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Whatever Happened to that Java guy Who Was Learning Haskell?

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Whatever Happened to that Java guy Who Was Learning Haskell?

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For nearly two years, I've been trying to branch out and add another programming language to my brain.  I read and blogged about Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, by Brian Tate, an excellent book that I blasted through in seven days to save a little time.  If you read my blog, you'll know that I finally settled on Haskell, started posting about my experience as an object-oriented programmer writing in a functional language, and then things kind of fizzled out.

I really like Haskell.  However, I think I'm one of those people who tend to learn better when under pressure.  Since I didn't have a job requirement to learn Haskell or an otherwise motivating situation, I never really quite got in to it.  I still plan to, some day.
But, I have finally picked the "new" language I want to learn, and that is R (I say "new" because of course R is not a new language).  I had a number of reasons to do so:
  • Big Data is all the buzzword-rage right now, and R figures prominently in many big-data scenarios.
  • I'm taking MOOCs at coursera, and the ones I'm taking use R as the programming platform, ensuring that I must have more than a superficial understanding of the language.  I had actually looked at R once before and never stuck with it for the same reasons I did not stick with Haskell -- no looming deadlines!
  • As I learn more about R, I become more impressed by how handily it performs tasks that require a lot of boilerplate code in any other language I've used, so that experience provides me more motivation to keep learning.
  • I am currently working at a bank, and I'm already starting to use R not only to greatly speed up some tasks that I need to perform, but also to perform analyses that would have required so much Java code that they would have gone on the "back burner."
I'm also happy to report there has been some convergence, for me, among big data, R, Haskell and my recent exposure to functional programming.  R is an interesting language.  I don't have an especially formal computer-science background (instead, I'm from physics, math, and electrical engineering), so I probably would not be the best person to articulate how R checks (and does not check) boxes for functional and object-oriented languages.  But all that Haskell investigation helped a lot when I started learning MapReduce, and seeing functional features in R that also fit well into the MapReduce paradigm makes me feel - as all curious types should - that all that investigation was worthwhile.
I'll still blog about Java occasionally, but my posts for the near future will be focused on my self-training to fill in gaps in my skill set related to big data.  I have started a new blog on this topic, called Data Scientist in Training.  If you read me on DZone, you don't have to do much to find me, as my posts from both blogs will continue to find their way to DZone (the big-data posts go to a microzone called Big Data/BI Zone).  If you read me directly on Blogger, then please bookmark the link above if you're interested in what I'm doing.  At the least, please check out my Welcome! post, where I explain my path and reference some resources that you, too, may want to check out in the event that you want to learn more about big data, too.
My posts about R on Data Scientist in Training will not explicitly say anything in the title like "Java developer struggles with R data frames", but it will still be obvious that my approach to R is that of a developer who has used Java for about 90% of his coding for the last 15 years.  If you're a Java developer and are learning R, I hope there will be some content there of special use to you.  As I've searched online while learning R, I've noticed helpful responders trying to explain how to move from the "use a for-loop to iterate and then build your model in rows" approach to "use a mapping function to create your new column of data, then add it to your data frame".  (In fact, this reminds me of another feature I like about R -- R data frames remind me of tables in the column-oriented databases used extensively in big data).  I'm going to blog in near-real-time so I don't forget those dead ends I encountered as I was trying to map Java onto R, and that perspective is the one I think will be most helpful to fellow Java/OO developers.
There are a few posts on Data Scientist in Training already.  The next one will be specifically about R -- I hope you check it out when it arrives!

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Published at DZone with permission of Wayne Adams, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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