New packages for reading data into R — fast
Hadley Wickham and the RStudio team have created some new packages for R, which will be very useful for anyone who needs to read data into R (that is, everyone). The readr package provides functions for reading text data into R, and the readxl package provides functions for reading Excel spreadsheet data into R. Both are much faster than the functions you’re probably using now. The readr package provides several functions for reading tabular text data into R. This is a task normally accomplished with the read.table family of functions in R, and readr provides a number of replacement functions that provide additional functionality and are much faster.

Heatmaps and Using the caret Package
Steve started with an overview of making heatmaps in R. Using the iris dataset, Steve demonstrated making heatmaps of the continuous iris data using the heatmap.2 function from the gplots package, the aheatmap function from NMF, and the hard way using ggplot2. The ‘best in class’ method used aheatmap to draw an annotated heatmap plotting z-scores of columns and annotated rows instead of raw values, using the Pearson correlation instead of Euclidean distance as the distance metric.

Modeling Categories with Breadth and Depth
Religion is a categorical variable with followers differentiated by their degree of devotion. Liberals and conservatives check their respective boxes when surveyed, although moderates from each group sometimes seem more alike than their more extreme compatriots. All Smartphone users might be classified as belonging to the same segment, yet the infrequent user is distinct from the intense who cannot take their eyes off their screens. Both of us have the flu, but you are really sick. My neighbor and I belong to a cluster called dog-owners. However, my dog is a pet on a strict allowance and theirs is a member of the family with no apparent limit on expenditures. There seems to be more structure underlying such categorizations than is expressed by a zero-one indicator of membership.