Making NeW R

Tal G in his excellent blog piece talks of “Why R Developers  should not be paid”

His argument of love is not very original though it was first made by these four guys

I am going to argue that “some” R developers should be paid, while the main focus should be volunteers code. These R developers should be paid as per usage of their packages.

Let me expand.

Imagine the following conversation between Ross Ihaka, Norman Nie and Peter Dalgaard.

Norman- Hey Guys, Can you give me some code- I got this new startup.

Ross Ihaka and Peter Dalgaard- Sure dude. Here is 100,000 lines of code, 2000 packages and 2 decades of effort.

Norman- Thanks guys.

Ross Ihaka- Hey, What you gonna do with this code.

Norman- I will better it. Sell it. Finally beat Jim Goodnight and his **** Proc GLM and **** Proc Reg.

Ross- Okay, but what will you give us? Will you give us some code back of what you improve?

Norman – Uh, let me explain this open core …

Peter D- Well how about some royalty?

Norman- Sure, we will throw parties at all conferences, snacks you know at user groups.

Ross – Hmm. That does not sound fair. (walks away in a huff muttering)-He takes our code, sells it and wont share the code

Peter D- Doesnt sound fair. I am back to reading Hamlet, the great Dane, and writing the next edition of my book. I am glad I wrote a book- Ross didnt even write that.

Norman-Uh Oh. (picks his phone)- Hey David Smith, We need to write some blog articles pronto – these open source guys ,man…

———–I think that sums what has been going on in the dynamics of R recently. If Ross Ihaka and R Gentleman had adopted an open core strategy- meaning you can create packages to R but not share the original where would we all be?

At this point if he is reading this, David Smith , long suffering veteran of open source  flameouts is rolling his eyes while Tal G is wondering if he will publish this on R Bloggers and if so when or something.

Lets bring in another R veteran-  Hadley Wickham who wrote a book on R and also created ggplot. Thats the best quality, most often used graphics package.

In terms of economic utilty to end user- the ggplot package may be as useful if not more as the foreach package developed by Revolution Computing/Analytics.

Now says that foreach is licensed under

However lets come to open core licensing ( read it here ) which is where the debate is- Revolution takes code- enhances it (in my opinion) substantially with new formats XDF for better efficieny, web services API, and soon coming next year a GUI (thanks in advance , Dr Nie and guys)

and sells this advanced R code to businesses happy to pay ( they are currently paying much more to DR Goodnight and HIS guys)

Why would any sane customer buy it from Revolution- if he could download exactly the same thing from

Hence the business need for Revolution Analytics to have an enhanced R- as they are using a product based software model not software as a service model.

If Revolution gives away source code of these new enhanced codes to R core team- how will R core team protect the above mentioned intelectual property- given they have 2 decades experience of giving away free code , and back and forth on just code.

Now Revolution also has a marketing budget- and thats how they sponsor some R Core events, conferences, after conference snacks.

How would people decide if they are being too generous or too stingy in their contribution (compared to the formidable generosity of SAS Institute to its employees, stakeholders and even third party analysts).

Would it not be better- IF Revolution can shift that aspect of relationship to its Research and Development budget than it’s marketing budget- come with some sort of incentive for “SOME” developers – even researchers need grants and assistantships, scholarships, make a transparent royalty formula say 17.5 % of the NEW R sales goes to R PACKAGE Developers pool, which in turn examines usage rate of packages and need/merit before allocation- that would require Revolution to evolve from a startup to a more sophisticated corporate and R Core can use this the same way as John M Chambers software award/scholarship

Dont pay all developers- it would be an insult to many of them – say Prof Harrell creator of HMisc to accept – but can Revolution expand its dev base (and prospect for future employees) by even sponsoring some R Scholarships.

And I am sure that if Revolution opens up some more code to the community- they would the rest of the world and it’s help useful. If it cant trust people like R Gentleman with some source code – well he is a board member.


Now to sum up some technical discussions on NeW R

1)  An accepted way of benchmarking efficiencies.

2) Code review and incorporation of efficiencies.

3) Multi threading- Multi core usage are trends to be incorporated.

4) GUIs like R Commander E Plugins for other packages, and Rattle for Data Mining to have focussed (or Deducer). This may involve hiring User Interface Designers (like from Apple 😉  who will work for love AND money ( Even the Beatles charge royalty for that song)

5) More support to cloud computing initiatives like Biocep and Elastic R – or Amazon AMI for using cloud computers- note efficiency arguements dont matter if you just use a Chrome Browser and pay 2 cents a hour for an Amazon Instance. Probably R core needs more direct involvement of Google (Cloud OS makers) and Amazon as well as even (for creating Apps). Note even more corporates here need to be involved as cloud computing doesnot have any free and open source infrastructure (YET)


Debates will come and go. This is an interesting intellectual debate and someday the liitle guys will win the Revolution-

From Hugh M of Gaping Void-



“If something goes wrong with Microsoft, I can phone Microsoft up and have it fixed. With Open Source, I have to rely on the community.”

And the community, as much as we may love it, is unpredictable. It might care about your problem and want to fix it, then again, it may not. Anyone who has ever witnessed something online go “viral”, good or bad, will know what I’m talking about.

and especially-


Kind of sums up why the open core licensing is all about.

John M. Chambers Statistical Software Award – 2011

Write code, win cash, and the glory. Deep bow to Father John M Chambers, inventor of S ,for endowing this award for statistical software creation by grads and undergrads.

An effort to be matched by companies like SAS, SPSS which after all came from grad school work. Now back to the competition, I gotta get my homies from U Tenn in a team ( I was a grad student last year though taking this year off due to medico- financial reasons)

John M. Chambers Statistical Software Award – 2011
Statistical Computing Section
American Statistical Association

The Statistical Computing Section of the American Statistical
Association announces the competition for the John M.  Chambers
Statistical Software Award. In 1998 the Association for Computing
Machinery presented its Software System Award to John Chambers for the
design and development of S. Dr. Chambers generously donated his award
to the Statistical Computing Section to endow an annual prize for
statistical software written by an undergraduate or graduate student.
The prize carries with it a cash award of $1000, plus a substantial
allowance for travel to the annual Joint Statistical Meetings where
the award will be presented.

Teams of up to 3 people can participate in the competition, with the
cash award being split among team members. The travel allowance will
be given to just one individual in the team, who will be presented the
award at JSM.  To be eligible, the team must have designed and
implemented a piece of statistical software.
The individual within
the team indicated to receive the travel allowance must have begun the
development while a student, and must either currently be a student,
or have completed all requirements for her/his last degree after
January 1, 2009.  To apply for the award, teams must provide the
following materials:

Current CV’s of all team members.

A letter from a faculty mentor at the academic institution of the
individual indicated to receive the travel award.  The letter
should confirm that the individual had substantial participation in
the development of the software, certify her/his student status
when the software began to be developed (and either the current
student status or the date of degree completion), and briefly
discuss the importance of the software to statistical practice.

A brief, one to two page description of the software, summarizing
what it does, how it does it, and why it is an important
contribution.  If the team member competing for the travel
allowance has continued developing the software after finishing
her/his studies, the description should indicate what was developed
when the individual was a student and what has been added since.

An installable software package with its source code for use by the
award committee. It should be accompanied by enough information to allow
the judges to effectively use and evaluate the software (including
its design considerations.)  This information can be provided in a
variety of ways, including but not limited to a user manual (paper
or electronic), a paper, a URL, and online help to the system.

All materials must be in English.  We prefer that electronic text be
submitted in Postscript or PDF.  The entries will be judged on a
variety of dimensions, including the importance and relevance for
statistical practice of the tasks performed by the software, ease of
use, clarity of description, elegance and availability for use by the
statistical community. Preference will be given to those entries that
are grounded in software design rather than calculation.  The decision
of the award committee is final.

All application materials must be received by 5:00pm EST, Monday,
February 21, 2011 at the address below.  The winner will be announced
in May and the award will be given at the 2011 Joint Statistical

Information on the competition can also be accessed on the website of
the Statistical Computing Section ( or see the
ASA website, for a pointer), including the names and
contributions of previous winners.  Inquiries and application
materials should be emailed or mailed to:

Chambers Software Award
c/o Fei Chen
Avaya Labs
233 Mt Airy Rd.
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920