Re: [R] Wikis etc.

From: Don MacQueen <macq_at_llnl.gov>
Date: Sat 07 Jan 2006 - 03:38:27 EST

I don't have any significant experience with wikis, but I have yet to use any discussion board that was anywhere near as useful to me, or as easy to use, as an email list.

Discussion boards have a web browser interface. Typically, they display at most a dozen topics at a time. Scrolling to get the next dozen is slow, as it requires a download from some web server. There is a huge amount of wasted screen space. When there is a topic that generates many messages scrolling through them is slow, as some discussion board interfaces show only 6 or 7 at a time. Search engines provided by the discussion board software are limited and slow.

In contrast, in my email client I can show about three dozen subject lines at a time, I can quickly scroll up and down through the list, I can quickly group all the messages with the same subject line with a single click of the mouse. I can easily and quickly store selected messages of particular interest to a place where I can easily find them again. My email software searches very quickly through a huge number of messages.

Then there's the question of administration and maintenance. Who is going to set up the wiki or discussion board categories? As far as I can tell (and that's actually not very far), either of them would require a lot more time and effort to set up and maintain than the present email list.

Yes, r-help has a huge volume -- right now, my R-help mailbox has almost 22,000 messages in it, 2004-01-02 to the present; its size is about 124 mb. Yes, there is a lot of duplication. None the less, I find it easier and quicker to scan the subject lines a few times a day for interesting-looking topics than it would be to go to a browser and have to navigate up and down through various categories, looking for interesting-looking topics.

As far as I can tell, the wiki concept is more along the lines of a reference library, whereas mailing lists and discussion boards are meant for people to ask each other questions, and give each other answers. If that perception is at all accurate, I would have to say that a wiki is by no means a suitable replacement for an email list. And when it comes to a choice between an email list and a discussion board, I have a strong preference for the email list.

-Don

At 7:04 PM -0600 1/5/06, Frank E Harrell Jr wrote:
>I feel that as long as people continue to provide help on r-help wikis
>will not be successful. I think we need to move to a central wiki or
>discussion board and to move away from e-mail. People are extremely
>helpful but e-mail seems to be to always be memory-less and messages get
>too long without factorization of old text. R-help is now too active
>and too many new users are asking questions asked dozens of times for
>e-mail to be effective.
>
>The wiki also needs to collect and organize example code, especially for
>data manipulation. I think that new users would profit immensely from a
>compendium of examples.
>
>Just my .02 Euros
>
>Frank
>--
>Frank E Harrell Jr Professor and Chair School of Medicine
> Department of Biostatistics Vanderbilt University
>
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-- 
--------------------------------------
Don MacQueen
Environmental Protection Department
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, CA, USA

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Received on Sat Jan 07 03:43:59 2006

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