History of R

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History of R

Kathy Gerber
Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
source fads.

The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
Octave don't enjoy that level of success?

I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.

Thanks.
Kathy Gerber
University of Virginia
ITC - Research Computing Support

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Re: History of R

Douglas Bates-2
On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Kathy Gerber <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
>  whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
>  the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
>  R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
>  much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
>  as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
>  source fads.

>  The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
>  project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
>  Octave don't enjoy that level of success?

First and foremost there is the incredible generosity of Ross Ihaka
and Robert Gentleman who, after spending an enormous amount of time
and effort in development of the initial implementation, did not
demand exclusive ownership of their work but allowed others to make
changes.  I believe Martin Maechler was the first non-Auckland person
to get write access to the source code repository and I'm sure that
the good experience of working at a distance with Martin persuaded R &
R to open it up to others.  Martin is polite, considerate, meticulous
and precise (he is a German-speaking Swiss so meticulous and precise
kind of comes with the territory) and you couldn't ask for a first
experience in sharing something that is very valuable to you with
someone whom you may never have met in person.

Not everyone has been that pleasant to work with.  One of the first
things that I did when I joined R-core was to blow up at Kurt and
Fritz about something - on Christmas Eve!  I surprised the group
didn't boot me out after that start.

When a project is gaining momentum the personalities of the initial
developers have a big influence on its success.  The R project has
been fortunate in that regard.

>  I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
>  thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.

>  Thanks.
>  Kathy Gerber
>  University of Virginia
>  ITC - Research Computing Support
>
>  ______________________________________________
>  [hidden email] 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.
>

______________________________________________
[hidden email] mailing list
https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
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Re: History of R

Douglas Bates-2
On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 3:23 PM, Douglas Bates <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Kathy Gerber <[hidden email]> wrote:
>  > Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
>  >  whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
>  >  the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
>  >  R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
>  >  much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
>  >  as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
>  >  source fads.
>
>  >  The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
>  >  project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
>  >  Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
>
>  First and foremost there is the incredible generosity of Ross Ihaka
>  and Robert Gentleman who, after spending an enormous amount of time
>  and effort in development of the initial implementation, did not
>  demand exclusive ownership of their work but allowed others to make
>  changes.  I believe Martin Maechler was the first non-Auckland person
>  to get write access to the source code repository and I'm sure that
>  the good experience of working at a distance with Martin persuaded R &
>  R to open it up to others.  Martin is polite, considerate, meticulous
>  and precise (he is a German-speaking Swiss so meticulous and precise
>  kind of comes with the territory) and you couldn't ask for a first

I meant to write "for a better first experience"

>  experience in sharing something that is very valuable to you with
>  someone whom you may never have met in person.
>
>  Not everyone has been that pleasant to work with.  One of the first
>  things that I did when I joined R-core was to blow up at Kurt and
>  Fritz about something - on Christmas Eve!  I surprised the group
>  didn't boot me out after that start.
>
>  When a project is gaining momentum the personalities of the initial
>  developers have a big influence on its success.  The R project has
>  been fortunate in that regard.
>
>
>
>  >  I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
>  >  thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
>
>  >  Thanks.
>  >  Kathy Gerber
>  >  University of Virginia
>  >  ITC - Research Computing Support
>  >
>  >  ______________________________________________
>  >  [hidden email] 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.
>  >
>

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Re: History of R

John Sorkin
In reply to this post by Douglas Bates-2
Kathy.
A suggestion. As you gather your information about the history, I suggest you put fingers to keyboard and write down the history. You could start with the material Douglas just sent to you. Perhaps we can convince the R folks to place the history on the CRAN website - perhaps in WIKI format so our founding fathers, and mothers, can add to the history. I certainly would be nice to be able to give credit to the may people who have selflessly contributed their time, effort, and expertise to the R project!.
John

John Sorkin M.D., Ph.D.
Chief, Biostatistics and Informatics
University of Maryland School of Medicine Division of Gerontology
Baltimore VA Medical Center
10 North Greene Street
GRECC (BT/18/GR)
Baltimore, MD 21201-1524
(Phone) 410-605-7119
(Fax) 410-605-7913 (Please call phone number above prior to faxing)

>>> "Douglas Bates" <[hidden email]> 2/15/2008 4:23 PM >>>
On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Kathy Gerber <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
>  whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
>  the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
>  R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
>  much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
>  as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
>  source fads.

>  The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
>  project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
>  Octave don't enjoy that level of success?

First and foremost there is the incredible generosity of Ross Ihaka
and Robert Gentleman who, after spending an enormous amount of time
and effort in development of the initial implementation, did not
demand exclusive ownership of their work but allowed others to make
changes.  I believe Martin Maechler was the first non-Auckland person
to get write access to the source code repository and I'm sure that
the good experience of working at a distance with Martin persuaded R &
R to open it up to others.  Martin is polite, considerate, meticulous
and precise (he is a German-speaking Swiss so meticulous and precise
kind of comes with the territory) and you couldn't ask for a first
experience in sharing something that is very valuable to you with
someone whom you may never have met in person.

Not everyone has been that pleasant to work with.  One of the first
things that I did when I joined R-core was to blow up at Kurt and
Fritz about something - on Christmas Eve!  I surprised the group
didn't boot me out after that start.

When a project is gaining momentum the personalities of the initial
developers have a big influence on its success.  The R project has
been fortunate in that regard.

>  I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
>  thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.

>  Thanks.
>  Kathy Gerber
>  University of Virginia
>  ITC - Research Computing Support
>
>  ______________________________________________
>  [hidden email] 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.
>

______________________________________________
[hidden email] 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.

Confidentiality Statement:
This email message, including any attachments, is for th...{{dropped:6}}

______________________________________________
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Re: History of R

Achim Zeileis
For those of you who want to learn more about the history of the R
project: There will be an invited lecture by John Fox and Kurt Hornik at
this year's useR! conference in Dortmund in August (...unfortunately a bit
too late for Kathy) about "The Past, Present, and Future of the R Project"
see

  http://www.R-project.org/useR-2008/

The talk will be a double feature with John focusing on "Social
Organization of the R Project" and Kurt on "Development in the R Project".
The core ingredients of the two parts will be
  - interviews that John has conducted with the R-core members (and a few
    other R developers),
  - development of CRAN, DSC, R News, R Foundation, useR!, R-Forge, ...

BTW: Registration for useR! is possible online at the URL mentioned above.
Sorry for the shameless plug ;-)
Z

On Fri, 15 Feb 2008, John Sorkin wrote:

> Kathy.
> A suggestion. As you gather your information about the history, I
> suggest you put fingers to keyboard and write down the history. You
> could start with the material Douglas just sent to you. Perhaps we can
> convince the R folks to place the history on the CRAN website - perhaps
> in WIKI format so our founding fathers, and mothers, can add to the
> history. I certainly would be nice to be able to give credit to the may
> people who have selflessly contributed their time, effort, and expertise
> to the R project!.
> John
>
> John Sorkin M.D., Ph.D.
> Chief, Biostatistics and Informatics
> University of Maryland School of Medicine Division of Gerontology
> Baltimore VA Medical Center
> 10 North Greene Street
> GRECC (BT/18/GR)
> Baltimore, MD 21201-1524
> (Phone) 410-605-7119
> (Fax) 410-605-7913 (Please call phone number above prior to faxing)
>
> >>> "Douglas Bates" <[hidden email]> 2/15/2008 4:23 PM >>>
> On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Kathy Gerber <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
> >  whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
> >  the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
> >  R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
> >  much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
> >  as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
> >  source fads.
>
> >  The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
> >  project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
> >  Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
>
> First and foremost there is the incredible generosity of Ross Ihaka
> and Robert Gentleman who, after spending an enormous amount of time
> and effort in development of the initial implementation, did not
> demand exclusive ownership of their work but allowed others to make
> changes.  I believe Martin Maechler was the first non-Auckland person
> to get write access to the source code repository and I'm sure that
> the good experience of working at a distance with Martin persuaded R &
> R to open it up to others.  Martin is polite, considerate, meticulous
> and precise (he is a German-speaking Swiss so meticulous and precise
> kind of comes with the territory) and you couldn't ask for a first
> experience in sharing something that is very valuable to you with
> someone whom you may never have met in person.
>
> Not everyone has been that pleasant to work with.  One of the first
> things that I did when I joined R-core was to blow up at Kurt and
> Fritz about something - on Christmas Eve!  I surprised the group
> didn't boot me out after that start.
>
> When a project is gaining momentum the personalities of the initial
> developers have a big influence on its success.  The R project has
> been fortunate in that regard.
>
> >  I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
> >  thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
>
> >  Thanks.
> >  Kathy Gerber
> >  University of Virginia
> >  ITC - Research Computing Support
> >
> >  ______________________________________________
> >  [hidden email] 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.
> >
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
>
> Confidentiality Statement:
> This email message, including any attachments, is for th...{{dropped:6}}
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
>
>

______________________________________________
[hidden email] 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.
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Re: History of R

Fox, John
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
Dear Kathy,

As Achim has mentioned, I've been doing interviews with members of the R
Core team and with some other people central to the R Project. Although I
haven't entirely organized and finished reflecting on this material, the
following factors come immediately to mind:

(1) Doug has already mentioned the personal and technical talents of the
original developers, and their generosity in opening up development to a
Core group and in making R open source. To that I would add the collective
talents of the Core group as a whole.

(2) R implements the S language, which already was in wide use, and which
has many attractive features (each of use, etc.).

(3) The R package system and the establishment of CRAN allowed literally
hundreds of developers to contribute to the broader R Project. More
generally, the Core group worked to integrate users into the R Project,
e.g., through R News, the r-help list (though naive users aren't always
treated gently there), and the useR conferences.

Regards,
 John

--------------------------------
John Fox, Professor
Department of Sociology
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4
905-525-9140x23604
http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/jfox


> -----Original Message-----
> From: [hidden email] [mailto:r-help-bounces@r-
> project.org] On Behalf Of Kathy Gerber
> Sent: February-15-08 2:53 PM
> To: [hidden email]
> Subject: [R] History of R
>
> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
> whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
> the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
> R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
> much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at
> least
> as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many
> open
> source fads.
>
> The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
> project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for
> example,
> Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
>
> I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
> thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
>
> Thanks.
> Kathy Gerber
> University of Virginia
> ITC - Research Computing Support
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.

______________________________________________
[hidden email] mailing list
https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-help
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Re: History of R

Kathy Gerber
Thanks to all who responded so thoughtfully.  I would like to summarize
briefly the observations and opinions so far with some of my own
interpretations and thoughts.  John Fox is working on a much deeper
history scheduled for August, and his three factors are a good starting
point.

John Fox wrote:

> Dear Kathy,
>
> As Achim has mentioned, I've been doing interviews with members of the R
> Core team and with some other people central to the R Project. Although I
> haven't entirely organized and finished reflecting on this material, the
> following factors come immediately to mind:
>
> (1) Doug has already mentioned the personal and technical talents of the
> original developers, and their generosity in opening up development to a
> Core group and in making R open source. To that I would add the collective
> talents of the Core group as a whole.
>  
There are three attributes here:
a) Personal talent:  I take this to mean communication and teaching
ability along with leadership.  These are the talents and skills that
provide groundwork for a mature type of collaboration, more along the
lines found in tightly focused academic areas.  I would think that these
attributes are  big factors in why R has not devolved into forks and
holy wars.
b) Technical talent: Both the technical talent and domain knowledge of
the original developers and the R Core group are better than
consistently solid.  The leaders are not rock stars or cult figures.
c) Generosity:  The responses themselves sincerely gave credit to
others.  While this may appear to be consistent with Eric Raymond's
notions of open source as built upon a "gift culture," I haven't really
seen this going on elsewhere at such a level.
> (2) R implements the S language, which already was in wide use, and which
> has many attractive features (each of use, etc.).
>
>  
One person who emailed privately pointed out that many open source
projects are "knock-offs," e.g., linux itself is a unix knock-off.  I
believe the point is that R is not a totally new approach or invention,
rather it is based upon advancing some product or collection of ideas
that are already in place.
> (3) The R package system and the establishment of CRAN allowed literally
> hundreds of developers to contribute to the broader R Project. More
> generally, the Core group worked to integrate users into the R Project,
> e.g., through R News, the r-help list (though naive users aren't always
> treated gently there), and the useR conferences.
>
>  
Again, this is another distinctive feature, perhaps not in concept but
in degree and level of actual success thanks to good planning.  Like so
many other points, this goes back to the leadership.

Another point made was the need or demand for such an application.   Yet
another was the planning that goes into avoiding breakage of packages.  
What no one mentioned though was the idea of standards.

Finally, in comparing with Octave, it was mentioned that Octave may be
stuck in a position of playing catch-up to Matlab.

What I have here is far from complete, but I did want to give some
feedback tonight.  Again, thanks to you all for such articulate
responses, and I will point to my slides, and later on write up a summary.

Kathy Gerber

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Re: History of R

Spencer Graves
Hi, Kathy, John, et al.:

      Has there been an answer to the question of why R has been much
more successful than Octave?

      In this regard, can anyone provide a price comparison of student
versions for S-Plus and Matlab during R's gestation period, 10-15 years
ago?  I had the impression, perhaps incorrect, that several college
profs (including Ross and Robert) felt their student's could not afford
S-Plus, and that was a large part of the motivation, not just for R & R,
but for many other early contributors to R.  Insightful has been
incredibly generous to the R community recently, and I hope that
continues.  However, I wonder if R would have emerged when it did and
been as successful if academic prices for S-Plus prior to, say, 1992 or
1997 had been substantially lower, especially outside the US.  Of
course, it may have been easier for the Matlab to offer deep academic
discounts than S-Plus, because Matlab may have a larger industrial base
market.

      Beyond that, the "contributed packages" system has helped
immensely in R's growth;  if Octave has such a system, it's not as
visible as CRAN.  I recall hearing from Doug Bates (last August at useR!
2007 in Ames, IA) that a major turning point in the development of R
came when Martin Maechler convinced Ross & Robert to accept contributed
packages.  However, this is my memory, and it would be wise if feasible
to clarify this with Ross, Robert, Martin, Doug, and others.

      That's just my US$0.02 (which is only worth roughly half what it
was on the international market at this time in 2001).

      Hope this helps,
      Spencer    

Kathy Gerber wrote:

> Thanks to all who responded so thoughtfully.  I would like to summarize
> briefly the observations and opinions so far with some of my own
> interpretations and thoughts.  John Fox is working on a much deeper
> history scheduled for August, and his three factors are a good starting
> point.
>
> John Fox wrote:
>  
>> Dear Kathy,
>>
>> As Achim has mentioned, I've been doing interviews with members of the R
>> Core team and with some other people central to the R Project. Although I
>> haven't entirely organized and finished reflecting on this material, the
>> following factors come immediately to mind:
>>
>> (1) Doug has already mentioned the personal and technical talents of the
>> original developers, and their generosity in opening up development to a
>> Core group and in making R open source. To that I would add the collective
>> talents of the Core group as a whole.
>>  
>>    
> There are three attributes here:
> a) Personal talent:  I take this to mean communication and teaching
> ability along with leadership.  These are the talents and skills that
> provide groundwork for a mature type of collaboration, more along the
> lines found in tightly focused academic areas.  I would think that these
> attributes are  big factors in why R has not devolved into forks and
> holy wars.
> b) Technical talent: Both the technical talent and domain knowledge of
> the original developers and the R Core group are better than
> consistently solid.  The leaders are not rock stars or cult figures.
> c) Generosity:  The responses themselves sincerely gave credit to
> others.  While this may appear to be consistent with Eric Raymond's
> notions of open source as built upon a "gift culture," I haven't really
> seen this going on elsewhere at such a level.
>  
>> (2) R implements the S language, which already was in wide use, and which
>> has many attractive features (each of use, etc.).
>>
>>  
>>    
> One person who emailed privately pointed out that many open source
> projects are "knock-offs," e.g., linux itself is a unix knock-off.  I
> believe the point is that R is not a totally new approach or invention,
> rather it is based upon advancing some product or collection of ideas
> that are already in place.
>  
>> (3) The R package system and the establishment of CRAN allowed literally
>> hundreds of developers to contribute to the broader R Project. More
>> generally, the Core group worked to integrate users into the R Project,
>> e.g., through R News, the r-help list (though naive users aren't always
>> treated gently there), and the useR conferences.
>>
>>  
>>    
> Again, this is another distinctive feature, perhaps not in concept but
> in degree and level of actual success thanks to good planning.  Like so
> many other points, this goes back to the leadership.
>
> Another point made was the need or demand for such an application.   Yet
> another was the planning that goes into avoiding breakage of packages.  
> What no one mentioned though was the idea of standards.
>
> Finally, in comparing with Octave, it was mentioned that Octave may be
> stuck in a position of playing catch-up to Matlab.
>
> What I have here is far from complete, but I did want to give some
> feedback tonight.  Again, thanks to you all for such articulate
> responses, and I will point to my slides, and later on write up a summary.
>
> Kathy Gerber
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
>

______________________________________________
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Re: History of R

Kathy Gerber
Spencer,

I believe this is the first mention of pricing that I've seen.  The
accommodation and consideration of contributed packages has been
addressed to some degree.

Several additional points have been made about the comparison of R to
Octave, some off list.
-- Matlab did not alienate developers all that much, so people were not
driven as much to Octave.  With S-PLUS package developers often had
their packages break with the new release.  So this frustration was a
big driver.   R met this kind of demand; Octave not so much.

As an aside, I would note that rather than update their libraries and
scripts or develop a real Maple alternative, many mathematicians stuck
with Maple V for several years beyond its "life cycle."   Though there
were some efforts and I don't want to dismiss their current though
somewhat limited success, I don't believe there was a critical mass of
folks able or interested in developing an alternative from the ground up
in the past.  But also those libraries had a tiny user base, and just
maybe in mathematics a mindset of  "Q.E.D. - I've moved on" enters into
play.

-- Somewhat related, one observer noted that statisticians have a need
for "usable, reliable, accurate, comprehensive software."  Along with
this R is something of a category killer along the lines of LaTeX.

-- Matlab users often switch to R rather than Octave.

-- Finally, there is overlap from early on and a high level of
collaboration between Insightful and the R community.

Kathy Gerber


Spencer Graves wrote:

> Hi, Kathy, John, et al.:
>      Has there been an answer to the question of why R has been much
> more successful than Octave?
>      In this regard, can anyone provide a price comparison of student
> versions for S-Plus and Matlab during R's gestation period, 10-15
> years ago?  I had the impression, perhaps incorrect, that several
> college profs (including Ross and Robert) felt their student's could
> not afford S-Plus, and that was a large part of the motivation, not
> just for R & R, but for many other early contributors to R.  
> Insightful has been incredibly generous to the R community recently,
> and I hope that continues.  However, I wonder if R would have emerged
> when it did and been as successful if academic prices for S-Plus prior
> to, say, 1992 or 1997 had been substantially lower, especially outside
> the US.  Of course, it may have been easier for the Matlab to offer
> deep academic discounts than S-Plus, because Matlab may have a larger
> industrial base market.
>      Beyond that, the "contributed packages" system has helped
> immensely in R's growth;  if Octave has such a system, it's not as
> visible as CRAN.  I recall hearing from Doug Bates (last August at
> useR! 2007 in Ames, IA) that a major turning point in the development
> of R came when Martin Maechler convinced Ross & Robert to accept
> contributed packages.  However, this is my memory, and it would be
> wise if feasible to clarify this with Ross, Robert, Martin, Doug, and
> others.
>
>      That's just my US$0.02 (which is only worth roughly half what it
> was on the international market at this time in 2001).
>      Hope this helps,
>      Spencer    
> Kathy Gerber wrote:
>> Thanks to all who responded so thoughtfully.  I would like to
>> summarize briefly the observations and opinions so far with some of
>> my own interpretations and thoughts.  John Fox is working on a much
>> deeper history scheduled for August, and his three factors are a good
>> starting point.
>>
>> John Fox wrote:
>>  
>>> Dear Kathy,
>>>
>>> As Achim has mentioned, I've been doing interviews with members of
>>> the R
>>> Core team and with some other people central to the R Project.
>>> Although I
>>> haven't entirely organized and finished reflecting on this material,
>>> the
>>> following factors come immediately to mind:
>>>
>>> (1) Doug has already mentioned the personal and technical talents of
>>> the
>>> original developers, and their generosity in opening up development
>>> to a
>>> Core group and in making R open source. To that I would add the
>>> collective
>>> talents of the Core group as a whole.
>>>      
>> There are three attributes here:
>> a) Personal talent:  I take this to mean communication and teaching
>> ability along with leadership.  These are the talents and skills that
>> provide groundwork for a mature type of collaboration, more along the
>> lines found in tightly focused academic areas.  I would think that
>> these attributes are  big factors in why R has not devolved into
>> forks and holy wars.
>> b) Technical talent: Both the technical talent and domain knowledge
>> of the original developers and the R Core group are better than
>> consistently solid.  The leaders are not rock stars or cult figures.
>> c) Generosity:  The responses themselves sincerely gave credit to
>> others.  While this may appear to be consistent with Eric Raymond's
>> notions of open source as built upon a "gift culture," I haven't
>> really seen this going on elsewhere at such a level.
>>  
>>> (2) R implements the S language, which already was in wide use, and
>>> which
>>> has many attractive features (each of use, etc.).
>>>
>>>      
>> One person who emailed privately pointed out that many open source
>> projects are "knock-offs," e.g., linux itself is a unix knock-off.  I
>> believe the point is that R is not a totally new approach or
>> invention, rather it is based upon advancing some product or
>> collection of ideas that are already in place.
>>  
>>> (3) The R package system and the establishment of CRAN allowed
>>> literally
>>> hundreds of developers to contribute to the broader R Project. More
>>> generally, the Core group worked to integrate users into the R Project,
>>> e.g., through R News, the r-help list (though naive users aren't always
>>> treated gently there), and the useR conferences.
>>>
>>>      
>> Again, this is another distinctive feature, perhaps not in concept
>> but in degree and level of actual success thanks to good planning.  
>> Like so many other points, this goes back to the leadership.
>>
>> Another point made was the need or demand for such an application.  
>> Yet another was the planning that goes into avoiding breakage of
>> packages.  What no one mentioned though was the idea of standards.
>> Finally, in comparing with Octave, it was mentioned that Octave may
>> be stuck in a position of playing catch-up to Matlab.
>> What I have here is far from complete, but I did want to give some
>> feedback tonight.  Again, thanks to you all for such articulate
>> responses, and I will point to my slides, and later on write up a
>> summary.
>>
>> Kathy Gerber
>>
>> ______________________________________________
>> [hidden email] 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.
>>  
>

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Re: History of R

John C Frain
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
The windows port of R has been very good for a long time. I know some
people who even think that the current windows port is better than the
Linux version.  Thanks to those who have made the windows port
available and who continue to maintain it.  I now use both MS Windows
and Linux (Fedora) and would not like to lose either..

The windows port of Octave before the recent version 3 was not good.
As far as I know one was restricted to a very old version or using
cygwin.  This would not suit most users of windows.  Thus Octave was
not available to the majority of MS windows users.  Compared to R
which had the latest version available to Windows users is it any
wonder that Octave is not as popular.  The new version 3 is a vast
improvement and should be looked at by anyone familiar with Matlab.
The new front end, using the SciTE editor is a vast improvement on
what was previously available.

Best Regards

John

On 16/02/2008, Kathy Gerber <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Thanks to all who responded so thoughtfully.  I would like to summarize
> briefly the observations and opinions so far with some of my own
> interpretations and thoughts.  John Fox is working on a much deeper
> history scheduled for August, and his three factors are a good starting
> point.
>
> John Fox wrote:
> > Dear Kathy,
> >
> > As Achim has mentioned, I've been doing interviews with members of the R
> > Core team and with some other people central to the R Project. Although I
> > haven't entirely organized and finished reflecting on this material, the
> > following factors come immediately to mind:
> >
> > (1) Doug has already mentioned the personal and technical talents of the
> > original developers, and their generosity in opening up development to a
> > Core group and in making R open source. To that I would add the collective
> > talents of the Core group as a whole.
> >
> There are three attributes here:
> a) Personal talent:  I take this to mean communication and teaching
> ability along with leadership.  These are the talents and skills that
> provide groundwork for a mature type of collaboration, more along the
> lines found in tightly focused academic areas.  I would think that these
> attributes are  big factors in why R has not devolved into forks and
> holy wars.
> b) Technical talent: Both the technical talent and domain knowledge of
> the original developers and the R Core group are better than
> consistently solid.  The leaders are not rock stars or cult figures.
> c) Generosity:  The responses themselves sincerely gave credit to
> others.  While this may appear to be consistent with Eric Raymond's
> notions of open source as built upon a "gift culture," I haven't really
> seen this going on elsewhere at such a level.
> > (2) R implements the S language, which already was in wide use, and which
> > has many attractive features (each of use, etc.).
> >
> >
> One person who emailed privately pointed out that many open source
> projects are "knock-offs," e.g., linux itself is a unix knock-off.  I
> believe the point is that R is not a totally new approach or invention,
> rather it is based upon advancing some product or collection of ideas
> that are already in place.
> > (3) The R package system and the establishment of CRAN allowed literally
> > hundreds of developers to contribute to the broader R Project. More
> > generally, the Core group worked to integrate users into the R Project,
> > e.g., through R News, the r-help list (though naive users aren't always
> > treated gently there), and the useR conferences.
> >
> >
> Again, this is another distinctive feature, perhaps not in concept but
> in degree and level of actual success thanks to good planning.  Like so
> many other points, this goes back to the leadership.
>
> Another point made was the need or demand for such an application.   Yet
> another was the planning that goes into avoiding breakage of packages.
> What no one mentioned though was the idea of standards.
>
> Finally, in comparing with Octave, it was mentioned that Octave may be
> stuck in a position of playing catch-up to Matlab.
>
> What I have here is far from complete, but I did want to give some
> feedback tonight.  Again, thanks to you all for such articulate
> responses, and I will point to my slides, and later on write up a summary.
>
> Kathy Gerber
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
>


--
John C Frain
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 2
Ireland
www.tcd.ie/Economics/staff/frainj/home.html
mailto:[hidden email]
mailto:[hidden email]

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Re: History of R

Roland Rau-3
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
Hi Kathy,

maybe this article could be also of use for you?
Ihaka, R., and Gentleman, R. (1996)," R: A Language for Data Analysis
and Graphics," The Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, 5,
299-314

Best,
Roland


Kathy Gerber wrote:

> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
> whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
> the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
> R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
> much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
> as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
> source fads.
>
> The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
> project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
> Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
>
> I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
> thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
>
> Thanks.
> Kathy Gerber
> University of Virginia
> ITC - Research Computing Support
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
>

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Re: History of R

Earl F. Glynn
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
"Kathy Gerber" <[hidden email]> wrote in message
news:[hidden email]...
> Spencer,
>
> I believe this is the first mention of pricing that I've seen.

> Several additional points have been made about the comparison of R to
> Octave, some off list.

> -- Matlab did not alienate developers all that much, so people were not
> driven as much to Octave.

> -- Matlab users often switch to R rather than Octave.

One big reason we use R now was what we considered to be unreasonable MatLab
licensing terms from the Mathworks. We have mostly biologists here who
usually have an intermittent need for analysis tools using MatLab --  they
just don't need a dedicated MatLab license per person for analysis, yet that
is what the Mathworks expected us to buy. As a new and growing research
institute, for several years it didn't make financial sense to have a single
shared network MatLab license that cost the same as four named-user licenses
when most of our users were biologists.  In our opinion, the Mathworks
wanted us to pay too much for too little use of their product due to their
license limitations.
Even though we are a 501(c)3 non-profit research institute, the Mathworks
refused to give us academic pricing (and still does). About four years ago
MatLab refused to allow one of our postdocs and me to share a single license
for casual use. I asked "what is your pricing model"? I asked why the
Mathworks cared if a post doc used MatLab for two hours a month and I used
MatLab for two hours a month using the same license. So, frustrated by the
licensing inflexibility of the Mathworks at that time (four years ago), I
abandoned MatLab and re-wrote the MatLab project I was working on in R, and
do most analysis now in R.  I avoid using MatLab as much as possible and
explain licensing terms to new students and post-docs as we start new
projects when MatLab is proposed as a solution.

Over the years, the Mathworks has been inconsistent on whether a single
license on a PC can be shared.  About a year ago, we were told it was OK to
share such a license on a walk-up workstation, but who wants to walk to
another floor or building to use MatLab?  The networking option is quite
expensive, especially to support a number of MatLab toolboxes.  Late last
year we finally did have enough MatLab use to warrant the purchase of a
network license, but only for a small number of toolboxes.  MatLab is rarely
my tool of choice when R is such a good alternative.

Non-academic pricing from the Mathworks for a non-profit research
environment, combined with the large number of R and Bioconductor packages
that solved problems of interest (mostly microarray analysis) resulted in
much more use of R here than MatLab.

Nearly six years ago, SAS also refused to give us academic pricing because
we were not a degree granting institution.  About a year ago, SAS finally
granted us academic pricing, but most of the analysis momentum was already
for the use of R/Bioconductor.

We casually looked at Octave a few times, but there was no strong attraction
to use it.  Some early tests showed no problems with computations using
Octave, but showed some annoying issues with graphics that we didn't want to
deal with.

efg

Earl F. Glynn
Scientific Programmer
Stowers Institute for Medical Research

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Re: History of R

andy bush
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
Kathy Gerber wrote
Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
source fads.

The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
Octave don't enjoy that level of success?

I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.

Thanks.
Kathy Gerber
University of Virginia
ITC - Research Computing Support

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Kathy,

If you don't mind, I'll also throw in my perspective as a 60+ year-old new-comer to R.  For me there are at least three hugely appealing aspects to R.  First, since it is totally free, R is accessible to those poor in material wealth but rich in intellectual curiosity wherever they live.  I personally think that is extremely important.  Second, contributors to R are selflessly and continuously doing quite a lot to improve approaches to the analysis of data (and there is such a rich history of that growing daily).  I have to say that I am in awe of what I see already developed in R and know from the frequency of updates that the entire enterprise is alive, well and growing. Third, R is just flat out wonderful - I know it rekindles my energy making me feel like a "kid in a candy store" again who wants to see what's new, learn more, and contribute.  I truthfully can't think of another element in my professional life that makes me feel so strongly this way.  I've never seen anything before like R and I'm just grateful to have lived long enough to experience it. I know that I owe a debt of gratitude to R-developers from top to bottom - and I'm certain I'm not alone in this.  In summary, let me just say WOW! You can bet that I've incorporated R into all the graduate classes I teach.  It so challenges and opens the imagination.

Andy Bush

ps This is not a solicited remark. It is simply what I personally think and feel.


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Re: History of R

barry rowlingson
In reply to this post by Earl F. Glynn
Earl F. Glynn wrote:

> Nearly six years ago, SAS also refused to give us academic pricing because
> we were not a degree granting institution.  About a year ago, SAS finally
> granted us academic pricing, but most of the analysis momentum was already
> for the use of R/Bioconductor.

I recently read the small print on the academic license our site has for
SAS. You have to:

  1 inform SAS of any taught courses that use SAS
  2 inform SAS of any research projects using SAS
  3 allow SAS to refer to your institution as a SAS user
  4 allow SAS to review your taught courses
  5 ensure your courses are taught using qualified personnel.
  6 give SAS your first-born male offspring

  I spoke to our site's licensing supremos and they say they've never
heard of anyone complying with 1 or 2. Point 4 sounds like petty
fiddling in our educational business, and point 5 left 'qualified'
undefined. Point 6 doesn't bother me since I don't have kids.

  Luckily other parts of our institution have made deals with SAS to use
it for consulting and training, so perhaps some of these points don't
apply to my department. I've not seen the small print on that contract
though, but I expect it to be written in blood on freshly slaughtered
deerskin...

Barry

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Re: History of R

Greg Snow-2
Many of the doctors that I work with also have teaching appointments at
the local university and use the bookstore to buy academic versions of
SAS, SPSS, Minitab, and others.  When they have asked me to use those
(sometimes offered to buy me a student copy) I have refered them to the
licence agreements.  In some cases you are supposed to upgrade to a full
version to be able to use it for anything published, the acedemic price
is to be used only in class for learning how to use it.

I have SAS, SPSS, S-PLUS, and others installed on my work computer, but
I have R installed at work, home, my laptop, and even the pc at my
church (submitting monthly statistics as Chernoff faces got me promoted
to working in the nursary once, need to try that again).  I tend to
default to using R mostly these days, partly because I know that I don't
have to be chained to my work computer to use it.  I even submitted a
package to CRAN yesterday while traveling 60 mph on the bus ride home.

My first born male child is still 3 and cute, so I had better check my
SAS licence and maybe not use it for a while.  Maybe in 10 years when he
is a teenager I can get the licence that includes #6 (that is a joke,
don't tell my wife).

--
Gregory (Greg) L. Snow Ph.D.
Statistical Data Center
Intermountain Healthcare
[hidden email]
(801) 408-8111
 
 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [hidden email]
> [mailto:[hidden email]] On Behalf Of Barry Rowlingson
> Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 5:52 AM
> To: Earl F. Glynn
> Cc: [hidden email]
> Subject: Re: [R] History of R
>
> Earl F. Glynn wrote:
>
> > Nearly six years ago, SAS also refused to give us academic pricing
> > because we were not a degree granting institution.  About a
> year ago,
> > SAS finally granted us academic pricing, but most of the analysis
> > momentum was already for the use of R/Bioconductor.
>
> I recently read the small print on the academic license our
> site has for SAS. You have to:
>
>   1 inform SAS of any taught courses that use SAS
>   2 inform SAS of any research projects using SAS
>   3 allow SAS to refer to your institution as a SAS user
>   4 allow SAS to review your taught courses
>   5 ensure your courses are taught using qualified personnel.
>   6 give SAS your first-born male offspring
>
>   I spoke to our site's licensing supremos and they say
> they've never heard of anyone complying with 1 or 2. Point 4
> sounds like petty fiddling in our educational business, and
> point 5 left 'qualified'
> undefined. Point 6 doesn't bother me since I don't have kids.
>
>   Luckily other parts of our institution have made deals with
> SAS to use it for consulting and training, so perhaps some of
> these points don't apply to my department. I've not seen the
> small print on that contract though, but I expect it to be
> written in blood on freshly slaughtered deerskin...
>
> Barry
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
>

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Re: History of R

Greg Snow-2
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
I agree with what others have said, the R core team is a great and
unique group.

There are a couple of ideas that I would like to add that may have
played a part in the level of growth that R has had.

I think timing has played a part.  The field of statistics has matured
along with the computer.  Math and the other sciences were already
mature and established before computers came along, statistics is a much
younger science and we were better able to develop our use of computers
as computers developed.

Also when you look at the trends of comercial packages in the 90's you
see that a big focus in the comercial stats packages was on developing
easier to use graphical user interfaces, the money at the time was in
expanding to new users who were not as technical, and comercial
companies need to go where the money is.  This meant that the power
users who wanted more flexibility and did not care as much about ease of
use would natually migrate to R which was not interested in following
the money.

Another thing to take into account is that R is a package used by
statisticians and statisticians are naturally a collaborative group.

--
Gregory (Greg) L. Snow Ph.D.
Statistical Data Center
Intermountain Healthcare
[hidden email]
(801) 408-8111
 
 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [hidden email]
> [mailto:[hidden email]] On Behalf Of Kathy Gerber
> Sent: Friday, February 15, 2008 12:53 PM
> To: [hidden email]
> Subject: [R] History of R
>
> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R
> developer with whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also
> that I put my questions to the list for additional responses.
>  Next month I'll be giving a talk on R as an example of high
> quality open source software.  I think there is much to learn
> from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least as
> far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so
> many open source fads.
>
> The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an
> open source project is so incredibly successful and other
> projects, say for example, Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
>
> I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know
> your thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
>
> Thanks.
> Kathy Gerber
> University of Virginia
> ITC - Research Computing Support
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
>

______________________________________________
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Re: History of R

Michael A. Miller
>>>>> "Greg" == Greg Snow <[hidden email]> writes:

    > There are a couple of ideas that I would like to add that
    > may have played a part in the level of growth that R has
    > had.

Something that I haven't seen mentioned yet that played a role in
my adopting R is the ability to create excellent graphics.  Every
few years I used to do a search to find better tools for analysis
and graphics - I haven't felt the need to repeat that since I
found R.

Mike

--
Michael A. Miller                               [hidden email]
  Imaging Sciences, Department of Radiology, IU School of Medicine

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Re: History of R

Paul Gilbert
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
Kathy

The dedication of the developers and several other important things have
already been mentioned. Here are a few points I have not seen.

- I believe S was originally open source (before the term existed and
before GPL, and license issues were probably clouded with respect to
changing the code). This meant parts of the community of S user had this
tradition. Some, no doubt, were a bit upset about the Splus move to
closed source.

- This community had also significantly contributed to Statlib, so there
were some "packages" that could be leveraged in the beginning. This may
have been not so important for what the packages did, but for the fact
that they gave an extensive test suite, so one could have considerable
confidence in the results.

- Purchase cost is typically not so important for corporate and
institutional users, since it is usually dominated by support costs.
However, young users may often feel they would prefer to have their
personal investment in something they can easily take with them if they
move.  Some of us at the other end like the idea that we don't need a
corporate account to continue research we might be interested in doing
when we retire.

- All risk averse users should like the idea that programs and acquired
skills are not tied to the operating system and hardware flavor of the
month. (R has excelled in this respect.)

- Help on the R lists has always been exceptionally good (sometimes even
if you don't read the documentation first - but expect to be chastised).
If you look at the S help list over the past 15 years, you will find
many of the most difficult questions were answered by people involved
with R.

- I ran my own code interchangeably in Splus and R for many years
(starting with R-0.16). For a long time Splus was "production" and R was
so I would have a backup. For me, the defining factor in moving to R for
"production" was the introduction of the "package" system.  This is
really special in the way that it develops the synergy of the community.
By packaging your code you get to leverage all the code checking and
documentation checking of the system, and you get to add your own tests
that run automatically when you build your package. Not only that, but
if you make your package availabe on CRAN you get not only the useful
feedback from users, but also the automatic information about what is
going to break in your code in the next release of R (from the daily
checks on multiple platforms). This is not only useful to package
developers, but provides R itself with what I would guess is the largest
automatic test bed in the industry. The system is also interesting in
the way that it has resolved one of the big problems of Statlib: there
is an automatic mechanism for removing broken and unmaintained packages.

Paul Gilbert

Kathy Gerber wrote:

> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
> whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
> the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
> R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
> much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
> as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
> source fads.
>
> The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
> project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
> Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
>
> I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
> thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
>
> Thanks.
> Kathy Gerber
> University of Virginia
> ITC - Research Computing Support
>
> ______________________________________________
> [hidden email] 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.
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Re: History of R

Kevin Wright-2
In reply to this post by Kathy Gerber
Kathy,

You might find some relevant reading in volume 13 of the Journal of
Statistical Software: http://www.jstatsoft.org/v13

Some of the papers have a bit of discussion on why R has become more
widely used than lisp-stat.

K Wright


On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Kathy Gerber <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Earlier today I sent a question to Frank Harrell as an R developer with
>  whom I am most familiar.  He suggested also that I put my questions to
>  the list for additional responses.  Next month I'll be giving a talk on
>  R as an example of high quality open source software.  I think there is
>  much to learn from R as a high quality extensible product that (at least
>  as far as I can tell) has never been "spun" or "hyped" like so many open
>  source fads.
>
>  The question that intrigues me the most is why is R as an open source
>  project is so incredibly successful and other projects, say for example,
>  Octave don't enjoy that level of success?
>
>  I have some ideas of course, but I would really like to know your
>  thoughts when you look at R from such a vantage point.
>
>  Thanks.
>  Kathy Gerber
>  University of Virginia
>  ITC - Research Computing Support
>
>  ______________________________________________
>  [hidden email] 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.
>

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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.