Statisticians are mad and out for blood. Someone called R an epic fail and said it wasn’t the next big thing.
I know that R is free and I am actually a Unix fan and think Open Source software is a great idea. However, for me personally and for most users, both individual and organizational, the much greater cost of software is the time it takes to install it, maintain it, learn it and document it. On that, R is an epic fail. It does NOT fit with the way the vast majority of people in the world use computers. The vast majority of people are NOT programmers. They are used to looking at things and clicking on things.
How dare she, right? Here’s the thing. She’s right. Wait, wait, hear me out. For the general audience – the people who use Excel as their analysis tool – R is not for them. In this case, the one that appeals to non-statistician analysts, R, as they say, is an epic fail (and that is the last time I will say that stupid phrase).
However, R wasn’t designed to enable everyday users to dig into data. It was designed to enable statisticians with computing power. It’s a statistical computing language largely based on S, which was developed in the 1970s by the super smart John Chambers of Bell Labs. The 1970s. Weren’t people using slide rules still? Or maybe it was the abacus. Can’t remember. Oh wait, I wasn’t born yet. In any case, there’s really no need to get into the whole R-for-general-audience conversation — just like we don’t need to talk about why The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie lacked emotional depth.
The Next Big Thing
Instead, let’s look at the main point of the post that got lost in the R-bashing. What is the next big thing? The next big thing is “data visualization” and “analysis of unstructured data.” Okay, so she sort of got methods and tools mixed up, but we’ll let that one pass. There are a growing number of applications that can help you with this, without the need for programming. Check the sidebar for a couple of great options. Even R has a couple of nice user-friendly interfaces. I guess SAS lets you do this to an extent too (I’ve never used it).
Who’s behind the software though? Who are these people who are making others’ lives easier with click-and-play analysis tools? It’s people who can code. It’s the people who know how to dive deep into data.
Matt Blackwell made a good analogy to the iPhone/iPad craze. It’s sexy, it’s user-friendly, and that is because talented Apple developers created amazing software, and third-party app developers are putting out quality products that consumers can buy in the app store (and making a good living out of it). Similarly, those who can build visualization and analysis tools are the ones who will provide the next big thing.
So don’t get too upset, R programmers, or all data scientists for that matter. While the software was bashed, you’re getting a thumbs up. R is not the next big thing. You are. Besides, we all know that data is the new sexy, and in the end it’s not about the tools that you use, but what you do with the tools.