[R] Documentation: Was -- identical() versus sapply()

Sarah Goslee sarah.goslee at gmail.com
Tue Apr 12 17:31:19 CEST 2016

I am very interested in such a distributed documentation editing
project, and have some thoughts on how to make it workable for both
volunteers and core members who would need to review.

I'm willing to lead or colead such a project, if someone stepping up
would be a useful first step, and I'm also willing to host a wiki,
although I think something like GitHub is probably the best place.
I've been contemplating for a while how I can get more involved in the
main R efforts, and have contributed to the documentation before, in
tiny ways. I think those of us who have participated in R-help for a
while have an idea of the main stumbling blocks in the documentation
(besides, of course, getting people to read it in the first place).

I don't think R-help is the right place to continue discussion; should
this be moved to R-devel, or somewhere else entirely?


On Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 11:06 AM, Bert Gunter <bgunter.4567 at gmail.com> wrote:
> 1. I agree that this is an idea worth considering. Especially now that
> R has become so widely used among practitioners who are neither
> especially software literate nor interested in poring over R manuals
> (as I did when I first learned R). They have explicit tasks to do and
> just want to get to them as directly as possible.
> 2. A partial reply to the (fair) criticism of those who criticize docs
> without offering improvements is that one may not know what
> improvement to offer precisely because the docs do not make it clear.
> This proposal or something similar addresses this issue. The experts
> could adjudicate.
> 3. I agree: writing good docs is hard. Having a mechanism like this
> would also help non-native English writers of software (or challenged
> native writers like me!) .
> 4. I also think John is right, that if the right mechanism were found
> so that small efforts could be accumulated, a lot of us would
> participate. A wiki sounds about right, but I bow to those with
> greater wisdom and experience here.
> 5. The danger here is that this would suck a lot of time from R core.
> That's unacceptable. Presumably a wiki (self-correcting?) would help
> avoid this.
> Cheers,
> Bert
> Bert Gunter
> "The trouble with having an open mind is that people keep coming along
> and sticking things into it."
> -- Opus (aka Berkeley Breathed in his "Bloom County" comic strip )
> On Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 6:21 AM, ProfJCNash <profjcnash at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>> "The documentation aims to be accurate, not necessarily clear."
>>> I notice that none of the critics
>>> in this thread have offered improvements on what is there.
>> This issue is as old as documented things. With software it is
>> particularly nasty, especially when we want the software to function
>> across many platforms.
>> Duncan has pointed out that critics need to step up to do something.
>> I would put documentation failures at the top of my list of
>> time-wasters, and have been bitten by some particularly weak offerings
>> (not in R) in the last 2 weeks. So ....
>> Proposal: That the R community consider establishing a "test and
>> document" group to parallel R-core to focus on the documentation.
>> An experiment to test the waters is suggested below.
>> The needs:
>> - tools that let the difficulties with documentation be visualized along
>> with proposed changes and the discussion accessed by the wider
>> community, while keeping a well-defined process for committing accepted
>> changes.
>> - a process for the above. Right now a lot happens by discussion in the
>> lists and someone in R-core committing the result. If it is
>> well-organized, it is not well-understood by the wider R user community.
>> - tools for managing and providing access to tests
>> At the risk of opening another can of worms, documentation is an area
>> where such an effort could benefit from paid help. It's an area where
>> there's low reward for high effort, particularly for volunteers.
>> Moreover, like many volunteers, I'm happy to do some work, but I need
>> ways to contribute in small bites (bytes?), and it is difficult to find
>> suitable tasks to take on.
>> Is it worth an experiment to customize something like Dokuwiki (which I
>> believe was the platform for the apparently defunct R wiki) to allow a
>> segment of R documentation to be reviewed, discussed and changes
>> proposed? It could show how we might get to a better process for
>> managing R documentation.
>> Cheers, JN
Sarah Goslee

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