I think we could use a site dedicated to programming in R (similar to the Mathematica SE). I went ahead and made a proposal in Area 51 (link).
The issue of an R-specific SE now appears to be moot, as judging from the link the proposal has been closed with the message:
The R community embraced Stack Overflow as The place for R support and went on to gain a strong following on our Cross Validated site. – Robert Cartaino♦ 2 hours ago
(Robert Cartaino is "the Director of Community Development for the Stack Exchange Network".)
StackOverflow defines the following on-topics:
- a specific programming problem, or
- a software algorithm, or
- software tools commonly used by programmers; and is
- a practical, answerable problem that is unique to software development
SO does not define programming per se, so we'd have to go elsewhere. According to Wikipedia,
Computer programming (often shortened to programming) is a process that leads from an original formulation of a computing problem to executable computer programs.
OK. So how many R questions in SO are asked in the context of developing executable code, or at least in the context of developing a standalone, self-contained R package? How many are asked about the software algorithm (which, in case of R, would probably be a statistical method, and hence more on topic at CV)? How many are asked about IDEs for R? There are some, I imagine, but mostly the questions are along the lines of "How do I tweak
ggplot to do this" or "How do I manipulate
data.table to get that". None of that leads to executable code; at best, you can say that the code being created is batch code, i.e., simply sequences of R commands and functions, although you could probably refer to some of that code as scripts if they involve control flow and/or input parameters.
Hence, I come to the conclusion that R questions have been off-topic on SO to begin with, for all these years, unless they deal specifically with development of R packages (checking the inputs, establishing dependencies, interacting with the S4 object system, etc.). In other words, R community should be grateful that their stream of off-topic questions is being tolerated on SO. Having a dedicated site would have been a better idea. I feel really weird every time I flag R questions and send them to a website that primarily deals with OOP in Java and C#.
I would feel the same way about other statistical packages like SAS and Stata. Just like in the case of R above, you don't create reusable executable code in SAS or Stata to solve problems with arbitrary inputs (although you could, of course, write SAS
MACROs and Stata
programs), but rather to deal with your single existing data set trying to answer your specific research question. Judging from CV activity in these tags, these software titles are all but dead -- not an impression you would get from their annual user conferences, though, or from the expensive looking booths at professional conventions. The users of these packages, however, are but a very humble minority on CV -- may be because the strong emphasis on R intimidates them here; but mostly because the documentation in these packages is so much more extensive than the typical R listing of available options, and because the tech support type questions are answered in other online communities that SE system failed to incorporate -- as well as by the real tech support that these commercial software vendors do provide. (IMHO, Statalist should have migrated to SE platform when they closed the mailing list format a year or so ago, instead of forming a traditional forum on which I miss everything that makes the SE platform so productive like edits, extensive tagging and multiple tiers of response. While the R questions get bounced to the Java/C# SE site, Stata questions are getting bounced away from the SE system to statalist.org.)