I set out reading this book hoping to understand the metaprogramming chapter, and ended up learning a bunch of other stuff along the way! Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things I learned from each of the sections of Advanced R:

I - Foundations:

  • I notice that I use the switch function a ton now, where previously I used if-else nests.
  • I use condition-handling to pass errors back to the user of my Shiny apps now.
  • I now know what an Environment is and where and why R would look for something. (This helps both in function-writing and debugging!)
  • I write a heck of a lot of functions (this ties into II: Functional Programming, of course)

II - Functional Programming

  • I map the crap out of everything now (if I didn’t before, it’s way worse now!), and have learned to use functions in a ton of different ways.
  • I now understand what a function factory is, and what to do if a function somehow returns me a function instead (as opposed to panicking about it!)
  • I now know about a series of modifiers to help adjust function behaviours (memoise, quietly, safely, possibly) - although I use tryCatch as much as I do these.


  • I wrote a package that uses S3! It’s cool to minimize the user interface for multiple platforms and the mental load accompanying.
  • I still lean to using the explicit “switch” function a lot instead of writing out a useMethod call. May be a habit/pattern worth breaking in the future.
  • I’m now comfortable USING an R6 package - I don’t know that I’d reach for an R6 system now but the whole “function$method” thing doesn’t scare me anymore
  • S4? wot that

IV Metaprogramming

  • I now know how to pass expressions to tidyverse stuff!
  • I now know where to look in the Metaprogramming and how to intepret the text.

V Techniques

  • Debugging: I now know how to use browser, and love it! Also debug()!
  • Performance measure/improve: still don’t do a ton of this, even though I’m a shiny dev. I feel like I should care more but I mostly work with smaller data (sub 1,000,000 rows) right now.
  • I … still don’t know C++ or Rcpp. 🤷

Toy Code


grouping_variables <- switch(
  "S" = exprs(CraftCode, starts_with("Product"), ModelCode, Elevation),
  "B" = exprs(starts_with("Rate")),
  "P" = exprs(starts_with("Part"))
null_bids <- bids %>%
  group_by(SupplierID, ProjectID, !!!grouping_variables) %>%
  slice_max(LastModDate) %>%
  ungroup() %>%
  select(!!!grouping_variables, ProjectID, SupplierAID, SupplierName, UnitPrice) %>%
  left_join(lowest_bids, by = as.character(grouping_variables))

Metaprogramming - how to pass expressions into select statements. Also example of switch.