Introducing the CRAN Repository Policy Watch

October 23, 2013

(This article was first published on Thinking inside the box , and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

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

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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