Hadley Wickham on why he created all those R packages

July 27, 2015

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

Priceonomics published on Friday an in-depth profile of Hadley Wickham, author of many of the most popular R packages including ggplot2, dplyr and devtools. In the article, he reveals that his motivation for creating these packages was primarily to provide better ways of accomplishing routine tasks in R, an immensely useful contribution that sadly wasn’t recognized in an academic setting. He said:

“There are definitely some academic statisticians who just don’t understand why what I do is statistics, but basically I think they are all wrong . What I do is fundamentally statistics. The fact that data science exists as a field is a colossal failure of statistics. To me, that is what statistics is all about. It is gaining insight from data using modelling and visualization. Data munging and manipulation is hard and statistics has just said that’s not our domain.”

I couldn’t agree with the sentiment more, and I too with the field of Statistics had more respect for solving these “mundane” (i.e. non-mathematical), but important problems.

Hadley also says that his work with R has made him “nerd famous” — in the words of the article author, “The kind of famous where people at statistics conferences line up for selfies, ask him for autographs, and are generally in awe of him”. I can attest to the truth of that personally: here’s a photo I took at the China R User Conference last year, where enthusiastic attendees were lined up at least 5 deep to get his autograph and take pictures:


Hadley at the 2014 China R User Conference in Beijing.
Photo credit: David Smith

The whole article is definitely worth a read, and can be found at the link below. You may also like to check out the 2010 profile on Hadley Wickham from this blog.

Priceonomics: Hadley Wickham, the Man Who Revolutionized R

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Revolutions.

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