[Rd] [RFC] A case for freezing CRAN

Dan Tenenbaum dtenenba at fhcrc.org
Fri Mar 21 03:48:30 CET 2014

----- Original Message -----
> From: "Gábor Csárdi" <csardi.gabor at gmail.com>
> To: "r-devel" <r-devel at r-project.org>
> Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2014 6:23:33 PM
> Subject: Re: [Rd] [RFC] A case for freezing CRAN
> Much of the discussion was about reproducibility so far. Let me
> emphasize
> another point from Jeroen's proposal.
> This is hard to measure of course, but I think I can say that the
> existence
> and the quality of CRAN and its packages contributed immensely to the
> success of R and the success of people using R. Having one central,
> well
> controlled and tested package repository is a huge advantage for the
> users.
> (I know that there are other repositories, but they are either
> similarly
> well controlled and specialized (BioC), or less used.) It would be
> great to
> keep it like this.
> I also think that the current CRAN policy is not ideal for further
> growth.
> In particular, updating a package with many reverse dependencies is a
> frustrating process, for everybody. As a maintainer with ~150 reverse
> dependencies, I think not twice, but ten times if I really want to
> publish
> a new version on CRAN. I cannot speak for other maintainers of
> course, but
> I have a feeling that I am not alone.
> Tying CRAN packages to R releases would help, because then I would
> not have
> to worry about breaking packages in the stable version of CRAN, only
> in
> CRAN-devel.
> Somebody mentioned that it is good not to do this because then users
> get
> bug fixes and new features earlier. Well, in my case, the opposite it
> true.
> As I am not updating, they actually get it (much) later. If it wasn't
> such
> a hassle, I would definitely update more often, about once a month.
> Now my
> goal is more like once a year.

These are good points. Not only do maintainers think twice (or more) before updating packages but it also seems that there are CRAN policies that discourage frequent updates. Whereas Bioconductor welcomes frequent updates because they usually fix problems and help us understand interoperability/dependency issues. Probably the main reason for this difference is the existence of a devel branch where breakage can happen and it's not the end of the world.

> Again, I cannot speak for others, but I believe the current policy
> does not
> help progress, and is not sustainable in the long run. It penalizes
> the
> maintainers of "more important" (= many rev. dependencies, that is,
> which
> probably also means many users) packages, and I fear they will slowly
> move
> away from CRAN. I don't think this is what anybody in the R community
> would
> want.
> Best,
> Gabor
> 	[[alternative HTML version deleted]]
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