What They Forgot to Teach You About R at rstudio::conf 2020


  Kara Woo

tl;dr: all workshop materials are available here:
đź”— https://rstd.io/wtf-2020-rsc
License: CC BY-SA 4.0

What did they forget to teach you about R? If you’re like many people, your R education focused mainly on how to do statistical analyses in R. However, there are many other skills that are crucial to working productively in R and are rarely taught. Filling in these gaps was the focus of the What They Forgot to Teach You About R workshop that Jenny Bryan, Jim Hester, and I taught at rstudio::conf 2020.

The first morning of the workshop was devoted to talking about project-oriented workflows, and how best to organize one’s R projects. We discussed how to create a project structure that is self-documenting, organized, and easy to revisit and collaborate on. Creating a logical folder structure, using informative and well-formatted file names, practicing “safe paths”, and splitting analyses up into manageable pieces were some of the key components of robust R projects. In the afternoon, Jim led the group through an exploration of R’s debugging tools, including traceback(), browser(), debug(), trace(), and recover(). Finally, we covered how to use git and GitHub to track the history of our projects and communicate our results.

Day two began with personal R administration ( part 2): how to maintain your R installation and package libraries, how to set up a development environment, how to install source packages and read source code, and how to create reproducible project environments with renv. From there, Jenny took us into more advanced git workflows. Using a repo full of ASCII art, everyone practiced visiting the history of their projects and reverting and cherry picking commits. We also covered some time honored strategies for working with git, including the repeated amend and the burn it all down method. We ended the day with a lesson on using purrr for repetitive tasks.

All of the materials from the workshop are available at https://rstudio-conf-2020.github.io/what-they-forgot/, including:

Throughout the workshop our fantastic team of TAs—Hannah Frick, Myfanwy Johnston, Sean Kross, and Theo Roe—kept things running smoothly by moving throughout the room and answering learners’ questions. Thank you to them, to the rest of the RStudio team, and to the workshop participants for making the two days such a success!