R: The Good and The Bad

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An overview of the pros and cons of R, the free and open source language and environment for statistical computing and graphics.

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R: The Good and The Bad

  1. 1. R: The Good and The Bad<br />AnalyticsCamp NC, May 12, 2011Ian Cook, Organizer, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill R Users Group<br />
  2. 2. The Good…<br />?<br />=<br />
  3. 3. Effectively the lingua franca of data analysis and statistical computing<br />Free and open source<br />As a statistical language, it’s generally considered to be very easy to code in (vs. SAS, JSL, SPSS, etc.)<br />The Good<br />
  4. 4. Native cross-platform and 64-bit support<br />Typically easy to install and configure<br />Community of millions of users; brilliant minds<br />Rapidly growing number of packages (2800+ on CRAN, 950+ projects on R-Forge)<br />http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/ and http://r-forge.r-project.org/<br />The Good<br />
  5. 5. Great free, open soruce IDEs and GUIs (e.g., StatET for Eclipse, RStudio just released in late February, Emacs Speaks Statistics, JGR, Tinn-R, lots more)<br />See “Editors and IDEs” and “Graphical User Interfaces” sections of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_(programming_language). Also see http://sciviews.org/_rgui/ and http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1097367/what-ides-are-available-for-r-in-linux<br />The Good<br />
  6. 6. Active mailing lists, trolled by the gurus, very easy to get your questions answered<br />On a humorous note: http://yihui.name/en/2010/04/rules-of-thumb-to-meet-r-gurus-in-the-help-list/<br />CRAN Task Views<br />http://cran.r-project.org/web/views/<br />The Good<br />
  7. 7. Growing coverage on Stack Exchange, also on “CrossValidated” statistical analysis Stack Exchange site<br />http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/r and http://stats.stackexchange.com/<br />#rstatshashtag on Twitter<br />http://twitter.com/search/%23rstats<br />Blogger community dedicated to covering R<br />http://www.r-bloggers.com/<br />Growing list of print books and ebooks<br />The Good<br />
  8. 8. Commercial and open source data analysis/mining/analytics/visualization software increasingly integrating with R (Spotfire, SPSS, Netezza, JMP, SAS/IML, RapidMiner)<br />http://decisionstats.com/2010/05/04/commercial-r-integration-in-software/<br />Revolution Analytics (products, blog, community site)<br />http://www.revolutionanalytics.com/, http://blog.revolutionanalytics.com/, and http://www.inside-r.org/<br />The Good<br />
  9. 9. The Bad…<br />?<br />=<br />
  10. 10. Command prompt, lack of GUI is intimidating<br />Slow (especially looping)<br />Poor parallelization<br />Syntactical curiosities, annoyances, design flaws; little chance of them being remedied<br />E.g., http://radfordneal.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/design-flaws-in-r-3-%E2%80%94-zero-subscripts/<br />Indices start at 1!<br />The Bad<br />
  11. 11. Subtle problems with scoping<br />http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3840769/scoping-and-functions-in-r-2-11-1-whats-going-wrong<br />Poor memory performance, difficulty handing big data<br />Can be difficult to compile base R and R packages from source<br />Requires compilers for Fortran, Perl, C/C++, Tcl<br />The Bad<br />
  12. 12. Onerous termsof AGPL<br />Has been proposed that the R community start over and build something better from scratch<br />Estimated that a total rewrite could improve speed by 2 orders of magnitude<br />http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3706990/is-r-that-bad-that-it-should-be-rewritten-from-scratch<br />Increasingly attractive alternatives (e.g. Python)<br />The Bad<br />
  13. 13. The Verdict<br />?<br />
  14. 14. Join the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill R Users Group at:http://www.meetup.com/Triangle-useR/<br />

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