[R] Packages - a great resource, but hard to find the right one

Duncan Murdoch murdoch at stats.uwo.ca
Tue Nov 27 04:20:17 CET 2007

Loren Engrav wrote:
> It is clear that R and Bio are amazing resources and that many people invest
> lots of time in making them work, thank you
> Having said that
> >From the point of view of an R/Bio novice an improved method to find
> packages would be very helpful as suggested by John Sorkin
> Three other things would also be helpful
> 1) a page titled "for the newbie" where the startup directions are clearly
> outlined, like "print out the R Reference Index which can be found <here>
> and read it", etc

It would be really helpful if a newbie (you?) started this by writing 
down at least the questions.  The R Wiki might be a good place for this; 
check with the people who set it up.
> 2) the vignette's are quite terse and many assume the reader already knows
> something which may not be true, it would helpful if at the top of each
> there be a short paragraph saying "before you read this, you must read this
> and this"

Documentation might be too terse; it happens.  You need to tell this to 
each author in each specific instance.  Authors of documentation don't 
always realize what's missing.  (But see below:  it might be that you 
aren't the intended audience for the documentation.)
> 3) "old timers" stop saying "please read the documentation" as I read that
> insatiably and if it fixed the problem I would not ask the next question,
> would be more helpful to say "in vignette xyz at the bottom you will find
> abc which will show you what to do" and would also follow the example of
> Bolker which educates and encourages the newbies

Do remember that you aren't paying for the help you get.  If some of it 
isn't very helpful, then just move on.

Also remember that writing documentation for everyone is extremely 
difficult, so authors won't necessarily appreciate complaints that don't 
come with help for improvements.  Maybe old timers shouldn't say "please 
read the documentation" and nothing else, but newbies shouldn't say 
"please write better documentation" and nothing else.  Be specific and 
helpful about what is missing, and don't be upset when an author expects 
you to be experienced before using his package.   There are more than 
1000 packages on CRAN, but we don't need 1000 tutorials on R.

Duncan Murdoch
> Thank you
> Loren Engrav
> Univ Wash
> Seattle
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