Wed, 23 Oct 2013

Introducing the CRAN Repository Policy Watch

CRAN is the repository network for R. It is a resounding success with (as of right now) almost 5000 packages, and growth rate which has been estimated (cf John Fox's keynote at useR! a few years ago) to be near 40% per year.

We as R community members owe a great deal of thanks to the CRAN maintainers, and the R Core team. The tight integration between the language and the contributed code repository is unique among programming languages, and one of the many reasons why CRAN has been such a success and driver of growth and adoption for R. And the amount of work the CRAN maintainers put into this is substantial, and we owe them.

Yet there is some friction between the repo maintainers, and the community of developers. There have numerous discussions on the main developer list about various aspect of how CRAN maintains the impeccable quality of the code in the archive. One particular aspect which has bugging (at least me) is the lack of communication when policy changes are made. It would be trivial to posts a set of changes to the developer list, and I suggested as much. Only to be soundly ignored.

But changes to text (or html) files can monitored rather easily, and when such changes occur an alert can be sent. So I cooked up rather simple system for this which I called the CRAN Policy Watch. In essence, a simple cronjob monitors changes, and records new versions in a Github repo (which you can follow or star). Alternatively, the cronjob now also tweets from the @CRANPolicyWatch account which I invite everyone to subscribe to as well.

If someone knows of a simple tool to summarize diffs of html or text files in static html pages, I'd be interested to expand the service to some pages. Alernatively I could also just commit to a single file too and let Github summarize the changes.

This was an itch I needed to scratch, and I hope some other people will fine this useful too.

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