Grokbase Groups R r-help April 2002

On Tue, Apr 02, 2002 at 03:28:13AM -0800, Zed Shaw wrote:
Hey Folks,

I may have some suggestions for you, based on my experience as a newbie
with R. Implementing these very simple resources would be fairly easy
to do and would give volumes of help in return:

1) An R Cookbook section of the site where people can submit pieces of
interesting code that satisfies a need. This would be similar to the
Perl/Python/Java Cookbook texts that O'Reilly puts out, but with a more
dynamic activity. The python folks have something like this, and people
love it. I learned a lot of python this way.

You may try get in contact with the author of the following web document

2) A Series of Documents helping people translate from another package
to R. For example, "R for SPSS People", "R for SAS People", etc.

3) A dynamic FAQ, placed prominently on the front page, ready for
people to access and search. The idea is that, as you encounter these
dumb questions, you can slap up another faq question about it. When it
is asked again, don't bother replying, just *politely* say, "go to". That saves everyone
headaches, and encapsulates the knowledge on the list. If it were setup
right, it could be searchable through R.

Several FAQs are accessible at

Personally I never remember how to download r-devel using rsync. I am going
to the 'R FAQ' then I am using the 'text search feature' of my web browser
(Alt+F, Ctr+F, or / in my case) and I find the answer.

Do not mistake a concise answer for an impolite answer. Busy people
sometimes allow themselfves to skip some of the formalities.

4) Better web site layout. It is hard to read the manuals if you can't
find them.
?! I have a menu item 'Manuals' when I go to
(on the left, third from the top in the 'Documentation' section)

5) Better search for the site. It would be nice if you used google on
the site, but even htdig setup properly would help.
'' aficionados may try the string ''
in their queryi for example.

6) Better layout of packages listed on CRAN. This listing format will
collapse under its own weight once it gets too large.

Memory has become more expensive over the last few months but displaying a
html document that weights even few hundred kilobytes remains a reasonable
assumption (the document is currently 164 kb).

7) Create the "Encyclopedia of Statstics" online. I would kill for a
repository of all the "trade secrets" of statistics, related to R. For
example: a brief discussion of the merits of factor analysis,
considering its heritage with IQ tests. Or, "The History of Student".
If this were organized right, it would even be possible to access it
from R itself and provide people with help with the statistics part of
using R (which is probably the most difficult portion).
I remembered being a happy user of statlib

And, related to R:

8) Command completion and contextual help in R. The first one is
probably fairly easy. The second one is probably impossible. It would
involve giving out detailed help messages when things go wrong. Not
sure how to do that.

I am not certain about how 'easy' is the first, but I am surely happy a
brave soul did it (I am an humble user, I am not sure I could have done it).
Did you check ESS ?
(accessible through the menu 'Other' at

If you are not sure about how to accomplish what you believe being
impossible... :)

9) Finally, my personal pet peeve of R: tell me the line number of
errors. It's nearly impossible to fix a broken function when I don't
know where it is broken.
I usually reach the faulty part in my function within an acceptable time.
Did you try

Anyway, those are just a few suggestions. You'll notice that there is a
common thread through all of them: record the knowledge somewhere, make
it easy to find. I think doing at least some of these things would
improve support for R, and make it fairly famous (especially if the
statistics encyclopedia worked out).

Zed A. Shaw

Hopin' it helps,


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