[R] popular R packages

Dylan Beaudette debeaudette at ucdavis.edu
Tue Mar 10 18:24:45 CET 2009

On Tuesday 10 March 2009, Frank E Harrell Jr wrote:
> Gabor Grothendieck wrote:
> > On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 6:14 AM, Jim Lemon <jim at bitwrit.com.au> wrote:
> >> Gabor Grothendieck wrote:
> >>> R-Forge already has this but I don't think its used much.  R-Forge
> >>> does allow authors to opt out which seems sensible lest it deter
> >>> potential authors from submitting packages.
> >>>
> >>> I think objective quality metrics are better than ratings, e.g. does
> >>> package
> >>> have a vignette, has package had a release within the last year,
> >>> does package have free software license, etc.  That would have
> >>> the advantage that authors might react to increase their package's
> >>> quality assessment resulting in an overall improvement in quality on
> >>> CRAN that would result in more of a pro-active cycle whereas ratings
> >>> are reactive
> >>> and don't really encourage improvement.
> >>
> >> I beg to offer an alternative assessment of quality. Do users download
> >> the package and find it useful? If so, they are likely to download it
> >> again when it is updated.
> >
> > I was referring to motivating authors, not users, so that CRAN improves.
> >
> >> Much as I appreciate the convenience of vignettes, regular
> >> updates and the absolute latest GPL license, a perfectly dud package can
> >> have all of these things. If a package is downloaded upon first release
> >> and
> >
> > These are nothing but the usual  FUD against quality improvement, i.e.
> > the quality metrics are not measuring what you want but the fact is that
> > quality metrics can work and have had huge successes.  Also I think
> > objective measures would be more accepted by authors than ratings. No one
> > is going to be put off that their package has no vignette when obviously
> > it doesn't and the authors are free to add one and instantly improve
> > their package's rating.
> >
> >> not much thereafter, the maintainer might be motivated to attend to its
> >> shortcomings of utility rather than incrementing the version number
> >> every month or so. Downloads, as many have pointed out, are not a direct
> >> assessment of quality, but if I saw a package that just kept getting
> >> downloaded, version after version, I would be much more likely to check
> >> it out myself and perhaps even write a review for Hadley's neat site.
> >> Which I will try to do tonight.
> >
> > I was arguing for objective metrics rather than ratings. Downloading is
> > not a rating but is objective although there are measurement problems as
> > has been pointed out.  Also, the worst feature is that it does not react
> > to changes in quality very quickly making it anti-motivating.
> Gabor I think your approach will have more payoff in the long run.  I
> would suggest one other metric: the number of lines of code in the
> 'examples' section of all the package's help files.
> Frank

Absolutely. From the perspective of a user, not an expert, packages with a 
good vignette and lots of examples are by far my favorite and most used.


Dylan Beaudette
Soil Resource Laboratory
University of California at Davis

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