Re: [R] A long digression on packages

From: Sander Oom <>
Date: Tue 07 Jun 2005 - 21:13:55 EST

Oooops, already missed one:

5. search of the R mailing lists:

ad5. never used this before. Think Google also does an excellent job finding these if you start search with "R".


Sander Oom wrote:
> Maybe some of this confusion about search opportunities and pros/cons
> could be avoided if the search page on CRAN
> ( would be extended to cover all
> main search tools!
> Quickly scanning the discussion, I found these:
> 1- simply Google: some tips and tricks have been mentioned and would be
> usefully for most users;
> 2- R site search (external to CRAN)
> 3- from R prompt:;
> 4- browser supported search through local help files:
> R/doc/html/search/SearchEngine.html.
> ad1. Google is normally my first source using broad keywords for a
> method or problem.
> ad2. just discovered this today!
> ad3. provides a simple overview, printing the command with
> the providing package:
> >"rose")
> Help files with alias or concept or title matching ‘rose’ using
> regular expression matching:
> hirose(boot) Failure Time of PET Film
> rose.diag(CircStats) Rose Diagram
> rose.diag(circular) Rose Diagram
> windrose(circular) Windrose Generator
> rosavent(climatol) Wind-rose plot
> Kinship82(clue) Rosenberg-Kim Kinship Terms Partition Data
> HolidayDatabase(fCalendar)
> Holiday Calendars and Utilities
> conc(ineq) Concentration Measures
> Type 'help(FOO, package = PKG)' to inspect entry 'FOO(PKG) TITLE'.
> ad4. when installing all package locally, the results produced by the
> browser supported search can be overwhelming. Even searching within the
> results often does not help. If commands were printed along with the
> providing package would be a good improvement. Then the apparent random
> order of commands listed might also reveal some order.
> Hope this is a useful addition to the debate,
> Sander.
> Chris Evans wrote:

>> On 5 Jun 2005 at 18:44, Jari Oksanen wrote:
>>> There are diverse opinions about netiquette. One of the most basic, in
>>> my opinion, is this: if someone posts starts a discussion in a certain
>>> forum, you shall not divert it to another forum where it may be hidden
>>> by most readers, perhaps even by the originator of the thread.
>> With the greatest of respect for Duncan and the R-devel list, I think 
>> Jari has a point here.  This is one of the most important issues I've 
>> seen raised on this list (R-help) in recent months and I think it may 
>> be a structural problem for the development of R, in common with that 
>> of much FLOSS s'ware, that there's a separation of users and authors 
>> that needs thought.  There are no perfect answers but too big a 
>> separation and projects go "techno" and it's hard for those of us who 
>> can't code C and who are mere "users" to help those outstanding people 
>> on whom we depend hear what we need: sometimes they are so clever, so 
>> specialised in their knowledge, or simply in the realm of genius not 
>> the ordinary, that they can't see our problem.  I have slowly come to 
>> respect that a pretty brusque style from our authorities is the only 
>> way to prevent this list being a madhouse but I think that Jim's point 
>> may fall into that class that is worth some duplicate bandwidth here.
>> I know I've found the problem Jim highlights very confusing and 
>> unhelpful at times.  Views, which I didn't know, seem helpful but not 
>> a real solution to the key problem: they may tangentially help by 
>> ensuring that if your needs fit into a view, it becomes more likely 
>> that you'll install the packages you need and a local search may tell 
>> you what you need.  I've taken the inefficient route which suits me of 
>> installing just about every package to make it less likely I'll miss 
>> something of use to me. That means my search for "kappa" and "Cohen" 
>> (with turns up at least three implementations of 
>> aspects of Cohen's kappa.
>> It may already exist, but a web interface that did a over 
>> all the packages in the current release version would be great.  (If 
>> it does exist, sorry, but I'm no dunce and use R nearly every day and 
>> try to read much of r-help every day and don't know it, which may say 
>> something!)
>> I think there may be a need for some R improvement and automated 
>> updating of what I think is Frank Harrell's function finder:
>> Though I'm not absolutely sure how fitting your works into something 
>> like that could be imposed on developers!
>> Another thing that might help would be for a system by which ordinary 
>> users would volunteer to pair up with developers for packages and try 
>> to suggest adaptations of the help and such like that might make the 
>> packages more user friendly.  I wouldn't want to do that for the whole 
>> of a huge and vital package like MASS or Hmisc (or base or stats!) but 
>> I'm up for pairing with a developer on a smaller package if anyone 
>> thinks that would be helpful.
>> Thoughts for what they're worth.  Thanks a million to all developers 
>> ... asbestos suit on!
>> Chris

Dr Sander P. Oom
Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences,
University of the Witwatersrand
Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, South Africa
Tel (work)      +27 (0)11 717 64 04
Tel (home)      +27 (0)18 297 44 51
Fax             +27 (0)18 299 24 64

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Received on Tue Jun 07 21:19:12 2005

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