The Stack Overflow R Top 5

March 17, 2014

(This article was first published on » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Like every start-up in the IT and data science sector, we often find ourselves spending more time on Stack Overflow than on our own site. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Stack Overflow is like a Q&A forum on steroids. It features questions and answers on a wide range of topics in programming, and it’s dedicated to answering any and all of these questions. Thanks to its clever reputation system based on points and badges, chances are high you will find a high-quality answer to your particular problem. Believe us, this will save you a lot of time!

Since we use it that often for DataCamp, we wanted to share our ‘Top Five’ list of the most popular R questions:

Position 5 = What statistics should a programmer (or computer scientist) know? (262 votes)     

This question is targeted at programmers who want to understand how their programming efforts can benefit from a more statistical approach. Not only does it provide an overview of statistical techniques, part of the answers also focus on the statistical tools programmers can use in their day-to-day activities.

Position 4 = R Grouping functions: sapply vs lapply vs apply vs tapply vs by vs aggregate (272 votes)     

This is something almost every new R programmer struggles with in the beginning:  how and when to use the functions in the apply family. If you are one of these, just check out this Stack Overflow post and it will be a lot clearer to you. Multiple individuals have responded to the question, and most of them provide very clear answers with some even including slide presentations.

Position 3 = How to sort a data frame by column(s) in R (302 votes)     

Again, a very easy but highly relevant question (certainly for new R users switching from Excel). Based on an example, the questioner wants to know how he can sort his data frame by multiple columns. This is a standard task in R, but if you’re not familiar with using functions, the barrier to entry might be high. (Spoiler alert: the order function will take you a long way)

Position 2 = How can we make xkcd style graphs in R (307 votes)     

Close, but no cigar. This question on xkcd style graphs reached the second place in our top five list. As a start-up we personally love xkcd style graphs since they have this arty-farty layer over them.  They allow you to provide information in a very clear way, but their unique and fun style just increases the chances your audience will pick them up. A must read for everyone!

Position 1 = How to make a great R reproducible example (525 votes)  

Simply put: great question and great answers! Reproducible examples are fundamental for teaching, research, and even when asking questions on for example Stack Overflow. However, the creation of reproducible examples is not that easy, and requires a certain finesse. This post will guide you through the ins and outs of creating such reproducible examples, so make sure to check it out since it will definitely help you to better understand R in the long run.

Bonus: What’s your favorite data analysis cartoon 

For the not so serious moments…

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