[R] Re: diamond graphs and patents

Ko-Kang Kevin Wang kwan022 at stat.auckland.ac.nz
Thu Aug 28 02:27:51 CEST 2003

I have been reading this "discussion" (or debate, depends on your point of 
view) with great interest in the last few days.

On Thu, 28 Aug 2003, David Scott wrote:

> My reaction when learning of a proposed patent on a new graph was: "oh 
> well, that's something I can forget about". Without a patent, code would 
> have been available in R in a very short period of time, the statistical 
> community would have been able to play around with it, see how it worked 
> on various problems. If the graph proved useful it would make its way into 
> statistical practice. With a patent none of that seems possible. Prof 
> Munoz has had fun exploring his creation, but if any of us are to do 
> likewise I guess we will either pay up or secretly write code and play 
> around with diamond graphs while hidden in the basement.

I agree.  The question, IMHO, is not whether the diamond graph is a good 
visualising tool or not -- because it still remains to be seen, but on the 
idea of having it patented.

I completely agree with Dr. Ihaka that the only reason that makes R so 
popular and widely used across the academia, research institutes and even 
many large commercial companies, is that it is "free" and "open-sourced".

It is certainly going to be interesting to write up some functions in R 
that draws diamond graphs, and then test them on some simulated and real 
world data.  But as Associate Professor Scott pointed out, with a patent 
on diamond graph (should the application be accepted), I am not sure if 
this is possible.

With patenting in mind, I have been think what would the world like if 
histograms, bargraphs, boxplots...etc. were patented by the original 
inventors!  The idea of patenting a graph seems to me like patenting a 
mathematical/statistical theorem.  Again, if for example the Central 
Limit theorem is patented, does it mean we have to pay whenever we want to 
make inference from it?

There are many "software" that offers educational institution an academic 
license, and offers students a student license.  But the thought of the 
possibility of having to pay for using a graph (or writing codes to draw 
the graph) is.........

> Getting a graph used is not that simple I think. Boxplots are now an 
> extremely useful tool, but lets not forget that Tukey also invented the 
> hanging rootogram.

What is a hanging rootogram? ;-D

> As for Microsoft getting involved, God help us. Excel still doesn't do 
> boxplots does it? Not to mention the quality of their implementation of 
> most of their statistical routines.

Even those graphs that Excel does do, e.g. histograms, it does not do a 
very good job in them.  It has been, what, over a decade now since the 
first version of Excel was released?  I cannot keep myself from wondering 
why Excel still produces ugly graphs.



"On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament],
'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will
the right answers come out?' I am not able to rightly apprehend the
kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."

-- Charles Babbage (1791-1871) 
---- From Computer Stupidities: http://rinkworks.com/stupid/

Ko-Kang Kevin Wang
Master of Science (MSc) Student
SLC Tutor and Lab Demonstrator
Department of Statistics
University of Auckland
New Zealand
Homepage: http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~kwan022
Ph: 373-7599
    x88475 (City)
    x88480 (Tamaki)

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