[R] Giving a first good impression of R to Social Scientists

Liaw, Andy andy_liaw at merck.com
Thu Aug 12 18:25:03 CEST 2004

> From: Barry Rowlingson
> Thomas Lumley wrote:
> > On Thu, 12 Aug 2004, Rau, Roland wrote:
> > 
> >>That is why would like to ask the experts on this list if 
> anyone of you has
> >>encountered a similar experience and what you could advise 
> to persuade
> >>people quickly that it is worth learning a new software?
> > 
>   The usual way of teaching R seems to be bottom-up. Here's 
> the command 
> prompt, type some arithmetic, make some assignments, learn about 
> function calls and arguments, write your own functions, write 
> your own 
> packages.
>   Perhaps a top-down approach might help certain cases. People using 
> point-n-click packages tend to use a limited range of analyses. Write 
> some functions that do these analyses, or give them wrappers so that 
> they get something like:
>   > myData = readDataFile("foo.dat")
>     Read 4 variables: Z, Age, Sex, Disease
>   > analyseThis(myData, response="Z", covariate="Age")
>    Z = 0.36 * Age, Significance level = 0.932
>   or whatever. Really spoon feed the things they need to do. Make it 
> really easy, foolproof.

The problem is that the only `fool' that had been `proof' against is the one
that the developer(s) had imagined.  One cannot under-estimate users'
ability to out-fool the developers' imagination...


>   Then show them what's behind the analyseThis() function. 
> How its not 
> even part of the R distribution. How easy you made it for a 
> beginner to 
> do a complex and novel analysis. Then maybe it'll "click" for 
> them, and 
> they'll see how having a programming language behind their statistics 
> functions lets them explore in ways not thought possible with the 
> point-n-click paradigm. Perhaps they'll start editing 
> analyseThis() and 
> write analyseThat(), start thinking for themselves.
>   Or maybe they'll just stare at you blankly...
> Baz
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