RE: [R] A long digression on packages

From: Berton Gunter <gunter.berton_at_gene.com>
Date: Tue 07 Jun 2005 - 02:11:27 EST


$.02 (no more):

  1. R and its packages are big and diverse, growing rapidly. No simple phrase to describe this, but perhaps " the most important contribution to data analysis and statistical practice since Fisher" comes close.
  2. Ergo lots of diverse information, with little or no way to classify and organize. But this is THE BIG THING in IT today, is it not? -- witness Google, Yahoo search, etc. Everyone says understanding and technology to do this well is in its infancy. So that R and its community struggles too is no surprise.
  3. As desirable as efficiency and redundancy reduction is, R's nature and design mitigates against it: core R is centrally controlled (of course!), but the point is **NOT** to restrict contributed packages (core R is the engine and coherent point of entry into all those packages). So the best we can hope for is that package contributors will do their homework before writing to see whether their intended functionality is already there or could be just added to someone else's. Obviously very subjective -- and could be difficult due to terminology variation (different disciplines that use different terms to describe the same statistical functionality).
  4. So other than package writers putting as many keywords as they can into their packages for search engines to hit -- and perhaps some limited organization by dedicated workers to organize/bring together "obvious" stuff like graphics or econometrics or geostatistics, etc. -- it seems that all we can reasonably hope for is to integrate the search functionality into core R and R directory structures. But wait! -- this is exactly what the R team is already doing.

Cheers,
Bert



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