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January 02, 2014

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Thanks for some great info & examples!

Re novice friendly: Stack overflow on R is extremely useful, but "novice friendly" it is not -- or at least not compared to, say, some of the Python and Ruby communities I've frequented. While there are plenty of really nice R folks on stack overflow, there are too many people who are curt or just plain jerks for the R newbies I know to feel comfortable asking for help.

I can certainly understand why folks providing help can get irritated at having to keep asking the same questions -- boy do I understand. But if a site wants want to be novice friendly folks who respond have got to be a little more relaxed. It's ok not to want to have to deal with that, but then it's not in any meaningful sense novice friendly. Being a novice can be overwhelming, involving a lot of flailing about, and so expecting that novices will usually have well formed questions after they may have just spend a few hours -- or days -- banging their head against a seemingly intractable problem is a lot to ask. I love stack overflow's coverage of R, and I've gotten an enormous amount out of it. But novice friendly? Not so much.

Speaking of trying to be novice friendly, if you're trying to help novices get better at asking for help, I would not call a section, "not a good post." To a lot of newbies it's going to come off as too harsh; one novice I asked compared it to getting smacked in the nose with a rolled up newspaper -- clearly not the effect you were going for. :) Instead, I'd flip around the structure so it goes from not-good post to good post, with titles like these:

1) A Typical Newbie Post or
1) A Typical Post That's Missing Info

2) A Better Post or
2) A More Focused Post

Same info, more novice friendly vibe.

Anders, I couldn't agree with you more about some SO members being jerks or curt. Here's an example ...

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1923273/counting-the-number-of-elements-with-the-values-of-x-in-a-vector

A valid and sensible question, and some arse feels the need to write the following comment ...

'homework... or someone learning R. Or both! shrug'.

At present, 13 other R 'superstars' have +1 that comment.

Well, I am a newbie to R, and I would not have the kahuna's to ask a question on SO because that comment is not that uncommon. I don't understand the superior attitude of these folks ... how did they learn to use R ?

John.

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