There are many reasons to start that R blog you’ve been thinking about. First and foremost, do it for you.
I’ve stumbled into writing 50 posts on this blog. There was no plan. I have no strategy. It’s working so far.
My only regret was not starting sooner. How would I convince me-from-the-past?
1. It’s your reference library
I forget everything. That’s especially true for code.
Keeping a written record of what you’ve learnt is a good way of storing that information outside of your head.
Writing a narrative will help explain the code and make sure you understand it in your own words. That’ll make it easier to pick up later.
It helps if what you write is available to you everywhere all the time as well. It needs to be open and on the internet.
For me, ‘blog or it didn’t happen’ is probably a good mantra.
2. It only has to be good enough
Perfectionism is cruel and returns are diminishing. I sat on a thesis for months longer than I should have. Did it improve in that time? Marginally. Did it affect the outcome? Not really.
The spell was broken when someone told me that ‘it only has to be good enough’.
You have finite time and too much stuff to do, so maybe efficiency should be the focus. There’s a real, obtainable, minimum level of effort that will get you to a thing that works.
Consider that in the context of writing blog posts for yourself. They only have to be good enough to remind you of what you did so you can redo the thing at some point in the future.
This will also encourage you to keep it short and simple. You’re far more likely to finish it that way. Write a follow-up later if you want to.
3. There are others like you
R solves so many problems efficiently and reproducibly. It’s particularly needed in the public sector, where I work, to build trust, reduce costs and do things quicker. I think there are plenty of people in this boat; why else are you reading this?
I’m not a ‘programmer’, however. I wasn’t specifically trained in statistics. I definitely didn’t ‘get’ R at first and I’m probably never going to be an ‘expert’. So I might as well keep learning and sharing.
Being visible with your learning means that others can help you and give you ideas. Being open might even encourage other learners to get involved, too.
Consider people like Sharla Gelfand and David Keyes (of R for the Rest of Us), who are visible on Twitter and unafraid of asking questions. One of R’s unique selling points is its friendly community. Make the most of it.
Ultimately, you don’t owe anything to anyone. But there are other people like you. Why not learn in the open and help lower the barrier to entry?
I think this would be enough to convince me-from-the-past, but maybe it’s not enough for you.
After I started writing this I came across Rebecca Barter’s nice talk on Becoming an R Blogger at the recent RStudio Conference. Rebecca has also written a supporting blog post with some helpful information.
In particular, Rebecca mentions some reasons beyond ‘doing it for yourself’, like building up a portfolio of work, gaining exposure and squeezing some productivity into your procrastination. All extremely valid.
Try it and let me know how it goes.