[R] R's documentation

Patrick Burns pburns at pburns.seanet.com
Sat May 30 10:28:47 CEST 2009

Zeljko Vrba wrote:
> On Fri, May 29, 2009 at 05:20:24PM +0100, Patrick Burns wrote:
>> If you find some documentation that is
>> confusing, then you can write a message
>> about it that states:
> I think that some kind of a glossary would be helpful.  Then I would know
> whether certain words or phrases are R-specific or whether they come from
> statistics, so I'd at least know where should I continue to dig further.


may (partially) satisfy this part of your wishlist.


> A text explaining how data frames *are meant to be used* would be helpful.
> The intro to data frames is clear (collection of vectors of same length),
> but it left me clueless about how functions interpret the data inside.  It
> finally clicked for me when I was reading some intro about lattice graphics
> and where I actually had to display the builtin data-set.  Such a basic
> concept should be explained somewhere without the user needing to basically
> reverse-engineer the concept.  In other words, the "Introduction to R"
> should contain something about "long" and "wide" data formats.  Or at least
> links to proper descriptions should be given (plyr, reshape packages).
> Implicit conversions are vague.  If variable x is a factor, what does
> x==8 do?   Convert 8 to string and compare to one of the levels of x?
> Compare as.numeric(x) with 8?  Simple experiment reveals this, but
> help("==") does not shed light on the issue. (".. or other objects
> for which methods have been written.")  This raises a bunch of questions:
> What kind of objects are there in R?  How do I find object's methods?
> How do I find overload of == that compares factors and integers (or at
> least HELP for a particular overload)?  The help on "==" is precise, but
> utterly useless for somebody who does not already know 1) what == does,
> and 2) all the other wider concepts mentioned in the help text.
> [And so on.. this was just the example that was lately bothering me.  In
> general, more cross-referencing between documentation topics might be helpful.
> "SEE ALSO" is not sufficient; hyperlinking would be much more effective because
> it hints at whether a topic is documented or not.]
> I'm an experienced developer, yet it took me three months to go over from
> 5-dimensional arrays and fudging with apply() margins to "proper" use of
> data-frames.  Had I needed somewhat simpler data manipulation or graphics, I
> would have thrown out R out of the window, as I have many times before.   
> Things *should not* be that way.  For an example of what I consider to be
> well-structured documentation, please see
> http://doc.qtsoftware.com/4.5/how-to-learn-qt.html
> which made it possible for me to figure out reasonably quickly how to do what I
> needed without the need for internet searches or asking on mailing lists.
> [And so on, and so on.. I can only describe the help text as "opaque".  Reading
> it feels like reading a foreign language that I'm not very proficient in.]
> ______________________________________________
> R-help at r-project.org mailing list
> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
> PLEASE do read the posting guide http://www.R-project.org/posting-guide.html
> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

More information about the R-help mailing list