An article attacking R gets responses from the R blogosphere – some reflections

In this post I reflect on the current state of the R blogosphere, and share my hopes for the future

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:

  • R and the Next Big Thing by David 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.

    Continue reading “An article attacking R gets responses from the R blogosphere – some reflections”

    Announcing 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. 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 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 🙂

    R Flashmob

    Today I noticed a call for R users to gather around a single campfire for one hour and share their questions and answers.

    The campfire name is, a site dedicated for handling programming questions. The event details are bellow:

    From: The R Flashmob Project
    Subject: R Flashmob #2

    You are invited to take part in R Flashmob, the project that makes the
    world a better place by posting helpful questions and answers about the
    R statistical language to the programmer’s Q & A site

    Please forward this to other people you know who might like to join.


    Q. Why would I want to join an inexplicable R mob?

    A. Tons of other people are doing it.

    Q. Why else?

    A. Stackoverflow was built specifically for handling programming questions.
    It’s a better mousetrap. It offers search (and is well indexed by search engines),
    tagging, voting, the ability to choose the “best” answer to a question, and the ability to
    edit questions and answers as technology progresses. It has a karma system to
    reward people who are happy to help and discourage MLJs (mailing list jerks).

    Q. Do the organizers of this MOB have any commercial interest in stackoverflow?

    A. None at all. We’re just convinced it is the best way to help and promote R. All
    the content submitted to stackoverflow is protected by a Creative Commons
    CC-Wiki License, meaning anyone is free to copy, distribute, transmit, and
    remix the information on stackoverflow. All the content on stackoverflow is
    regularly made available for download by the public.

    Start Date: Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
    Start Time:
    10:04 AM – US Pacific
    11:04 AM – US Mountain
    12:04 PM – US Central
    1:04 PM – US Eastern
    6:04 PM – UK
    7:04 PM – Continental W. Europe
    5:04 AM (Weds) – New Zealand (birthplace of R)
    Duration: 50 minutes

    (1) At some point during the day on September 8th, synchronize your watch to,75,64,179,136,37,22

    (2) The mob should form at precisely 4 minutes past the hour and not beforehand.

    (3) At 4 minutes past the hour, you should arrive at, log in,
    and post 3 R questions. Be sure to tag the questions “R”. See the posting
    guidelines at to understand what makes a good

    (4) Follow R Flashmob updates at

    (5) Post twitter messages tagged #rstats and #rstatsmob during the mob,
    providing links to your questions.

    (6) During the R MOB, you can chat with other participants on the #R channel
    on IRC (freenode). To do this, install the Chatzilla extension on Firefox.
    Click “freenode” on the main screen. Then type /join #R in the field at the
    bottom of the screen. Then chat.

    (7) If you finish posting your three questions within the 50 minutes, stick
    around to answer questions and give “up votes” to good questions and answers.

    (8) IMPORTANT: After posting, sign the R Flashmob guestbook at

    (9) Return to what you would otherwise have been doing. Await
    instructions for R MOB #3.

    This invitation already gained exposure from 3 blogs:

    I am waiting to see who else will join the fun.