In this post I reflect on the current state of the R blogosphere, and share my hopes for it’s future.
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I am very grateful to Dr. AnnMaria De Mars for writing her post “The Next Big Thing”.
In her post, Dr. De Mars attacked R by accusing it of being “an epic fail” (in being user-friendly) and “NOT the next big thing”. Of course one should look at Dr. De Mars claims in their context. She is talking about particular aspects in which R fails (the lacking of a mature GUI for non-statisticians), and had her own (very legitimate) take on where to look for “the next big thing”. All in all, her post was decent, and worth contemplating upon respectfully (even if one, me for example, doesn’t agree with all of Dr. De Mars claims.)
R bloggers are becoming a community
But Dr. De Mars post is (very) important for a different reason. Not because her claims are true or false, but because her writing angered people who love and care for R (whether legitimately or not, it doesn’t matter). Anger, being a very powerful emotion, can reveal interesting things. In our case, it just showed that R bloggers are connected to each other.
So far there are
69 R bloggers who wrote in reply to Dr. De Mars post (some more kind then others), they are:
- The inevitable R backlash by Matt Blackwell.
- R is an Epic Fail? by Yihui Xie
- The Next Big Thing: SAS and SPSS!…wait, what? By Drew Conway (Extra hat tip for also linking to other R bloggers who wrote about this)
- R Is (Not) the Next Big Thing by Joe Dunn
- A reply in Spanish
- “The next big thing”, R, and Statistics in the cloud by Tal Galili (me)
- R Command Line by Lee
- R is an epic fail or is it just overhyped by Ajay Ohri
- Statisticians and programming; languages and GUIs by Mike Smith
This is good news, since it shows that R has a community of people (not “just people”) who write about it.
In one of the posts, someone commented about how R current stage reminds him of how linux was in 1998, and how he believes R will grow to be amazingly dominant in the next 10 years.
In the same way, I feel the R blogosphere is just now starting to “wake up” and become aware that it exists. Already 6 bloggers found they can write not just about R code, but also reply to does who “attack” R (in their view). Imagine how the R blogosphere might look in a few years from now…
I would like to end with a more general note about the importance of R bloggers collaboration to the R ecosystem.
How to start a movement
In his wonderful (3 minutes) TED talk, Derek Sivers talks about “how to start a movement”:
One of his most interesting conclusions (in my opinion) is that a movement is not just thanks to it’s leader, but also (if not more) thanks to it’s first followers – the one who make the first guy a leader.
The implication of that is that if you are a bloggers, and you find someones work (articles) worth while – “follow them”. Write about it (in twitter/facebook or your own blog), support that blogger by commenting. Doing that will only strengthen the impact of the thing you care about.
I think and believe that Bloggers collaboration is synergistic.
Bloggers who cross link to each other gain more respect (and thus, traffic and influence) from both search engines (e.g: google) and the traditional media.
Bloggers coming together, supporting each other with their words, can sometimes make a “news story” suddenly important for the media to report.
I hope as time will progress, we will have a more interconnected R blogosphere. One that will enable the R community to reach a wider circle of people and influence (in the public and private sector).
In conclusions the case of the bloggers reply to Dr. De Mars article is (I believe) a sign to whats coming a head – and I feel very optimistic about it 🙂