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I spent a few weeks a few months ago learning R. It's not a bad language, and yes, the plotting is currently second-to-none, at least based on my limited experience with matplotlib and seaborn.

There's scant few articles on going from Python to R...and I think that has given me a lot of reason to hesitate. One of the big assets of R is Hadley Wickham...the amount and variety of work he has contributed is prodigious (not just ggplot2, but everything from data cleaning, web scraping, dev tools, time-handling a la moment.js, and books). But that's not just evidence of how generous and talented Wickham is, but how relatively little dev support there is in R. If something breaks in ggplot2 -- or any of the many libraries he's involved in, he's often the one to respond to the ticket. He's only one person. There are many talented developers in R but it's not quite a deep open-source ecosystem and community yet.

Also word-of-warning: ggplot2 (as of 2014[1]) is in maintenance mode and Wickham is focused on ggvis, which will be a web visualization library. I don't know if there has been much talk about non-Hadley-Wickham people taking over ggplot2 and expanding it...it seems more that people are content to follow him into ggvis, even though a static viz library is still very valuable.

[1] https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/ggplot2/SSxt8B8QLfo/...

Hadley is actively working on ggplot2. In fact, he just tweeted a list of improvements - https://twitter.com/hadleywickham/status/654283936755904512


Thanks...I didn't know that (though I had been paying attention to bug fixes)...but my point exactly, he's prodigious, so maybe "maintenance mode" to him is "major features every 3 months instead of 2) :).

Also worth pointing out, he's actively working on a new book for ggplot2, which, AFAICT, he's providing for free (you just have to run the build tools)


I think if someone were to run an analysis of Wickham's Github activity, it would produce a freakishly busy chart.

Agreed about Hadley's prolific work.

I used to work a lot with R many years ago. I was shocked to find how bad the documentation was, and worse how rude and unfriendly the "community" of grumpy professors was. I shudder to think of the horrible meanness towards beginners asking questions on the mailing list.

I got so fed up I even wrote a book about R data visualisation. But this was all just around the time ggplot2 came out. Unfortunately I stopped using R soon after, but since then Hadley has single-handedly done more good for the language than anyone else.

I don't know what the R community is like now, and whether people like Hadley have made it friendlier, but it's clearly one reason Python is superior.

I'm a late arrival to the language and have almost interacted with it exclusively through StackOverflow and Github. I've been astonished at not just how friendly people are, but how quickly I can get a helpful response to even what I feel are pretty esoteric (and dumb) questions...again, one of the problems of coming into R is that, because of the relatively small community, there aren't as many references or easily Googlable answers compared to Python...but getting answers to questions if you ask them is very easy, and I think that's a credit to the community.

On the other hand, there seem to be a lot of useful libraries that haven't been ported over to Github or are otherwise easily accessible beyond CRAN...Many of them probably don't get as much exposure as they would if they were more easily discoverable...and I honestly don't even know where, in those cases, to start the bug reporting/patching process. That's obviously the fault of my being spoiled by Github...but that's kind of the point, there's a bit more friction in contributing to R than you might find in Python/Ruby/etc.

Yeah there's a lot more R stuff on SO now than when I was using it. The mailing lists were more active so that's what I had to use to ask for help.


Thanks :)

The caveat on the ggplot2 book is that building it seems to be really hard because of the nightmare of cross-platform latex. But there will be a physical book out early next year.

Also RStudio is growing, so I'm hoping I will have some full-time engineers working with me in the not-too distant future.

> There are many talented developers in R but it's not quite a deep open-source ecosystem and community yet.

Every language has third party packages that are primarily the work of one person.

I'm sure your statement is true for some definition of deep but I don't agree.

Does every language have many of its main third party packages that are heavily influenced by the work of one person? Wickham is to R as John Resig is to JavaScript, if Resig were to have also created and primarily maintained D3, moment.js, and Grunt...Wickham not only steers the libraries that define how a growing majority of R users do data manipulation (dplyr) and visualization, he's also building the tools he needs to maintain and publish them (devtools).

This isn't to say that there aren't other programmers doing brilliant work in R (also, R is just a smaller community overall), but he's devoting significant time to building out support tools and frameworks...this suggests that he is a total mensch, but also that there was a significant need that hadn't yet been addressed.

It does help that I'm one of the few people who are paid to work full-time on nothing but open source R packages that a designed to broadly aid data analysis.

I would argue that most of the scientific & statistical packages for most languages are driven by at most a handful of people, yes.

Another interpretation is that R is an incredibly productive language for this sort of programming, otherwise one person couldn't write so much useful code. ;)

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