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Nick Tierney's (mostly) rstats blog


Keeping up with R

Categories: rstats Tags: rstats

4 minute read

R is a great language, one of the greatest things that I like so much about it is the community that it brings with it. I very much resonate with this image that Allison Horst drew:

For the most part, R is fast enough for most things, it is also developing fast as well, there are releases of the language every 3-6 months, and there is an ever expanding number of R packages that come out. But sometimes that can seem like a burden - like how do you even get started?

Paraphrasing Ferris Bueller:

R packages come out Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it some life-changing R packages.

So, how do you keep up with R?

I have a little routine that I go through. It used to be every morning, but nowadays its every other day or so. Some might call it procrastination, but I like to call is cranstanatation.

OK I just made that up then, but seriously, it’s useful.

The (simplified) process:

  1. Check my github feed
  2. Watch R people on github
  3. Listen to the latest NSSD podcast
  4. Check #rstats twitter for latest conversations
  5. Read rstats blogs
  6. Read rviews package picks
  7. Check rweekly (or r-bloggers), and read ones that are of interest

You don’t need to do all of these - you can pick and choose what you like.

I’ll go into a big of detail into each of these, and what it involves.

Checking my github feed

GitHub is where a lot of open source code is developed, and if you follow people on github, you can see if they create new packages, or star projects. I find that this helps me stay abreast of the current cool things happening in R, and allows me to think more carefully about what I’m working on - maybe someone has come up with something better, maybe they are missing something.

Watch R people and organisations on github

I like to see what is happening and developing in R, so taking a look at what people like Hadley, Jenny, Yihui, Maëlle, Alison, and the tidyverse and r-lib are up to can give me a sense of what’s new. Basically I peruse to see if there are projects being worked on that look interesting.

Listen to the latest NSSD podcast

Not So Standard Deviations is a fortnightly podcast about all things R, data science, coffee, and more, hosted by Roger Peng and Hilary Parker. I always learn something listening, give it a go!

Check #rstats twitter for latest conversations

Jump on twitter and browse #rstats to see what is top, latest, and you’ll probably discover some new package, or see some interesting discussions, and share your thoughts. It can feel scary just jimming into a conversation on twitter, but I find that it is one of the nice things about the platform. The R community is friendly, and if you’re friendly too, you’ll be welcomed to the community with open virtual arms.

Read rstats blogs posts

I usually find blog posts to read through twitter or r weekly, but there are some blogs that I will scan through occasionally.

There are of course more!

Read rviews package picks

Rviews is an Rstudio blog, and they have a top 40 package picks for every month. It goes through the last month of CRAN submissions and chooses the top 40 R packages, with a brief overview of each. It’s a great way to learn about new R packages. E.g., here’s March 2020 top 40

Check rweekly and read ones that are of interest

R weekly provides a community curated list of R news, my process is to scan through this and pick blog posts that look interesting and have a read. Another source is of course R-Bloggers.


I started this blog post back in 2017, so I’m glad to post it now, but I would highly recommend Maëlle Salmon’s blog post - ‘Keeping up to date with R news’!