Re: [Rd] S4 NAMESPACE method imports and exports do not include (promoted?) generics

From: Martin Morgan <mtmorgan_at_fhcrc.org>
Date: Thu, 22 Dec 2011 10:01:16 -0800

On 12/18/2011 11:04 AM, John Chambers wrote:
>
>
> On 12/17/11 6:02 AM, Michael Lawrence wrote:
>> I guess what it boils down to is whether it makes sense for PkgB to have
>> exportMethods(unique) when PkgB does not export(unique) or have PkgA in
>> Depends. And whether it makes sense for PkgC to have
>> importMethodsFrom(PkgB, unique) without importFrom(PkgA, unique). If it
>> is not feasible/sensible to support implicit passing of generics up the
>> dependency stack, then R should probably emit some sort of warning/error
>> when methods are exported or imported without the corresponding generic.
>>
>> The fact that a generic is being created for an implicit generic defined
>> in 'base' is not really the issue here.
>
> On the contrary, it's why we need to do some thinking about what we want.
>
> Try replacing "unique" with "sum" throughout Martin's example, adjusting
> the method definition appropriately. No problems arise, because sum() is
> a primitive. Exporting and importing methods works as implied by the
> extensions manual, but via the implicit generic for sum().
>
> The essential point is that the methods being imported are "for" the
> generic implied by the function in package "base". PkgA is the
> irrelevant aspect if the methods come from PkgB and the implied generic
> comes from "base". The problem is that there is no "flag" for
> non-primitive functions that says "Methods have been defined for this
> function (base::unique in this case), so some calls should carry out
> method dispatch."
>
> The extensions manual stated that exportMethods() would "export the
> generic". We could make that true or make it unnecessary, by having
> importMethods() look for a generic in the referenced package and infer
> the implicit generic (maybe with a message). Otherwise, we're adding
> inconsistent requirements for primitives vs true functions in the base
> package.

One advantage of the exportMethods solution is that a user of PkgB gets access to the unique generic without having all of PkgA on the search path; it would be unfortunate if the exported generic also carried with it the burden of documenting the generic (again).

Even with the insights from this thread, I find myself spending a very long time working out the appropriate NAMESPACE declarations for my current projects.

Martin

>
> John
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Michael
>>
>> On Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 4:52 PM, John Chambers <jmc_at_r-project.org
>> <mailto:jmc_at_r-project.org>> wrote:
>>
>> The key point here is that setGeneric("unique") is done that way,
>> without other argument, whoever does it. That creates the generic
>> from the implicit generic corresponding to base::unique. If package
>> A had done anything else, the resulting methods tables would NOT
>> refer to package "base" but to package "PkgA" and it's that version
>> of the generic that would need to be imported.
>>
>> So it's not particularly relevant that we're dealing with
>> PkgA::unique() if the generic function was created from base::unique
>> by the standard call. That's what would make an automatic
>> imputation of the generic from importMethods() possible.
>>
>>
>> On 12/16/11 2:57 PM, Martin Morgan wrote:
>>
>> On 12/16/2011 12:19 PM, John Chambers wrote:
>>
>> The subject heading is correct if referring to
>> exportMethods() and
>> importMethodsFrom(). They refer to the methods tables, not
>> the generic
>> functions, whatever the extensions manual says.
>>
>> Looking into the code of namespaceImportMethods() will
>> illustrate this.
>> It just deals with lists of method tables obtained from
>> .getGenerics()
>> which in spite of its name also only looks for the method
>> table metadata
>> objects.
>>
>> As I vaguely recall, there was some concern at one time
>> about having
>> extra copies of the generic version of the function.
>>
>> The fundamental problem is that creating methods for
>> unique(), say, does
>> not change the way calls to base::unique() work. Therefore,
>> all packages
>> that want to use methods have to ensure that a generic
>> version of unique
>> gets in between. Primitive functions are an exception
>> because the method
>> dispatch is in the C code and has a rule for checking when
>> given an S4
>> object. There is no corresponding provision for evaluating a
>> call to a
>> regular function.
>>
>> If the importing package has a setGeneric() for the relevant
>> function
>> then its own namespace has the generic version of the
>> function. (That is
>> a workaround, but I inferred that was what you were trying
>> to avoid.)
>>
>> Fixes seem possible, but some care is needed. If exportMethods
>> automatically exported the generic function, it really is no
>> different
>> from export() for that function.
>>
>>
>> export() somehow implies ownership of the generic, e.g.,
>> responsibility
>> for documentation. I can see in the scenario below that PkgB
>> might be
>> expected to Depends: PkgA if it intends for the user to access
>> PkgB's
>> methods on PkgA::unique.
>>
>> namespaceImportMethods() could try to supply the generic
>> function if it
>> is not already present. If it does not find the generic in
>> the namespace
>> being imported, it would essentially have to call
>> setGeneric(), assuming
>> the non-generic function exists in the specified package
>> (e.g., in base
>> for unique()).
>>
>>
>> In the example below for PkgC the 'unique' generic is in PkgB's
>> namespace imports
>>
>> > getNamespaceImports("PkgB")
>> $base
>> [1] TRUE
>>
>> $PkgA
>> unique
>> "unique"
>>
>> I guess PkgB could have Depends: PkgA, not importFrom(PkgA,
>> unique), and
>> then defined and exported a method on PkgA::unique found on the
>> search
>> path, so that the generic wasn't available to PkgC. But I'd be
>> happy if
>> the generic found in either PkgB's namespace or namespace
>> imports were
>> imported along with the method. Not sure that I like the idea of
>> calling
>> setGeneric() -- PkgA could have done something non-standard --
>> and would
>> rather an error.
>>
>> Thans for your attention.
>>
>> Martin
>>
>>
>> Comments?
>> John
>>
>>
>>
>> On 12/16/11 6:16 AM, Martin Morgan wrote:
>>
>> tar of Pkgs A, B, C attached. Martin
>>
>> On 12/15/2011 03:34 PM, Martin Morgan wrote:
>>
>> In
>>
>> > R.version.string
>> [1] "R Under development (unstable) (2011-12-15 r57901)"
>>
>> section 1.6.6 of 'Writing R Extensions' says
>>
>> Note that exporting methods on a generic in the
>> namespace will
>> also export the generic, and exporting a generic in the
>> namespace will also export its methods.
>>
>> and
>>
>> Note that importMethodsFrom will also import any
>> generics defined in
>> the namespace on those methods
>>
>> However, if PkgA promotes 'unique' to a generic and
>> exports that
>>
>> DESCRIPTION:
>> Imports: methods
>>
>> R/f.R:
>> setGeneric("unique")
>>
>> NAMESPACE:
>> export(unique)
>>
>> and PkgB creates and exports a method on unique
>>
>> DESCRIPTION
>> Imports: methods, PkgA
>>
>> R/f.R:
>> setClass("B", representation(b="numeric"))
>> setMethod(unique, "B",
>> function(x, incomparables=FALSE, ...) unique(x_at_b))
>>
>> NAMESPACE:
>> importFrom(PkgA, unique)
>> exportClasses(B)
>> exportMethods(unique)
>>
>> and PkgC wants to import PkgB's classes and methods
>>
>> DESCRIPTION
>> Imports: methods, PkgB
>>
>> R/f.R
>> cunique <- function(x) unique(x)
>>
>> NAMESPACE
>> importMethodsFrom(PkgB, unique)
>> export(cunique)
>>
>> then
>>
>> (a) the 'unique' generic is not available to the
>> user of PkgB
>>
>> > library(PkgB)
>> > unique(new("B", b=1:5))
>> Error in unique.default(new("B", b = 1:5)) :
>> unique() applies only to vectors
>>
>> and (b) the generic has not been imported to PkgC's
>> namespace
>>
>> > cunique(new("B", b=1:5))
>> Error in unique.default(b) : unique() applies only
>> to vectors
>>
>> A workaround is for PkgB to also export(unique), and
>> for PkgC to also
>> importFrom(PkgA, unique), but is this the intention?
>>
>> This is arising from Bioconductor efforts to place
>> commonly promoted
>> functions and S3 classes into a single package, to
>> avoid conflicts when
>> the same function is promoted independently by
>> several packages.
>>
>> Martin
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> ________________________________________________
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>> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/__listinfo/r-devel
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>>
>>

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