[R] The hidden costs of GPL software?

Patrick Burns pburns at pburns.seanet.com
Wed Nov 17 15:27:49 CET 2004

I'm a big advocate -- perhaps even fanatic -- of  making R easier for
novices in order to spread its use, but I'm not convinced that  a GUI
(at least in the traditional form) is the most valuable approach.

Perhaps an overly harsh summary of some of Ted Harding's statements
is: You can make a truck easier to get into by taking off the wheels, but
that doesn't make it more useful.

In terms of GUIs, I think what R should focus on is the ability for  user's
to make their own specialized GUI.  So that a knowledgeable programmer
at an installation can create a system that is easy for unsophisticated
users for the limited number of tasks that are to be done.  The ultimate
users may not even need to know that R exists.

I think Ted Harding was on  the mark when he said that it is the help
system that needs enhancement.  I can imagine a system that gets the
user to the right function and then helps fill in the arguments; all of the
time pointing them towards the command line rather than away from

The author of the referenced article highlighted some hidden costs of R,
but did not highlight the hidden benefits (because they were hidden from
him).  A big benefit of R is all of the bugs that aren't in it (which may or
may not be due to its free status).

Patrick Burns

Burns Statistics
patrick at burns-stat.com
+44 (0)20 8525 0696
(home of S Poetry and "A Guide for the Unwilling S User")

Jan P. Smit wrote:

> Dear Phillippe,
> Very interesting. The URL of the article is 
> http://www.scientific-computing.com/scwsepoct04free_statistics.html.
> Best regards,
> Jan Smit
> Philippe Grosjean wrote:
>> Hello,
>> In the latest 'Scientific Computing World' magazine (issue 78, p. 
>> 22), there
>> is a review on free statistical software by Felix Grant ("doesn't 
>> have to
>> pay good money to obtain good statistics software"). As far as I 
>> know, this
>> is the first time that R is even mentioned in this magazine, given 
>> that it
>> usually discuss commercial products.
[ ...]


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