17.4 Advice on writing vignettes

  • When writing a vignette, you’re teaching someone how to use your package. You need to put yourself in the reader’s shoes, and adopt a “beginner’s mind”. This can be difficult because it’s hard to forget all of the knowledge that you’ve already internalized. For this reason, we find in-person teaching to be a really useful way to get feedback. You’re immediately confronted with what you’ve forgotten that only you know.

  • A useful side effect of this approach is that it helps you improve your code. It forces you to re-see the initial on-boarding process and to appreciate the parts that are hard. Our experience is that explaining how code works often reveals some problems that need fixing.

  • In fact, a key part of the tidyverse package release process is writing a blog post: we now do that before submitting to CRAN, because of the number of times it’s revealed some subtle problem that requires a fix. It’s also fair to say that the tidyverse and its supporting packages would benefit from more “how-to” guides, so that’s an area where we are constantly trying to improve.