[R-SIG-Mac] learning R

John Maindonald john.maindonald at anu.edu.au
Sun Dec 12 22:42:11 CET 2010

Surely what is envisaged is the sheer effort involved in climbing
a step mountain side.  It does not have a graph in mind.  If one 
wants to change the metaphor and turn it into a graph, it is not 
at all obvious what the horizontal axis ought to be, though 
various rather strained interpretations can be proposed.  

There is a further aspect to the metaphor that deserves attention.
The reward for negotiating the steep learning curve is to reach
a great height, where marvellous vistas spread out before the

John Maindonald             email: john.maindonald at anu.edu.au
phone : +61 2 (6125)3473    fax  : +61 2(6125)5549
Centre for Mathematics & Its Applications, Room 1194,
John Dedman Mathematical Sciences Building (Building 27)
Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200.

On 11/12/2010, at 8:25 AM, Rolf Turner wrote:

> I agree with you completely about ``begging the question''.  The
> nearly universal misuse of this expression drives me crazy.  I'm
> not so sure about ``steep learning curve'' however.  My impression
> is that this phrase has *always* been used to convey the idea that
> a subject area is difficult to learn, whence to use it (as you suggest)
> in the sense that the subject area can be learned quickly would be to
> change the original meaning of the phrase.  That would be undesirable,
> even given that the original meaning is counter-intuitive.
> I recall having heard/read a ``justification'' for the original meaning
> to the effect that what is envisaged is plotting effort expended on
> the *y* axis and knowledge level on the *x* axis.  Thus a steep learning
> curve would entail expending a great deal of effort for a small increase
> in knowledge.
> I agree that this is a silly choice of axes --- I certainly wouldn't make
> such a choice.  But I don't suppose that there's any law against it.
> 	cheers,
> 		Rolf Turner
> On 11/12/2010, at 4:22 AM, Carl Witthoft wrote:
>> Next to "begging the question,"  the phrase "steep learning curve" is
>> probably the most misused cliche out there.
>> A 'learning curve' represents knowledge (or understanding) as a function 
>> of time.  THerefore,  the steeper the better.
>> Please help save the English language from descent into Humpty-Dumpty 
>> land, and train your colleagues in the correct usage of both these terms.
>> Carl
>>> Message: 2 Date: Thu, 9 Dec 2010 09:51:27 -0800 From: Payam
>>> Minoofar<payam.minoofar at meissner.com> To:
>>> "r-sig-mac at r-project.org"<r-sig-mac at r-project.org> Cc:
>>> "deniz.kellecioglu at gmail.com"<deniz.kellecioglu at gmail.com> Subject:
>>> [R-SIG-Mac] R for Mac, good enough?
>>> Message-ID:<53DF393B-2037-4B0D-890F-8DBAA1BA1F55 at meissner.com>
>>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>>> The power of R is virtually unmatched, and R for Mac works extremely
>>> well.
>>> The learning curve is steep, however, and documentation is difficult
>>> to grasp, even though it is abundantly available. I am more partial
>>> to a commercial data analysis package with which I grew up, but I
>>> have done enough work with R on the mac platform to recommend it
>>> highly.
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