[R] A Few Suggestions to help out newbies

ggrothendieck@yifan.net ggrothendieck at yifan.net
Tue Apr 2 23:01:29 CEST 2002

On 2 Apr 2002 at 12:01, Liaw, Andy wrote:
> Well, as Thomas Lumley said in the other message, because no one who wants
> it bad enough had *contributed* the code.  Many things in Open Source
> projects such as R get done because some users wanted them bad enough that
> they wrote the code, and then contributed to the project.  Just think about
> it, how many people have the motivation to write and contribute code that
> they don't need themselves, just to please some people who do nothing but
> complain?

We need to be careful here.  Its an advantage to have user feedback and it
should never be viewed as complaints.  Without such feedback, how 
else can one know what people find easy and difficult and what they view 
as needed?   

Providing personal requirements and wish list items and telling others what they 
find easy and difficult contributes to development just as much as programming 
and design does. The entire process is a feedback loop and the loop is not closed
unless all the links are in place.

Since many people in the R community likely work in academia let me drraw a
parallel in that world.  A course which has been given multiple times is generally
better than one given the first time since on subsequent rounds one can focus better
on those items that students had difficulty with in prior rounds.  Knowing the material is 
different from knowing what material the students find difficult.  This feedback from 
user to developer/teacher is crucial.   The same goes with text books.  If you can find 
one that has been student tested its often more useful than one that has not.

It has been said that the key difference between Open Source projects and commercial 
projects is not just that the commercial packages cost money but 
that the commercial developers listen to their users better than Open Source
developers do. (I am not saying that R developers don't listen, I am just
bringing out this view of Open Source vs. Commerical, in general).   If commercial developers 
don't listen to their users then they don't stay in business very long!   

Its worthwhile for Open Source projects to set up some sort of analogous dynamic as well.
In the case of the R, the R Help list is an integral part of R since it provides some of this 
needed feedback.  

Another thing that would be nice would be some sort of organized wish 
list / requirements. This already exists to some degree (see the NEWS files 
at http://stat.ethz.ch/R-alpha/ ).   However, it might be nice to give this aspect
better prominence and provide a mechanism for the large community focused
on R to provide this feedback.

This would be helpful since anyone who wished to contribute would then have 
a framework for understanding what is needed.  

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