If you want to learn methods, techniques, or technologies that are outside your usual scholarly ambit, then you often have to learn them in small sections as you find time. That’s why I was glad to learn about R Twotorials.
R, according to the R Project’s website, “is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics.” It’s a programming language useful for analyzing data and creating graphics, especially if you’re using statistical methods.* It’s also the language that Matthew Jockers suggests you learn if you’re interested in digital humanities.
R Twotorials is a set of some ninety screencasts, each two minutes long, that teach you how to use R. Created by Anthony Damico, a statistical analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the screencasts are fast-paced and entertainingly bombastic. You can get a flavor for the screencasts and a sense of how R might be useful by watching this video on how to make simple plots in R.
As Damico says in the very first video, you’ll need to watch a lot of the screencasts before you can do something useful with R: “R will not give you instant gratification.” But because the concepts are broken down into two minute segments, it’s easy to start and keep on learning.
ProfHackers have written about learning to program before: Jason wrote about how to “Become Code Literate with Codecademy"; Anastasia wrote about a new year’s resolution to learn programming and about Program or Be Programmed; Ryan wrote about learning Ruby with Hackety-Hack and Jason Heppler’s The Rubyist Historian (which I also recommend).
Are you learning a programming language (or anything else) in the odd moments of the day?
* No, I’m not qualified to compare R to SAS, SPSS, Stata, Processing, or anything else.
Update February 8: Anthony graciously wrote in to correct my error. He is a statistical analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation and an all around good guy, not a graduate student.