R sucks

December 23, 2015
By

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I’m doing an analysis and one of the objects I’m working on is a multidimensional array called “attitude.” I took a quick look:

> dim(attitude)
[1] 30  7

Huh? It’s not supposed to be 30 x 7. Whassup? I search through my scripts for a “attitude” but all I find is the three-dimensional array. Where did this 2-way array come from? I take a look:

> attitude
   rating complaints privileges learning raises critical advance
1      43         51         30       39     61       92      45
2      63         64         51       54     63       73      47
3      71         70         68       69     76       86      48
4      61         63         45       47     54       84      35
5      81         78         56       66     71       83      47
6      43         55         49       44     54       49      34
7      58         67         42       56     66       68      35
8      71         75         50       55     70       66      41
9      72         82         72       67     71       83      31
10     67         61         45       47     62       80      41
11     64         53         53       58     58       67      34
12     67         60         47       39     59       74      41
13     69         62         57       42     55       63      25
14     68         83         83       45     59       77      35
15     77         77         54       72     79       77      46
16     81         90         50       72     60       54      36
17     74         85         64       69     79       79      63
18     65         60         65       75     55       80      60
19     65         70         46       57     75       85      46
20     50         58         68       54     64       78      52
21     50         40         33       34     43       64      33
22     64         61         52       62     66       80      41
23     53         66         52       50     63       80      37
24     40         37         42       58     50       57      49
25     63         54         42       48     66       75      33
26     66         77         66       63     88       76      72
27     78         75         58       74     80       78      49
28     48         57         44       45     51       83      38
29     85         85         71       71     77       74      55
30     82         82         39       59     64       78      39

Ummmm, wha? Is it an example I used in class? I don’t recall any such dataset, then I remember I just recently restarted R so it can’t be anything from my class anyway. I google *R attitude* and find that it’s one of the preprogrammed examples in R, one of those long-dead datasets that they like to include in R, really part of the Bell Labs and Tukey tradition of demonstrating methods on super-boring old data (remember the airport temperature in Yuma, Nevada, from the EDA book?).

OK, fine, this is annoying, I’ll delete it:

> rm(attitude)
Warning message:
In rm(attitude) : object 'attitude' not found

That’s just perverse. OK, I’ll overwrite it:

> attitude=0
> attitude
[1] 0

That works. Now I’ll remove it for real:

> rm(attitude)

Now let’s check that it’s really gone:

> attitude
   rating complaints privileges learning raises critical advance
1      43         51         30       39     61       92      45
2      63         64         51       54     63       73      47
3      71         70         68       69     76       86      48
4      61         63         45       47     54       84      35
5      81         78         56       66     71       83      47
6      43         55         49       44     54       49      34
7      58         67         42       56     66       68      35
8      71         75         50       55     70       66      41
9      72         82         72       67     71       83      31
10     67         61         45       47     62       80      41
11     64         53         53       58     58       67      34
12     67         60         47       39     59       74      41
13     69         62         57       42     55       63      25
14     68         83         83       45     59       77      35
15     77         77         54       72     79       77      46
16     81         90         50       72     60       54      36
17     74         85         64       69     79       79      63
18     65         60         65       75     55       80      60
19     65         70         46       57     75       85      46
20     50         58         68       54     64       78      52
21     50         40         33       34     43       64      33
22     64         61         52       62     66       80      41
23     53         66         52       50     63       80      37
24     40         37         42       58     50       57      49
25     63         54         42       48     66       75      33
26     66         77         66       63     88       76      72
27     78         75         58       74     80       78      49
28     48         57         44       45     51       83      38
29     85         85         71       71     77       74      55
30     82         82         39       59     64       78      39

Damn. This is really stupid. Sure, I can understand that R has some pre-loaded datasets, fine. But to give them these indelible names, that’s just silly. Why not just make the dataset available using a “library” call? It’s a crime to pollute the namespace like this. Especially for those of us who work in public opinion research and might want to have a variable called “attitude.”

Yes, when I define my own “attitude” variable, the preloaded version in R is hidden, but the point is that to have such a variable sitting there is just asking for trouble.

P.S. R is great. It is because R is so great that I am bothered by its flaws and I want it to be even better.

The post R sucks appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

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