Posted on Categories Opinion, Programming, TutorialsTags , , , 1 Comment on Iteration and closures in R

Iteration and closures in R

I recently read an interesting thread on unexpected behavior in R when creating a list of functions in a loop or iteration. The issue is solved, but I am going to take the liberty to try and re-state and slow down the discussion of the problem (and fix) for clarity.

The issue is: are references or values captured during iteration?

Many users expect values to be captured. Most programming language implementations capture variables or references (leading to strange aliasing issues). It is confusing (especially in R, which pushes so far in the direction of value oriented semantics) and best demonstrated with concrete examples.


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Please read on for a some of the history and future of this issue. Continue reading Iteration and closures in R

Posted on Categories Computer ScienceTags , 2 Comments on The magrittr monad

The magrittr monad

Monads are a formal theory of composition where programmers get to invoke some very abstract mathematics (category theory) to argue the minutia of annotating, scheduling, sequencing operations, and side effects. On the positive side the monad axioms are a guarantee that related ways of writing code are in fact substitutable and equivalent; so you want your supplied libraries to obey such axioms to make your life easy. On the negative side, the theory is complicated.

In this article we will consider the latest entry of our mad “programming theory in R series” (see Some programming language theory in R, You don’t need to understand pointers to program using R, Using closures as objects in R, and How and why to return functions in R): category theory!

Continue reading The magrittr monad

Posted on Categories Computer Science, Programming, Public Service Article, TutorialsTags , , , , 13 Comments on Using closures as objects in R

Using closures as objects in R

For more and more clients we have been using a nice coding pattern taught to us by Garrett Grolemund in his book Hands-On Programming with R: make a function that returns a list of functions. This turns out to be a classic functional programming techique: use closures to implement objects (terminology we will explain).

It is a pattern we strongly recommend, but with one caveat: it can leak references similar to the manner described in here. Once you work out how to stomp out the reference leaks the “function that returns a list of functions” pattern is really strong.

We will discuss this programming pattern and how to use it effectively. Continue reading Using closures as objects in R