Liaw, Andy wrote:
Let me add to the pot:

I think Robert and Brian are against imposing additional _requirement_ on
packages to provide an overview in .Rd, and I tend to agree with that

However, if such a facility is made optional (like vignettes) for package
author/maintainer, then I have no problem with it.  Perhaps it can work like
the CITATION file:  The package author/maintainer can choose to (or not to)
use it.  If one is not provided in the package source, then something
halfway sensible is auto-generated from various files (or perhaps just runs

Or perhaps yet another function can be added to the `utils' package, like
packageOverview(), which can either:
- open an overview vignette if one is provided
- open the overview .Rd in whatever format the default help is in
- run help(package="<pkg>") if neither is available

We don't have a standard name for an overview vignette, and I don't like the idea of creating a new help function (packageOverview) that someone who doesn't know much about R will have to find before they can use, but I like the idea of the help system doing its best to help.

So I'd like this better if it were modified so that ?foo tries the following

 - to open help alias foo
 - if that fails, and foo is a package name:
   - tries to open a vignette with some standard name (proposals?)
   - if that fails, then does help(package="foo")

This has the disadvantage over the original proposal that help pages can't link to a standard help topic for the package, so I like the original better, but this would be better than the status quo.

Duncan Murdoch

Just my $0.02...


From: Duncan Murdoch

Prof Brian Ripley wrote:

I share Robert's `pretty strenuous' objections.

Adding compulsory things for package writers seems to me to

need very
compelling arguments. Checking that a package does what it

says (e.g. the
code in vignettes can be run) is one thing, but checking it

does things it
does not say it wants to do is quite another.

I don't understand your complaint. Could you explain what you meant by "checking it does things it does not say it wants to do"?

My proposal (modified following the suggestions I've heard so far) is as follows:

- to check that a couple of help topic aliases exist (<pkg>.package and <pkg>) - to recommend that <pkg>.package contain general information about the package, and that <pkg> be an alias for it, if it isn't used for some other purpose. - to write promptPackage() to help create an initial version of <pkg>.package.Rd. It can get some information from the DESCRIPTION file; perhaps it could go looking for a vignette, or the INDEX, or - to modify the other help system tools to make use of this (e.g. the package:<pkg> heading on a page would become a link to the <pkg>.package alias, etc.)

None of these things are very much work, and I'd be happy to do them and document them. The thing that will be more work is to write the <pkg>.package.Rd files for every package. (I'd do it for the base packages; they'd be short.) It won't be a huge amount of work for any one package (many of them already have the basic content in various places, so for those it's mostly a matter of reformatting), but in total it will be a lot.

I think the benefit of this will be that the help for a package will show up in a standard location, using the standard method for looking for it. This is not a huge benefit for any users who already know all about the current ways help can be given, but I think it would be a real benefit for users who aren't so familiar with things. It would help to unify the help system: everyone knows about ?topic, so providing a standard way for that to lead into all the rest of the documentation seems obviously beneficial to me.

Making this optional would weaken it quite a bit. Packages couldn't give links to the main page in other packages if they weren't guaranteed to exist; producing the HTML would be more difficult if links worked sometimes and didn't work other times, etc.

Robert Gentleman wrote:

Let's see, some of us (three years ago) developed a tool

to solve this

Do you mean vignettes? I think they solved a different problem. They provided a way to give good general documentation for a package, but they didn't provide a way to get to it through the help system. They aren't used for general introductory help for any of the standard packages except grid and Matrix, and they use different naming conventions in those two.

We made it available to others to use as they saw fit. I feel no less strong than you do, but I certainly did not impose what I thought on you and I ask for the same respect.

R imposes lots of things on me. I have to document every function, and I have to get the usage section right. These take work, but they make packages more useful. I think imposing one more help topic on the package is in the same character. I'm really surprised that you find it so objectionable. It's really not much work!

> We have already solved

this problem in our own way. You now seem to think that it

is zero cost
to impose on us a second (and in my view inferior solution).

I have no idea where you got the impression that I think this is zero cost. I think it's low cost per package, but obviously not zero.

> I am asking

that you not do that. Please, feel free to develop what you

want and to
encourage others to use it, but don't try to make people do

things just
because you want them that way.
We have lots of packages in BioC the costs of

reengineering so we can
meet your newly imposed standards are not zero.

I'd put the cost of the proposal to the package writer at about the cost of documenting one function. I wouldn't call it "reengineering". It's an addition, not a major change.

> I think we have an

expectation that such capricious behaviour will not be

entered in to,
and if we don't then perhaps it is time to branch the project.

To tell you the truth, I wouldn't consider branching over this issue. I'd prefer some rational discussion about the proposal. I really don't understand why you think it's such a disastrous one that you couldn't possibly live with it and would want to do all your work on a different branch.

Here are the kinds of question I'd like to discuss:

1. Could you tell me what you think would be involved in "reengineering"? Maybe you have misunderstood the proposal, or I've missed something. How much time do you think this would take?

2. What is the current algorithm people should use to look for help on foo? Couldn't we make it simpler? I'd like it if the algorithm was "type ?foo, and read what you get", regardless of what foo is. The proposal above doesn't achieve that, but it gets closer.

Duncan Murdoch

______________________________________________ mailing list

Notice:  This e-mail message, together with any attachment...{{dropped}}

______________________________________________ mailing list

Reply via email to