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

From: Wacek Kusnierczyk <Waclaw.Marcin.Kusnierczyk_at_idi.ntnu.no>
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2008 11:27:30 +0100

Berwin A Turlach wrote:
> On Tue, 11 Nov 2008 09:27:41 +0100
> Wacek Kusnierczyk <Waclaw.Marcin.Kusnierczyk_at_idi.ntnu.no> 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
> (http://radfordneal.wordpress.com/) 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



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