wicked wikis for R

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wicked wikis for R

Arin Basu
>Message: 41
>Date: Sun, 08 Jan 2006 13:52:33 +1100
> From: paul sorenson <[hidden email]>
>Subject: Re: [R] Wikis etc.
>To: Frank E Harrell Jr <[hidden email]>, r-help
> <[hidden email]>
>Message-ID: <[hidden email]>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
>Frank E Harrell Jr wrote:
> > paul sorenson wrote:
> >
> >> I am a fan of wiki's and I reckon it would really help with making R
> >> more accessible.  On one extreme you have this email list and on the
> >> other extreme you have RNews and the PDF's on CRAN.  A wiki might hit
> >> the spot between them and reduce the traffic on the email list.
> >
> >
> > Thanks Paul.  But as long as the email list is active I fear a wiki
> > won't be.
>That would be sad if that were true.  They are different beasts, as
>would be an IRC channel.  I say complementary, not mutually exclusive.
>A wiki takes time to reach critical mass (eg my home brew wiki
>http://brewiki.org/ or wikipedia) and you couldn't just pull the plug on
>this list without a serious impact on the uptake of R I would have thought.
>Contributions to the wiki from mugs like me with less R/statistics
>experience would hopefully make R more accessible to newbies - pointing
>out the traps for new players.
>One way to bootstrap it is to simply add a "wiki" menu entry into the
>r-project.org menu. This is what the guys over at
>http://wiki.wxpython.org/ have done.  Over time, some of the other items
>there might morph in to wiki pages as appropriate.
>I have no doubt that if the R-Wiki was supported in the same thoughtful,
>thorough and patient way in which questions on R-Help are answered, it
>would be one of the lowest entropy wiki's around.

I think that's a great idea there.

In fact, wikis and this mailing list can potentially complement each other in very efficient ways. In contrast to traditional wikis (eg. wikipedia), for R we may have to figure out some kind of novel ways of automated/manual transfer of information between wikis and mailing lists going back and forth. Specific responses or groups of responses to questions from the mailing list find a way to the wikis in the form of editable topics, and wikis get updated as people start filling in. Also, a link from the mailing list or from the main R page to the Wikis could be very useful. As the mailing list grows, so does the wiki, except the information flow from the mailing list is more controlled and fine-tuned as to what goes in there and what stays in the mailing list.

Among others, here's one long-term benefit for the newbies. Instead of people getting admonished/thrashed with harsh expressions/advices like "go see the mailing list publishing etiquettes", or "you should search the archives and help files, and read all manuals, and ask others first before posting here..." (which can turn away many a newcomer from posting or using the mailing list or using R for that matter), wiki could make life a little easy for newbies/less experienced who could then receive more polite one liners like, "please check the wikipages...", or "solution #xyz in the wikipages for the solution".

However, for an R-wiki to be a repository of robust R guidance, quality control is extremely important. While it is somewhat easier to warn and correct each other for wrong information in an email list, that level of vigilance may not always be achievable in a wiki, particularly if it is open to be editable by everyone, which, btw, is also its touted strength.

That said, with the volume of posts in this mailing list increasing, and with numerous repeats of similar problems posted and replied over and over again, wikis may just provide an easy compromise.

/Arin Basu

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