The ensurer package (validation inside pipes)

Guest post by Stefan Holst Milton Bache on the ensurer package.

If you use R in a production environment, you have most likely experienced that some circumstances change in ways that will make your R scripts run into trouble. Many things can go wrong; package updates, external data sources, daylight savings time, etc. There is a general increasing focus on this within the R community and words like “reproducibility”, “portability” and “unit testing” are buzzing big time. Many really neat solutions are already helping a lot: RStudio’s Packrat project, Revolution Analytic’s “snapshot” feaure, and Hadley Wickham’s testthat package to name a few. Another interesting package under development is Edwin de Jonge’s “validate” package.

I found myself running into quite a few annoying “runtime” moments, where some typically external factors break R software, and more often than not I spent just too much time tracking down where the bug originated. It made me think about how best to ensure that vulnarable statements behaves as expected and how to know exactly where and when things go wrong. My coding style is heaviliy influenced by the magrittr package’s pipe operator, and I am very happy with the workflow it generates:

data < -
  read_external(...) %>%
  make_transformation(...) %>%
  munge_a_little(...) %>%
  summarize_somehow(...) %>%
  filter_relevant_records(...) %T>%

It’s like a recipe. But the problem is that I found no existing way of tagging potentially vulnarable steps in the above process, leaving the choice of doing nothing, or breaking it up. So I decided to make “ensurer”, so I could do:

data < -
  read_external(...) %>%
  ensure_that(all(is.good(.)) %>%
  make_transformation(...) %>%
  ensure_that(all(is.still.good(.))) %>%
  munge_a_little(...) %>%
  summarize_somehow(...) %>%
  filter_relevant_records(...) %T>%

Now, I don’t have a blog, but Tal Galili has been so kind to accept the ensurer vignette as a post for I hope that ensurer can help you write better and safer code; I know it has helped me. It has some pretty neat features, so read on and see if you agree!

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Analyzing coverage of R unit tests in packages – the {testCoverage} package

(guest post by Andy Nicholls and the team of Mango Business Solutions)


Testing is a crucial component in ensuring that the correct analyses are deployed. However it is often considered unglamorous; a poor relation in terms of the time and resources allocated to it in the process of developing a package. But with the increasing popularity and commercial application of R it testing is a subject that is gaining significantly in importance.

At the time of writing there are 5987 packages on CRAN. Due to the nature of CRAN and the motivations of contributors the quality of packages can vary greatly. Some are very popular and well maintained, others are essentially inactive with development having all but ceased. As the number of packages on CRAN continues to grow, determining which packages are fit for purpose in a commercial environment is becomming an increasingly difficult task. There have been numerous articles and blog posts on the subject of CRAN’s growth and the quality of R packages. In particular, Francis Smart’s R-bloggers post entitled Does R have too many packages? highlights five perceived concerns with the growing number of R packages. I would like to expand on one of these themes in particular, namely the “inconsistent quality of individual packages”.

There are many ways in which a package can be assessed for quality. Popularity is clearly one: if lots of people use it then it must be quite good! But popular packages tend to also have authors that actively develop their packages and fix bugs as users identify them. Development activity is therefore another factor; the length of time that a package has existed for; the package dependency tree and the number of reverse ‘Depends’, ‘Imports’ and ‘Suggests’; the number of authors and their reputation; and finally there is testing. Francis briefly mentions testing in his post noting that “testing is still largely left up to the authors and users”. In other words there is no requirement for an author to write tests for their package and often they don’t!

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R 3.1.2 release (and upgrading for Windows users)

R 3.1.2 (codename “Pumpkin Helmet“) was released last week. You can get the latest binaries version from here. (or the .tar.gz source code from here). The full list of new features and bug fixes is provided below.

Upgrading to R 3.1.2 on Windows

If you are using Windows you can easily upgrade to the latest version of R using the installr package. Simply run the following code:

# installing/loading the latest installr package:
install.packages("installr"); library(installr) #load / install+load installr
updateR() # updating R.

Running “updateR()” will detect if there is a new R version available, and if so it will download+install it (etc.).

I try to keep the installr package updated and useful, so if you have any suggestions or remarks on the package – you are invited to leave a comment below.

If you use the global library system (as I do), you can run the following in the new version of R:



David smith mentioned in his post some of the main changes, writing:

[…] improvements for the log-Normal distribution function, improved axis controls for histograms, a fix to the nlminb optimizer which was causing rare crashes on Windows (and traced to a bug in the gcc compiler), and some compatibility updates for the Yosemite release of OS X on Macs.

And here is also the full list:

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