In Freud’s tripartite model of the psyche, the superego represents the internalization of parental and societal values. Should I consider an immoral act, my superego will reflexively flood me with guilt. Thus is our behavior and neuroses explained.

So it is with writing code. I have an R superego. You probably have an R superego. A catalog of taboo functions and control flows haunts our scripts. And perhaps much like our western ethical norms, their validity is not always obvious. For example, I do not know why is bad form or distasteful. I only know I was once scolded for using it on Reddit by one of our most authoritative authorities, and that I won’t make that mistake again.

To further the codification and subsequent internalization of R norms, I’ve started to aggregate these “taboos” on my computer. Note that these are unrelated to actual ethical issues like web scraping or biases in gender prediction models. Rather, these innocuous malfeasances elicit–and merit–only gentle disdain. The list:

  • Don’t make for loops
  • Don’t sequence numeric vectors with a colon (e.g. 1:10)
  • Don’t use missing
  • Don’t use (except maybe with C)
  • Don’t use attach
  • Don’t pipe into ggplot (although everyone does it)
  • Don’t use the magrittr pipe and assign operator (%<>%)1
  • Don’t use the ticks `` in your code–figure out a better way

That’s my conscious list, although I’m sure I’ve internalized other prohibitions. I’ll update this post when my conscience alerts me.

  1. I hate not using this one. The temptation is overwhelming. I can’t wait until I become a Nietzschean Ubermensch and can pipe and assign without guilt.