R, as I’ve pointed out before, has a package discovery problem.
There’s a new package, colorblindr, which lets you see the impact of various sorts of colour-blindness on a colour palette, a very useful thing for designing good graphics. When it’s mentioned on Twitter, you see lots of people glad that such a tool is now available for R.
A similar tool has been available on CRAN for fifteen years.
Now, the new package looks to have a better representation of colour vision. The dichromat package used colour-matching experiments from the 1990s and interpolates with loess; colorblindr seems to have a unified colour model. It would be nice to see a comparison of the two packages, and maybe it would show everyone should move to the new one. That’s what’s happened to a lot of my contributions to R. Progress is good.
But my point right now is there are a lot of people excited about colorblindr who didn’t know dichromat existed. Most of these are people who would have been interested in dichromat but didn’t know about it. I haven’t exactly been quiet about the package –for example, it’s in the R courses that Ken Rice and I teach around the world, and I wrote about it for the ASA Computing and Graphics newletter. It’s not hard to get me to talk about color spaces; some people would say it’s hard to get me to stop.
CRAN Task Views have helped a bit with the package discovery problem – but dichromat is in the Graphics task view. It helps if a popular package suggests yours – but dichromat is a dependency of a dependency of ggplot2. It helps if the package author is reasonably well known or the package was on CRAN early – but again. It would help to give a clearer name, perhaps?
There must be lots of people out there who would be excited to find there was a package doing just what they needed. But there isn’t an easy way for them to notice.
Feature Gif Source.
Thomas Lumley attended Monash University (B.Sc.(Hons) in Pure Mathematics), the University of Oxford (M.Sc. in Applied Statistics) and the University of Washington, Seattle (PhD in Biostatistics). He spent twelve years on the faculty of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington, and then moved to Auckland in 2010. He is still an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington.