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HCI Seminar 2/14, Hadley Wickham -- Expressing yourself in R

Michael Bernstein msb at
Mon Feb 10 17:10:30 PST 2014

Hadley Wickham, Rice University
Expressing yourself in R

February 14, 2014, 12:50-2:05pm, Gates B01 · Open to the public
CS547 Human-Computer Interaction Seminar (Seminar on People, Computers, and

There are three main time sinks in any data science task:
1. Figuring out what you want to do.
2. Turning a vague goal into a precise set of tasks (i.e. programming).
3. Actually crunching the numbers.

A well-designed domain specific language (or DSL) tightly coupled to
the problem domain can make all three pieces faster. In this talk,
I'll discuss two DSLs built in R: ggvis for visualisation and dplyr
for data manipulation. These build on my previous packages ggplot2 and
plyr, improving both expressivity and speed.

It might seem a bit strange to talk about a programming language in an
HCI department, but I'm absolutely convinced that programming is the
right way to express data analysis questions: while (sometimes) easier
to use, a GUI is just too constraining. I'll attempt to convince you
the same, and raise some of the questions that I have about the
usability of programming languages.

Hadley Wickham is Chief Scientist at RStudio and Adjunct Professor of
Statistics at Rice University. He's interested in building tools
(computational and cognitive) that make data preparation,
manipulation, visualization and analysis easier. He's developed over
30 R packages, for data analysis (ggplot2, plyr, reshape), making
frustrating parts of R easier to use (lubridate for dates, stringr for
strings, httr for accessing web APIs), and for streamlining the R
package development process (roxygen2, testthat, devtools, lineprof,
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