[R] two questions for R beginner
p.hiemstra at geo.uu.nl
Tue Mar 2 13:16:44 CET 2010
Brandon Zicha wrote:
>>>> What were your biggest misconceptions or
>>>> stumbling blocks to getting up and running
>>>> with R?
> Easy. I terms of materials I have been unable to find good books that
> introduce users to R from the perspective of someone familiar only
> with packages like SPSS or STATA, or not familiar with statistics
> packages at all. Even introduction texts use jargon without
> introducing it.
> I think that R-help files should be more thorough than they are, and
> contain more examples. I thought that STATA help files were sparse!
> The notion that 'R is a user community and thus they do this in their
> spare time' is no excuse for those creating new tools for R not
> developing complete help files. It doesn't take that much time
> relative to actually creating the new function.
I would disagree with your point that documentation doesn't take much
time. Writing documentation that is suitable for both the advanced user
(being a reference, and thus preferably short) and the beginning user
(being sort of a tutorial, and thus prefererably longer) is quite a
challenge, comparable to writing a good paper. Apart from the fact that
it takes quite a while, it is also not much fun. Often people develop
packages for their own research and put the software online so others
can benefit, they don;t need the documentation themselves and don't get
paid to write the documentation.
So saying 'it's no excuse' really goes too far in my view. R is free,
you did not pay several thousands of euros giving you the right for good
support. Even the support is free through the mailing list. You can get
a paid version of R at Revelution Computing. Then you can call them if
there are problems. I'm not meaning to offend anybody, but I didn't
agree with "is no excuse for those creating new tools for R not
developing complete help files". Partly the strength of R is in the
open source, but sometimes, as with documentation, this can bite you.
But I think the R docs aren't that bad, I've seen proprietary software
that a worse job than R.
my 2euro on the subject :),
> In terms of actual R use - creating, using, and manipulating data are
> the biggest frustration for those of the 'spreadsheet generation'. I
> get the impression that one needs to not merely understand, but be
> fully fluent in the jargon of matrix mathematics to even know what is
> going on half the time. I find myself - even now - using 'rules of
> thumb' that 'seemed to work' rather than fully understanding what I am
> doing. It is particularly discouraging when many of those 'intro
> books' suggest using something besides R for data manipulation - how
> clumsy is that!?
> I find the actual programming syntax itself is the easiest part to
> master. It is certainly more flexible - but without a particularly
> sufficient increase in complexity - than trying to write script in
> SPSS and STATA.
> Brandon Zicha
> R-help at r-project.org mailing list
> PLEASE do read the posting guide
> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.
Drs. Paul Hiemstra
Department of Physical Geography
Faculty of Geosciences
University of Utrecht
P.O. Box 80.115
3508 TC Utrecht
Phone: +3130 274 3113 Mon-Tue
Phone: +3130 253 5773 Wed-Fri
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