There has been a lot of discussion about software-related questions on CV (see here or here for examples...). And yet there is still no clear idea and guidance on what CV is, what it strives to be and who it is for.
I've been a user of and contributor to CV for a long time (intially during the beta phase) and I find it unclear what is and isn't allowed here. But more so I find the creep towards a more statistical per se remit for the site, to wit, @Chl recently said
It also worth noting that our site policy has evolved since its inception, and we now try to focus on questions that require statistical expertise rather than questions asking about tools, or polls involving shopping-list or extended discussion.
Which alarms me immensely (well, not bit about the polls, discussion of shopping lists). That is not what I signed up to with CV originally, and not what I have been contributing to. I also feel that such a move would be to the detriment of CV as a whole. I don't mean to single out @Chl here, but this is as best an admission I could find of what I have grown to believe has been happening here over the past year or so.
Now, I'll admit to not following all the meta discussions (here or on Stack Overflow where I am somewhat more active) so I may not have been privy to some of the discussions regarding this shift, but at the very least there seems to be disquiet or a lack of clarity about what CV is and is not.
In a recent thread on a similar topic @NickCox quoted the What topics can I ask about here? page in support of his argument that many R-related questions are off topic here. I quote the relevant section again.
There are certain subjects that will probably get better responses on our sister sites. If your question is about
- Programming, ask on Stack Overflow. If the language is statistically oriented (such as R, SAS, Stata, SPSS, etc.), then decide based on the nature of your question: if it needs statistical expertise to understand or answer, ask it here; if it's about an algorithm, routine data processing, or details of the language, then please refer to the collection of links to resources we maintain.
The problem with this "evidence" is that it refers explicitly to "Programming". Just because R is a programming language, it doesn't mean that using R is an act of programming. I would wager that the majority of R Users are not involved in any programming (as most people would recognise the term) but are using it as they would Minitab, Excel, SAS, SPSS etc to run statistical analyses.
If the above is now representative of a broader CV policy, the advice above needs to be updated to removal the Programming qualifier.
So my question or perhaps point really, is that the current policy regarding what is on or off topic here needs clarification. But I would like to stimulate a wider debate about what CV aims to be. As I expressed elsewhere, a site devoid of software-related questions is not something I want to see for CV but many users seem to think that anything with "...do this in R?" is OT here.
I reject the argument that if a question is ostensibly related to or about R that it is OT for Cross Validated. If that question is motivated from primarily a statistical point of view then I don't care if it has an R or SAS or SPSS focus. Such questions should be on-topic here and I would like to encourage that CV embrace such questions.
For example, this question, though it is not the best example it is pertinent as the comment by @BabakP about it being OT precipitated my particular question, would (or should) be a useful and relevant contribution here.
P.S. Throughout I have referred to R but you could replace "R" in the above question with Your Favourite Stats Software and my point would remain the same.
SPSSetc questions (however tangentially related to those as languages) are being sent to CV. Data analysis is done by packages like this; not all statistics is theory. $\endgroup$