[R] Proposal: Package update log

Greg Snow 538280 at gmail.com
Tue Oct 2 21:47:45 CEST 2012

There is already support in the packaging system for a NEWS file which
can be accessed within R using the 'news' function.  What would the
changelog that you are proposing contribute or contain beyond what the
NEWS file already does?

Creating and updating NEWS is not mandatory, but is encouraged.
Making the update of NEWS mandatory would probably not change anything
for the authors already using it, for those that don't it may cause
the author to be less likely to share or update their package rather
than bother with logging the updates (though whether that is a bad
thing or a good thing is a whole different discussion).  How would you
mandate the update log?  just requiring a change could result in a
lazy author adding a single line of gibberish or a statement like
"updated on this date".  To enforce something more meaningful would
require some form of moderation and place additional burden where
there is already a lot of volunteer work happening.

If a package is on R-forge (or other similar locations) then you can
get a details view of the changes between versions.  Packages on CRAN
have previous versions available and there are tools that will let you
compare the differences in detail.

On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 11:01 AM, Starkweather, Jonathan
<Jonathan.Starkweather at unt.edu> wrote:
> I'm relatively new to R and would first like to sincerely thank all those who contribute to its development. Thank you.
> I would humbly like to propose a rule which creates a standard (i.e., strongly encouraged, mandatory, etc.) for authors to include a `change log' documenting specific changes for each update made to their package(s). The more detailed the description, the better; and it would be exceptionally useful if the document were available from the R-console (similar to the help function). In other words, I am suggesting that the `change log' file be included in the package(s) and preferably accessible from the R-console.
> I am aware that many packages available on CRAN have a `change log' or `news' page. However; not all packages have something like that and many which do, are not terribly detailed in conveying what has been updated or changed.
> I am also aware that package authors are not a particularly lazy group, sitting around with nothing to do. My proposal would likely add a non-significant amount of work to the already very generous (and appreciated) work performed by package authors, maintainers, etc. I do, however, believe it would be greatly appreciated and beneficial to have more detailed update information available from the R-console as some of us (users) update packages daily and are often left wondering what exactly has been updated.
> I did not post this to the R-devel list because I consider this proposal more of a documentation issue than a development issue. Also, I would like to see some discussion of this proposal from a varied pool of stakeholders (e.g., users and not just developers, package authors, package maintainers, etc.).
> Respectfully,
> Jon Starkweather, PhD
> University of North Texas
> Research and Statistical Support
> http://www.unt.edu/rss/
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Gregory (Greg) L. Snow Ph.D.
538280 at gmail.com

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