[Rd] Help useRs to use R's own Time/Date objects more efficiently

Iñaki Ucar |uc@r @end|ng |rom |edor@project@org
Sat Apr 4 12:35:06 CEST 2020

On Sat, 4 Apr 2020 at 11:51, Martin Maechler <maechler using stat.math.ethz.ch> wrote:
> This is mostly a RFC  [but *not* about the many extra packages, please..]:
> Noticing to my chagrin  how my students work in a project,
> googling for R code and cut'n'pasting stuff together, accumulating
> this and that package on the way  all just for simple daily time series
> (though with partly missing parts),
> using chron, zoo, lubridate, ...  all for things that are very
> easy in base R *IF* you read help pages and start thinking on
> your own (...), I've noted once more that the above "if" is a
> very strong one, and seems to happen rarely nowadays by typical R users...
> (yes, I stop whining for now).

It's not my intention to sound harsh here, but just to provide
constructive criticism (I clarify this beforehand because, you know,
this is an email).

It's too easy to whine about this every now and then, and blame the
useRs for not being diligent enough, not patient enough and not
reading enough manual pages. But did you considered that maybe it's
the usability of this stuff in base R what leaves much to be desired,
and the lack of good and intuitive helpers what triggered the
development of so many related packages?

> In this case, I propose to slightly improve the situation ...
> by adding a few more lines to one help page [[how could that
> help in the age where "google"+"cut'n'paste" has replaced thinking ? .. ]] :

Google + cut'n'paste hasn't replaced thinking, but struggling. So no,
I don't think that more documentation (which I do think is already
great) improves the situation.


> In the distant past / one of the last times I touched on people
> using (base) R's  Date / Time-Date  objects, I had started
> thinking if we should not provide some simple utilities to "base R"
> (not in the 'base' pkg, but rather 'utils') for "extracting" from
> {POSIX(ct), Date} objects ... and we may have discussed that
> within R Core 20 years ago,  and had always thought that this
> shouldn't be hard for useRs themselves to see how to do...

Never too late to change your mind.

> But then I see that "everybody" uses extension packages instead,
> even in the many situations where there's no gain doing so,
> but rather increases the dependency-complexity of the data analysis
> unnecessarily.

I do think there's gain. Again, it's not poor silly useRs not doing
their homework, it's a handful of developers that invested many many
hours of their time for years producing extension packages for a
functionality that is perfectly covered in base R. Maybe it's time to
think that it's not that well covered?

Iñaki Úcar

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