Re: [R] Variable passed to function not used in function in select=... in subset

From: Wacek Kusnierczyk <>
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2008 11:27:30 +0100

Berwin A Turlach wrote:
> On Tue, 11 Nov 2008 09:27:41 +0100
> Wacek Kusnierczyk <> wrote:
>> but then it might be worth asking whether carrying on with misdesign
>> for backward compatibility outbalances guaranteed crashes in future
>> users' programs, [...]
> Why is it worth asking this if nobody else asks it? Most notably a
> certain software company in Redmond, Washington, which is famous for
> carrying on with bad designs and bugs all in the name of backward
> compatibility. Apparently this company also sets industry standards so
> it must be o.k. to do that. ;-)

sure. i have had this analogy in mind for a long time, but just didn't want to say it aloud. indeed, r carries on with bad design, but since there are more and more users, it's just fine.

>> which result in confused complaints,
> Didn't see any confused complaints yet.

really. the discussion was motivated precisely by a user's complaint. just scan this list; a large part of the questions stems from confusion, which results directly from r's design.

> Only polite requests for
> enlightenment after coming across behaviour that useRs found surprising
> given their knowledge of R. The confused complaints seem to be posted
> as responses to responses to such question by people who for what ever
> reason seem to have an axe to grind with R.
>> the need for responses suggesting hacks to bypass the design,
> Not to bypass the design, but to achieve what the person whats. As any
> programming language, R is a Turing machine and anything can be done
> with it; it is just a question how.

yes, to bypass the design. to achieve what one would normally expect an expression to be evaluated to, but r does it differently.

>> and possibly incorrect results published
> I guess such things cannot be avoided no matter what software you are
> using. I am more worried about all the analysis done in MS Excel, in
> particular in the financial maths/stats world. Also, to me it seems
> that getting incorrect results is a relative small problem compared with
> the frequent misinterpretation of correct results or the use of
> inappropriate statistical techniques.

could not agree more, which does oppose in any way my complaints.

>> because r is likely to do everything but what the user expects.
> This is quite a strong statement, and I wonder what the basis is for
> that a statement. Care to provide any evidence?

i could think of organizing a (don't)useR conference, where submissions would provide such evidence. whatever i say here, is mostly discarded as nonsense comments (while it certainly isn't), you say i make the problem up (while i just follow up user's complaints). seriously, i may have exaggerated in the immediately above, but lots of comments made here by the users convince me that r very often breaks expectations.

> R is a tool; a very powerful one and hence also very sharp. It is easy
> to cut yourself with it, but when one knows how to use it gives the
> results that one expects. I guess the problem in this age of instant
> gratification is that people are not willing to put in the time and
> effort to learn about the tools they are using.

but a good tool should be made with care for how users will use it. r apparently fits the ideas of its developers, while confuses naive users. i do not opt for redmond-like 'i know better what you want' intelligence, but i think some of the confusions should be predicted and the design tuned accordingly.

> How about spending some time learning about R instead of continuously
> griping about it? Just imagine how much you could have learned in the
> time you spend writing all those e-mails. :)

i learn a lot while writing these emails, because i do read manuals and make up tests. but there would be little progress if we all were buying what we are given instead of critically examining it. i can stop posting at any moment, but i don't think it would help the community ;)

>> r suffers from early made poor decisions, but then this in itself is
>> not a good reason to carry on.
> Radford Neal is also complaining on his blog
> ( about what he thinks are design
> flaws in R. Why don't you two get together and design a good
> substitute without any flaws? Or is that too hard? ;-)

it's certainly hard to design and implement a system of the size of r. it's certainly easier to just complain rather than make a better tool. but it would really be a pitiful world if all of us were just developing, and no one would criticize. my purpose is not (or not just, if you prefer) to annoy the r team, but to point out and document issues that really need rethinking. discouragingly, many of these issues appear to be known already, but simply ignored.

vQ mailing list PLEASE do read the posting guide and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code. Received on Tue 11 Nov 2008 - 10:31:36 GMT

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