Re: [Rd] Should numeric()/character() etc initialize with NA instead of 0 or ""?

From: Prof Brian Ripley <ripley_at_stats.ox.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2007 17:30:35 +0000 (GMT)

On Mon, 5 Nov 2007, Fabian Scheipl wrote:

> Wouldn't it make programming more error-resistant if vectors were
> initialized with missing data, instad of zeroes or ""?

Lots of code relies on this. It's common programming practice (and not just in R/S).

> That way, if you assign values to a vector elementwise and you miss some
> elements
> (because their indices were not selected or because the assignment didn't
> work out, see below for code examples)
> this would be immediately obvious from the value of the vector elements
> themselves
> and programming errors would be far less easy to overlook.

But using x <- rep(NA_real_, n) does this for you, and is much clearer to the reader. Using x <- numeric(n) is only appropriate if you want '0.0' elements.

> e.g.
>
> x <- numeric(n) or
> for( i in seq(along = x) )
> {
> try(x[i] <- function.which.might.crash( args[i] ))
> }
>
> or
>
> x <- numeric(n)
> x[condition1] <- foo(args1)
> x[condition2] <- foo(args2)
> ...
> x[conditionN] <- foo(argsN)
>
> will produce x without any NAs even if function.which.might.crash() actually
> did crash during the loop or
> if there are indices for which none of conditions 1 to N were true and you
> cannot distinguish between zeroes which
> are real results and zeroes that remained unchanged since initialization of
> the vector.
>
> In a sense, initializing with NAs would also be more consistent with
> vector(n, mode = "list"), which produces a list of n NULL-objects.
> (numeric(10) is just a wrapper for vector(10, mode="numeric"))
>
> Let me know what you think.
>
> Regards,
> Fabian
>
> [[alternative HTML version deleted]]

You were specifically asked not to do that.

> ______________________________________________
> R-devel_at_r-project.org mailing list
> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel
>

-- 
Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley_at_stats.ox.ac.uk
Professor of Applied Statistics,  http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~ripley/
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

______________________________________________
R-devel_at_r-project.org mailing list
https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel
Received on Mon 05 Nov 2007 - 17:40:10 GMT

Archive maintained by Robert King, hosted by the discipline of statistics at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
Archive generated by hypermail 2.2.0, at Mon 05 Nov 2007 - 22:30:14 GMT.

Mailing list information is available at https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel. Please read the posting guide before posting to the list.