Tag Archives: R and the web

The present and future of the R blogosphere (~7 minute video from useR2011)

This is (roughly) the lightning talk I gave in useR2011. If you are a reader of R-bloggers.com then this talk is not likely to tell you anything new. However, if you have a friend, college or student who is a new useRs of R, this talk will offer him a decent introduction to what the R blogosphere is all about.

The talk is a call for people of the R community to participate more in reading, writing and interacting with blogs.

I was encouraged to record this talk per the request of Chel Hee Lee, so it may be used in the recent useR conference in Korea (2011)

The talk (briefly) goes through:

  1. The widespread influence of the R blogosphere
  2. What R bloggers write about
  3. How to encourage a blogger you enjoy reading to keep writing
  4. How to start your own R blog (just go to wordpress.com)
  5. Basic tips about writing a blog
  6. One advice about marketing your R blog (add it to R-bloggers.com)
  7. And two thoughts about the future of R blogging (more bloggers and readers, and more interactive online visualization)

My apologies for any of the glitches in my English. For more talks about R, you can visit the R user groups blog. I hope more speakers from useR 2011 will consider uploading their talks online.

R-bloggers in 2010: Top 14 R posts, site statistics and invitation for sponsors

A year ago (on December 9th 2009), I wrote about founding R-bloggers.com, an (unofficial) online R journal written by bloggers who agreed to contribute their R articles to the site.

In this post I wish to celebrate R-bloggers’ first birthday by sharing with you:

  1. Links to the top 14 posts of 2010
  2. Reflections about the origin of R-bloggers
  3. Statistics on “how well” R-bloggers did this year
  4. Links to other related projects
  5. An invitation for sponsors/supporters to help keep the site alive

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WP-CodeBox: A better R syntax highlighter plugin for WordPress

Today I was informed of (what I believe is) a better the best WordPress plugin for R syntax highlighting called WP-CodeBox.  This plugin doesn’t require any hacks to make it work (as opposed to the WP-Syntax plugin, which I wrote about in the past).  WP-CodeBox can be downloaded and installed on a WordPress by searching for it in the “Add New” section in the plugins menu.

WP-CodeBox provides some nice features (some AJAX based) to the display of the code in the post:

  1. The code box in the post can now be folded (top right of the code box) so the code can be hidden so to not clutter the post (if the code is too long)
  2. The code box is added with another button  (top left of the code box) which allows the reader to see the code in a new window – so to easily enable a copy paste of the code.
  3. The options of the plugin allows automatic row numbering of the code, control over “tab” length and some other features.

p.s: Lastly, my thanks goes to guangchuang yu who’s comment on my original post, and he’s post on wp-codebox and R, has introduced me to this better plugin.

p.p.s: in case you blog on WordPress.com, there is also a solution for R syntax highlighting for WordPress.com bloggers.

R syntax highlighting for bloggers on WordPress.com

Good news for R bloggers who are using WordPress.com to host their blog.

This week, the good people running WordPress.com (special thanks goes to Yoav Farhi), have added the ability for all the users of the WordPress.com platform to be able to highlight their R code inside posts.

Basically you’ll need to wrap the code in your post like this:

[sourcecode language="r"]
test.function = function(r) {
    return(pi * r^2)
}
test.function(1)
[/sourcecode]

(Which will then look like this:
r syntax highlighted code example
)

Further details (and other supported languages) can be read about on this WordPress.com support page.

This new feature was possible thanks to the work of Yihui Xie (who create the famous cool animation package for R), who created a R syntax brush for the syntaxhighlighter WordPress plugin (the plugin used by WordPress.com for sytnax highlighting) . And thanks should also go to Andrew Redd, the creator of NppToR (which connects between notepad++ to R). He both made some good suggestions, and was game to take on the brush creation in case there would be problems, which thankfully so far there aren’t any)

p.s: If you are a WordPress.org users (e.g: have a self hosted WordPress blog) and want to enable R syntax highlighting for your blog, I would recommend the use of the WP-Syntax plugin (enhanced with GeSHi version 1.0.8.6) which can be downloaded here.

Syncing files across computers using DropBox

Motivation

In the past few months I have been using DropBox for syncing my work files between my home and work computer. It has saved me from numerous mistakes and from sending the files to myself via e-mail.

Recently I found this service highly useful for sharing files with 4 other people with whom I am working on a data analysis project. Being so happy with it (and also by gaining more storage space by inviting friends to use it), I thought of sharing my experience here with other R users that might benefit from this cool (free) service.

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a Software/Web2.0 file hosting service which enable users to synchronize files and folders between computers across the internet.
This is done by installing a software and then picking a “shared folder” on your computer. From that moment on, that folder will be synced with any computer you choose to install the software on (for example, your home/work computer, your laptop – and so on)

DropBox also enables users to share some of their folders with other DropBox users. This seamless integration of the service with your OS file system (Windows, Mac or Linux) is what’s making this service so comfortable, by allowing me to work with co-workers and have the same “project tree” of folders, all of which are always synced.

You could also share a file “online”, by getting a link to it which you could share with others. So for example, you could write an R code, share it online, and call to it later with source(). This is the easiest way I know of how to do this.

Dropbox is a “cloud computing” Web2.0 file hosting service offering both free and paid services. The free version (which I use) offers 2GB of “shared storage” (unless you invite other users, in which case you get some extended storage space. Which is one of my motivations in writing this post).

Dropbox has other non-trivial uses allowing one to:

The service’s major competitors are Box.net, Sugarsync and Mozy, non of which I have had the chance of trying.

How to start?

Simply go to: DropBox.com
Sign up, install the software, use the new shared folder, and let me know if it helped you :)

How to get Extra space?

You can:

  • Earn another 750MB of space by connecting your dropbox to your twitter/facebook account and sending a status update about them. To get this bonus, head over to “Get extra space free!” page.
  • Refer a friend to open a dropbox account (every friend joining earns you another 250MB of space). This bonus is bounded by a total of 8GB of added space (after that, you won’t be allowed any more extra space)
  • Upgrade – pay 10$ a month and get extra 50GB

R-Node: a web front-end to R with Protovis

Update (April 6 – 2010) : R-Node now has it’s own a website, with a dedicated google group (you can join it here)

* * * *

The integration of R into online web services is (for me) one of the more exciting prospects in R’s future. That is way I was very excited coming across Jamie Love’s recent creation: R-Node.

What is R-Node

R-Node is a (open source) web front-end to R (the statistical analysis package).

Using this front-end, you can from any web browser connect to an R instance running on a remote (or local) server, and interact with it, sending commands and receiving the responses. In particular, graphing commands such as plot() and hist() will execute in the browser, drawing the graph as an SVG image.

You can see a live demonstration of this interface by visiting:
http://69.164.204.238:2904/
And using the following user/password login info:
User: pvdemouser
Password: svL35NmPwMnt
(This link was originally posted here)

Here are some screenshots:


In the second screenshot you see the results of the R command ‘plot(x, y)’ (with the reimplementation of plot doing the actual plotting), and in the fourth screenshot you see a similar plot command along with a subsequent best fit line (data points calculated with ‘lowess()’) drawn in.

Once in, you can try out R by typing something like:

x < - rnorm(100) 
plot(x, main="Random numbers") 
l <- lowess(x) 
lines (l$y)

The plot and lines commands will bring up a graph – you can escape out of it, download the graph as a SVG file, and change the graph type (e.g. do: plot (x, type=”o”) ).
Many R commands will work, though only the hist(), plot() and lines() work for graphing.
Please don’t type the R command q() – it will quit the server, stopping it working for everyone! Also, as everyone shares the same session for now, using more unique variable name than ‘x’ and ‘l’ will help you.

Currently there is only limited error checking but the code continues to be improved and developed. You can download it from:
http://gitorious.org/r-node

How do you may imagine yourself using something like this? Feel invited to share with me and everyone else in the comments.

Here are some of the more technical details of R-Node:
Continue reading

Google spreadsheets + google forms + R = Easily collecting and importing data for analysis

Someone on the R mailing list (link) asked: how can you easily (daily) collect data from many people into a spreadsheet and then analyse it using R.

The answer people gave to it where on various ways of using excel.  But excel files (at least for now),  are not “on the cloud”.  A better answer might be to create a google form that will update a google spreadsheet that will then be read by R.

If my last sentence wasn’t clear to you, then this post is for you.

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Announcing R-bloggers.com: a new R news site (for bloggers by bloggers)

I already wrote about R-bloggers on the R mailing list, so it only seems fitting to write about it more here. I will explain what R-bloggers is and then move to explain what I hope it will accomplish.

R-Bloggers.com is a central hub of content collected from bloggers who write about R (in English) and if you are an R blogger you can join it by filling in this form.

I built the site with the aspiration to  help R bloggers and users to connect and follow the “R blogosphere”. When I am writing these words, R-bloggers already has 17 blogs in it, and I hope for many (many) more.

How does R-Bloggers operate? This site aggregates feeds (only with permission!) from participating R blogs. The beginnings of each participating blog’s posts will automatically be displayed on the main page with links to the original posts; inside every post there is a link to the original blog and links to other related articles. While all participating blogs have links in the “Contributors” section of our sidebar

What does R-Bloggers offer it’s visitors?

  • Discover (for all): Find new R blogs you didn’t know about. And Search in them for content you want.
  • Follow (for people who don’t use RSS): Enter your e-mail and subscribe to receive a daily digest with teasers of new posts from participating blogs. You will more easily get a sense of hot topics in the R blogosphere.
  • Connect (for facebook users): Click on “Fan this site” to become a “fan” of R Bloggers. You can then “friend” other people and share thoughts on our wall. Or just by leaving comments on the blog.
  • Participate (for bloggers): Add your R blog to get increased visibility (for readers and search engines) with permanent links on our Contributors sidebar. Your blog will also gain visibility via our e-mail digest and through your presence on the main page with posts.

Who started R-Bloggers (and way)? R Bloggers was started by Tal Galili (well, me).  After searching for numerous R blogs I decided that there must be more R blogs our there then he knows about, and maybe the best way for finding them is to make them find him.

After writing about it in the R mailing list, I got some good feedbacks but also questions about why use only R blogs and not all the R feeds that exist. Who is the website actually for (when there are services like Google reader for us to read our feeds with), and what am I hoping it will do. So here is what I answered:

For me there are two audiences:
One is that of the web 2.0 power users. That is, people who know what RSS is and use it, maybe evern write their own blogs. These people have only one problem (as I see it) that R-bloggers tries to solve, and that is to know who else lives in their ecosystem. Who else they should follow.
For that, google reader recommendation system is great, but not enough. A much better system is if there was a one place where all R bloggers would go, write down their website, and all of us would know they exist. That is what R-bloggers offers for the power users. I think this is also why over 20 of them subscribed to the site RSS feed.
BTW, The origin of this idea came to me when I was trying to find all the dance bloggers for my wife (who is a dance researcher and blogger herself). After a while we started http://www.dancebloggers.com/ while knowing of only 10 bloggers. They list now has over 80 bloggers, most of which we would have not known about without this hub.
The same thing I am trying to do for the R community, that is way I hope more R bloggers would write about the service – so their network of readers which includes other R bloggers would add themselves and we will all know about them.
If that was my only purpose, a simple directory would have been enough. But I also have a second one and that is to help the second audience.

The second audience I am thinking of are people of our community who are not so much early adopters (and actually quite late adapters) of the new facilities that the new web (a.k.a: web 2.0) provides.
To them the all RSS thing is too much to look at, and they are used to e-mails. And because of that they are (until now) disconected from many of the R bloggers out there, simply because it is in-efficient for them to go through all these blogs each day (or even week). So for them, to see all the content in one place (and even get an e-mail about it) would be (I hope) a service. I believe that’s why 5 of them (so far) has subscribed via e-mail.
I also hope teachers will direct their students to this as a resource for getting a sense of what people who are using R are doing.
Another thing that hints me about the R community is seeing how the “facebook fan box” is still empty. Which tells me that (sadly) very few R users are actively using facebook as a means for connecting with the outer networks of people out there.

All I wrote also explains why R-bloggers will only take feeds of bloggers and only (as much as can be said) their posts that are centered around R (hence the website name :) ).
It both follows what Gabor talked about – having a site who’s content is only about R. But also what I wish, which is to have “content” in the sense of articles to read (mostly). And not so much things like news feeds of wikipedia or new packages published.

I hope this post will both notify people about this new resource, encourage more R bloggers to join, and will help for future people to better understand what this R-Bloggers thing is all about :-)