R in Eighty Days

How much R can I learn from scratch in eleven-and-a-half weeks?


Day 1: Thursday 15th August 2019

Here's the challenge: I want to see how much R I can learn over the next two-and-a-half months. That's eleven-and-a-half weeks. Or eighty days. If I'm starting today (Thursday 15th August), that'll take me up to Saturday 2nd November.

Why that timescale? Well, if Phineas Fogg could make it round the world in eighty days in Jules Verne's novel, then surely I can be doing useful stuff in R within the same timeframe!

If it was a conversation yesterday with Jo McSweeney that kick-started the 80-day idea, then there was some added affirmation this morning while I was on the phone to Zoe Turner. One of her views on R generally is that there's a danger the beginners can feel a bit left out, that all the 'noise' is being generated by the intermediate or advanced users, but we need to be mindful that there's also lots of advice and tips needed for the novices.

If this is a journey, how will I know that I've arrived at my destination? An important part of this idea is that I want it to be focused on a specific endpoint. I want to be able to do something genuinely useful with R. And—me being me—I want that useful thing to be a customer-facing thing, so the end-product of this will need to look good, and ideally I want to use R exclusively to create it, without having to use other applications.

So I'm thinking about the kind of reporting suite I want to give to doctors, nurses and managers who are in charge of downstream beds in acute hospitals. The kind of data that will allow them to monitor the right patient flow indicators on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

This means there are a couple of things I need to do at the beginning of this journey. One is to create a mock-up of the visualisations I'm planning so that people can see what it is I'm trying to create in R, and then at the end of eighty days we can compare it with the actual end product I generate. Secondly, I need to be able to document how I create this document now (SQL, Excel, PowerPoint). There needs to be an audit trail comparison thing going on here.

One of the things I am hoping to discover along the way will be just how welcoming, how collaborative the R Community is: how much help will I get from other R users?

So: wish me luck. I've got eighty days. Starting ... NOW!

... Next Day