My first job required me to write some software in PHP; the good thing about PHP is that everybody seems to be able to use it. This means that if I’m stuck a quick Google search will find me a solution. However, I do find that much of the help isn’t really ‘high quality’ or best practice, maybe it’s because PHP’s OO facilities and the such were kind of tacked on later (PHP 3?), I find PHP gives you a lot of rope to hang yourself and some of the help leads you down a path that will come back to haunt you.

My new plaything ‘R’ is different. Firstly it can do a lot of things and the chances are your problem is new. Secondly less people seem to be in to R as PHP. While this does make finding ‘off the shelf’ answers to your problems more difficult I think if you invest the time it leads to a higher quality of help.

Currently I’m playing with n-grams. I really want to write a script that will connect to your WordPress multisite blog and generate some n-gram data. I am aware that there are modules for mysql that have bigram functionality but I wanted to do it in R.

This script has been a nightmare! I’ve wasted many hours on simple things such as not understanding data types, my java install not being correct, not understanding how to query a matrix. I’m finding it really hard and there is no way to simply grab a script from somebody else because the problem is very specific.

I’ve found that getting help with my R scripts is hard, but if you look in the right places, places such as stackover flow or github there is some really good help available. The difference with this learning curve vs my PHP one is that it’s not code snippets or forum posts that really help, its the people themselves. So many of them are willing to help you with your little problem or point you in the direction of resources that might help and it feels they genuinely want you to succeed.

R has been a steep learning curve for me. I hope to post some of my code to this problem soon. I hope to talk about my problems and the solutions I came up with soon and I hope it will help the next poor sod along.


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