[R] Newsgroup

Duncan Murdoch murdoch at stats.uwo.ca
Thu Apr 11 15:22:24 CEST 2002

I agree that a newsgroup gateway would be a good idea.  I volunteer to
help whoever wants to set one up.  If nobody volunteers to head the
project, then I'll put it on my list of things to do myself, but it's
unlikely to happen before my sabbatical in 2004 if it's on that list.

I think the mailing list is fine for people who read mail on a machine
with an SMTP server on it, i.e. most of the *nix people.  However, for
people picking up mail from a POP server (i.e. most of the Windows
people), each message can take several *seconds* of download time.
Having 50 messages in your inbox makes the mail pickup excruciatingly
slow, and prone to failure due to timeouts when the network is busy.

Since I use a POP server I found that the digests are the only
reasonable way to read the list.  But the digests have their own

 - You can't reply to them, replies go to the wrong address.  (I don't
know if setting "Reply-to" to the r-help address would be a good idea.
Probably not.)  For replies like this one I have to write a new
message to r-help.  If I make a typo in the header, then my message
won't show up in the same thread as the others.

It's also hard to quote previous messages:  you can easily quote the
entire digest, but then you have to edit out all the other messages.

 - They aren't organized by thread, they're in serial order.

 - They arrive once a day, later than the original messages, so
responses like this one aren't timely.

I believe some software can automatically burst digests into
individual messages, which would help with some of these problems.  In
fact, the program I use (Agent) can do it, but the r-help digests
aren't in a format it understands.  I don't know if that's because
it's buggy, because r-help is in an unusual format, or because Agent
only supports some weird formats, but it means I can't do the

Newsgroups also have the advantage of maintaining several days of
messages on the central server, with easy retrieval.  If I see a reply
to a message that looks interesting, I often want to read the
original:  but that is hard to find in old digests, and I've likely
deleted it anyway.

Duncan Murdoch
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