[Rd] Reference Classes: Accessing methods via [[...]], bug?

John Chambers jmc at r-project.org
Wed May 4 18:17:35 CEST 2011

On 5/3/11 2:39 PM, Hadley Wickham wrote:
>> Part of the motivation for the reference classes was to bring a general OOP
>> view to R.  One can start from some essential concepts of objects and their
>> properties, inheritance and class definition, as have evolved over a very
>> long time.
>> Next, there is a fundamental choice of paradigm between "encapsulated" OOP
>> as the rest of the world knows it, and "functional" OOP as practiced by S
>> and R, and a few other languages.  While the two paradigms are quite
>> different, there is no need to view them as opposed.  They provide different
>> advantages and tend to suit different goals--very roughly, functional object
>> creation and reproducible results versus persistent objects whose properties
>> one would like to have evolve over time using their encapsulated methods.
> My biggest worry with the introduction of reference classes is that
> many people will just stick to the style of OOP that they're familiar
> with, and not bother to learn the strengths of the generic function
> approach.

Well, that says that presenting the choices well is important.  Agreed.

But the alternative is (and has been) for people from the "other" OOP 
background to hack something using the functional S4/S3 paradigm and 
then complain when it doesn't behave as expected. Not really preferable.

>> As these remarks may suggest, I'm trying to write up this perspective in
>> some detail.  To be continued ....
> Are you familiar with "Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer
> Programming" by van Roy and Haridi?  That's what really helped me to
> understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various styles of
> programming.

Thanks, I wasn't.  Yes, interesting similar distinction between 
functional and "type" decomposition.  An important associated aspect for 
us is the distinction between reference objects and "ordinary" R 
objects, not AFAICS conveyed by their more abstract treatment.

> Hadley

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