Re: [Rd] Do *not* pass '...' to NextMethod() - it'll do it for you; missing documentation, a bug or just me?

From: Henrik Bengtsson <hb_at_biostat.ucsf.edu>
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2012 16:46:07 -0700

Alright, now I'm even more confused about passing argument via NextMethod(). Here is another example where an argument is duplicated despite '...' is *not* explicitly passed to NextMethod().

bar <- function(...) UseMethod("bar");

bar.A <- function(object, a=1, b=2, ...) {   print(sys.call());
  str(list(a=a, b=b, ...));
}

bar.B <- function(object, a=-1, ...) {
  print(sys.call());
  set <- NextMethod("bar", a=a);
}

objB <- structure(NA, class=c("B", "A"));

## As wanted; default of argument 'a' is set to -1. bar(objB)

## bar.B(objB)
## bar.A(objB, a = -1)
## List of 2
##  $ a: num -1
##  $ b: num 2

## As wanted; user overrides default argument 'a' bar(objB, a="foo")

## bar.B(objB, a = "foo")
## bar.A(objB, a = "foo")
## List of 2
##  $ a: chr "foo"
##  $ b: num 2

## But if not named, the argument value gets duplicated bar(objB, "foo")

## bar.A(objB, "foo", a = "foo")
## List of 2
##  $ a: chr "foo"
##  $ b: chr "foo"

I don't see how to programatically avoid this or detect this in bar.A() without tedious workarounds. NB: Reordering arguments, e.g. foo.B <- function(object, ..., a=-1), will avoid the duplication but break the design that 'a' should be assigned if a non-named argument is passed).

In help("NextMethod") under 'Technical Details' it says: "Any named arguments matched to ... are handled specially: they either replace existing arguments of the same name or are appended to the argument list.". In the above example, it's not "either ... or ...", it's "both".

Still me?

/Henrik

On Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 10:48 PM, Henrik Bengtsson <hb_at_biostat.ucsf.edu> wrote:
> Hi Simon,
>
> thanks for the prompt reply. Comments below...
>
> On Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM, Simon Urbanek
> <simon.urbanek_at_r-project.org> wrote:
>>
>> On Oct 16, 2012, at 9:53 PM, Henrik Bengtsson wrote:
>>
>>> Hi,
>>>
>>> although I've done S3 dispatching for more than a decade now, I think
>>> I managed to overlook/avoid the following pitfall when using
>>> NextMethod():
>>>
>>> If you explicitly pass argument '...' to NextMethod(), you will
>>> effectively pass those argument twice to the "next" method!
>>>
>>>
>>> EXAMPLE:
>>>
>>> foo0 <- function(...) UseMethod("foo0");
>>> foo1 <- function(...) UseMethod("foo1");
>>> foo2 <- function(...) UseMethod("foo2");
>>>
>>> foo2.A <- foo1.A <- foo0.A <- function(object, a=1, b=2, c=3, d=4, ...) {
>>> str(c(list(object=object, a=a, b=b, c=c, d=d), list(...)));
>>> }
>>>
>>> ## CORRECT: Don't pass arguments '...', but all other
>>> ## *named* arguments that you wish to be changed in the call.
>>> foo0.B <- function(object, ..., b=-2) {
>>> NextMethod("foo0", object=object, b=b);
>>> }
>>>
>>> ## INCORRECT: Passing arguments '...' explicitly will *duplicated* them.
>>> foo1.B <- function(object, ..., b=-2) {
>>> NextMethod("foo1", object=object, ..., b=b);
>>> }
>>>
>>> ## INCORRECT: As an illustration, *triplication* of arguments '...'.
>>> foo2.B <- function(object, ..., b=-2) {
>>> NextMethod("foo2", object=object, ..., ..., b=b);
>>> }
>>>
>>> objB <- structure(NA, class=c("B", "A"));
>>>
>>> foo0(objB, "???", "!!!");
>>> ## Gives:
>>> ## List of 5
>>> ## $ object:Classes 'B', 'A' logi NA
>>> ## $ a : chr "???"
>>> ## $ b : num -2
>>> ## $ c : chr "!!!"
>>> ## $ d : num 4
>>>
>>> foo1(objB, "???", "!!!");
>>> ## Gives:
>>> ## List of 6
>>> ## $ object:Classes 'B', 'A' logi NA
>>> ## $ a : chr "???"
>>> ## $ b : num -2
>>> ## $ c : chr "!!!"
>>> ## $ d : chr "???"
>>> ## $ : chr "!!!"
>>>
>>> foo2(objB, "???", "!!!");
>>> ## Gives:
>>> ## List of 8
>>> ## $ object:Classes 'B', 'A' logi NA
>>> ## $ a : chr "???"
>>> ## $ b : num -2
>>> ## $ c : chr "!!!"
>>> ## $ d : chr "???"
>>> ## $ : chr "!!!"
>>> ## $ : chr "???"
>>> ## $ : chr "!!!"
>
> Just to give further practical motivation for the latter case:
>
> foo1.C <- function(object, ..., c=-3) {
> NextMethod("foo1", object=object, ..., c=c);
> }
>
> objC <- structure(NA, class=c("C", "B", "A"));
>
> foo1(objC, "???", "!!!")
> ## List of 11
> ## $ object:Classes 'C', 'B', 'A' logi NA
> ## $ a : chr "???"
> ## $ b : num -2
> ## $ c : num -3
> ## $ d : chr "!!!"
> ## $ : chr "???"
> ## $ : chr "!!!"
> ## $ : chr "???"
> ## $ : chr "!!!"
> ## $ : chr "???"
> ## $ : chr "!!!"
>
>>>
>>> This behavior does not seem to be documented (at least not
>>> explicitly),
>>
>> I would argue it does:
>> "Normally ‘NextMethod’ is used with only one argument, ‘generic’, but if further arguments are supplied these modify the call to the next method."
>> The whole point of NextMethod is that it starts off with the full call *including* ... from the function - by calling NextMethod you are modifying that call, so by adding unnamed arguments you will append them.
>
> Maybe it's possible to make help("NextMethod") more explicit about
> this? It's a bit tricky because there are two different '...'; one for
> NextMethod() and one for the S3 function that calls NextMethod().
> What about:
>
> \item{...}{\emph{further} arguments to be passed to the next method.
> Named arguments will override same-name arguments to the function
> containing NextMethod, otherwise they will be appended. Non-named
> arguments (including those passed as \code{...}) will be appended.}
>
> instead of as now:
>
> \item{...}{further arguments to be passed to the next method.},
>
> and adding the following note to the Details section of help("NextMethod"):
>
> NextMethod invokes the next method (determined by the class vector,
> either of the object supplied to the generic, or of the first argument
> to the function containing NextMethod if a method was invoked
> directly). Normally NextMethod is used with only one argument,
> generic, but if further arguments are supplied these _modify_ the call
> to the next method. Note, if the function containing NextMethod has
> an argument '...', it is likely a mistake to pass it explicitly to
> NextMethod, because such will be \emph{appended} to the set of
> arguments passed to this function (already containing '...') and
> therefore result in duplicated entries.
>
>>
>> And the ... override is explicitly documented: "Any named arguments matched to ‘...’ are handled specially: they either replace existing arguments of the same name or are appended to the argument list." Try foo1(objB, c="foo", "bla") in your example - it illustrates the difference.
>
> Yes, that part I understood, but thanks for the clarification.
>
>>
>> Also why would you pass ... when you don't do it for UseMethod?
>
> Yes, I tried to make that analogue as well, but however I looked at
> '...' and UseMethod()/NextMethod() I saw multiple interpretations.
> Maybe less so now after spending hours of testing/reading the source
> code (and trying to find a better documentation/alternative algorithm
> for NextMethod()/understanding the developer's intentions). From a
> more practical point of view, (since R v1.8.0 or so) UseMethod() gives
> an error if you pass it more than two arguments, which in turn begs
> the question if NextMethod() could give an error is you pass an
> explicit '...' (unless one can argue that there are use cases when
> that is wanted).
>
> Looking at my own packages, I found several occurrences where I pass
> '...' to NextMethod(). I'd bet you I'm not the only one that has
> been/will be bitten by this behavior. Indeed, in R devel (r60951)
> there are a few cases:
>
> % cd src/library/
> % grep 'NextMethod("[^)]*[.][.][.])' */R/*.R
> (The above grep will not catch cases where NextMethod() spans multiple
> lines. However, I could only find one such case and it did not pass
> '...').
>
> base/R/print.R:##- Need '...' such that it can be called as
> NextMethod("print", ...):
> stats/R/ts.R: NextMethod("print", x, quote = FALSE, right = TRUE, ...)
> utils/R/citation.R: NextMethod("print", x, style = style, ...)
> utils/R/str.R: invisible(NextMethod("str", ...))
> utils/R/str.R: else invisible(NextMethod("str", give.length=FALSE,...))
>
> none of which look serious, but explains for instance why you get:
>
>> x <- ts(1:10, frequency=4, start=c(1959, 2))
>> class(x)
> [1] "ts"
>> print(x, calendar=TRUE, 3L)
> Error in print.default(x, calendar = TRUE, 3L, quote = FALSE, right = TRUE) :
> invalid 'na.print' specification
>
> Try debug(print.default) and you'll see that both 'digits' and
> 'na.print' are assigned 3L (despite what the call in the debug output
> says). Instead, you have to do:
>
>> print(x, calendar=TRUE, digits=3L)
> Qtr1 Qtr2 Qtr3 Qtr4
> 1959 1 2 3
> 1960 4 5 6 7
> 1961 8 9 10
>
> Maybe 'R CMD check' should give a NOTE, WARNING, or ERROR on passing
> '...' to NextMethod()?
>
> Thanks,
>
> Henrik
>
>>
>> Cheers,
>> Simon
>>
>>
>>
>>> cf. help("NextMethod", package="base") and Section
>>> 'NextMethod' in 'R Language Definition'. I don't have the 'White
>>> Book', so I don't know what that is saying about this.
>>>
>>> I can reproduce this on Windows, OSX and Linux and various versions of
>>> R, e.g. R v2.10.0, R v2.15.1 patched, R devel.
>>>
>>> Is this a bug, should it be detected as a user error, should it be
>>> documented, or is this already old news?
>>>
>>> Thanks,
>>>
>>> Henrik
>>>
>>> ______________________________________________
>>> R-devel_at_r-project.org mailing list
>>> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel
>>>
>>>
>>



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