[Rd] Should numeric()/character() etc initialize with NA instead of 0 or ""?
Prof Brian Ripley
ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Mon Nov 5 18:30:35 CET 2007
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
> (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
> 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'
> x <- numeric(n) or
> for( i in seq(along = x) )
> try(x[i] <- function.which.might.crash( args[i] ))
> 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.
> [[alternative HTML version deleted]]
You were specifically asked not to do that.
> R-devel at r-project.org mailing list
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
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