alternative newsgroup with different emphasis than this mailing
> list. I am sure that many of the greatest gurus wouldn't follow you
> into this newsgroup, but they would keep to this mailing list. If you
> want to have answers to 'basic', 'silly' or 'simple' questions, you
> don't need them either.
> Suggesting a Usenet newsgroup a generation thing. I think some of the
> younger users would prefer a Wiki or a Forum (these are words I've
> seen, but I wouldn't visit places like this, talking about my
> g-g-generation).
> cheers, jari oksanen
> --
> Jari Oksanen, Oulu, Finland
> ______________________________________________
> mailing list
> PLEASE do read the posting guide!
> mailing list PLEASE do read the posting guide! Received on Thu Dec 02 07:11:51 2004

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