Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: R Object-oriented Programming

Packt sent me a copy of R Object-oriented Programming by Kelly Black to review so here we go:

The aim of this book is to provide a basic understanding of R and programming in R. It is suggested that readers are already familiar programming, but the book does seem to start from square one and I feel is probably accessible to most people using R. 

The contents are roughly split 50/50 between general R stuff like working with data and the various data types R has and then OO. The first half provides good coverage of the basics, and I thought it was a good introduction to R. It includes a chapter on working with time variables which I think would be very useful to people new to R and working with time series data.   

The second half is about objected orientated programming. S3 and S4 classes are covered, and some decent examples are provided that go beyond the usual trivial hello world or Shape, Circle, Square type examples, which is nice to see.

Strangely though, no mention is made of reference classes. For a book titled R Object-oriented Programming, making no mention about one of the ways to do OO in R seems like a rather large oversight. 

Another nitpick I have is the indent style and formatting. It is mostly Whitesmiths style (which I personally dislike), but beyond that it is used inconsistently throughout the examples. This is generally considered a rather bad practice in programming circles. Pick one style and stick with it. 

It is challenging to present source code and text together, but some of it is laid out very poorly, with lines wrapping in strange places. It doesn’t really affect the content because most people will likely download the code to experiment with it, but it does detract from what is otherwise a good book. 

Arguing about whitespace may seem petty, but the reality is most programmers spend most of their day looking at source code, so it is important. There's plenty of projects that wont even look at your code unless it is properly formatted. Again its not the choice of style, its the inconsistent use and poor formatting that bothers me. There's a lot of terrible R code out there and a book about programming should do better.

Despite these issues I think it gives good coverage of relevant topics for those starting to get more into the programming side of R. If you are starting out in statistics and looking for a book on R to get going with programming (versus say how to do linear regression etc) it's a useful one.

You can see some other reviews herehere, and on Amazon.

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