Press "Enter" to skip to content

Trials and Tribulations of Maintaining CRAN Packages

John Mount explains the downside cost of CRAN being so useful:

If this automated email from a bulk sender bounces, goes to SPAM, or isn’t responded to quickly: your package will be archived or removed from CRAN. We’ve received these emails, and always acted on them quickly, out of fear.

The referred to check results are often not reproducible. For example, our most recent scare (that hasn’t yet triggered the email, and we have submitted a work-around before complaining here) was just “SUMMARY: processing the following file failed”, without details beyond the name of the failing file.

This is a tricky problem. On the one hand, as an end user of packages, I want packages playing nicely with each other. This is a lot better than Pip’s “Oh, sorry, you need version X but to install version X, it’ll break package Y as it needs < X” nightmare.

On the other hand, as a maintainer of a package, there’s a lot of added effort on a tight timeline for what is usually a volunteer effort.

I don’t have any CRAN packages I maintain and so I tend to be on the beneficiary side of things. But it’s important to keep those package maintainers in mind and one of the easiest ways to do that is to make explicit, reproducable bug reports. It may not make the deadlines more lax but at least that makes maintainers’ lives easier.