A couple of days ago on Twitter I said the following:
“Increasingly, RStudio’s products are so good that I feel a lot of my advice to my organisation is “buy a lot of RStudio products”. I love RStudio (I have a tattoo of their logo on my arm, even!) and they clearly give a lot of stuff away (we used their products for nothing for *years*). But I wish I could at least acknowledge some competition in this arena. As far as I can see, if you want to develop a cutting edge data science team with R, it’s RStudio all the way.
I just feel like a brand ambassador rather than someone giving solid, independent advice. I think it’s good advice, don’t get me wrong, but what are the alternatives if you want to interact with R over an authenticated connection other than Shiny with Server Pro?”
I’ve been thinking about it more and more over the last few days and I think my perspective has shifted because my role in my organisation has changed a little. For quite a long time I’ve been churning out Shiny code (and PHP/ MySQL) to run our patient experience data portal. But now I’ve zoomed out a bit and although I’m still doing that I’m working on a couple of other projects and have started to think about how we build our team- using Git, coding collaboratively, enforcing a code style. I’m starting to think about tools.
Now I love RStudio. As I say in the tweet I have a tattoo of their logo on my arm. This is not a metaphor. An actual tattoo on my actual arm. But I’m starting to get concerned that I’m so focused on R and Shiny that I’m starting to miss the big picture. It’s my job to know about other approaches and to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each. Even if I end up saying “There are two other ways of doing this that don’t involve Shiny, but they’re both too difficult/ expensive/ unreliable/ whatever” then fine. But I just don’t feel comfortable advising my organisation without a wider view.
So I’m going to veer off a bit, test the water. I feel sure this will involve Python, Jupyter, and whatever reactive type programming thing Python people use (see? I’m clueless). I know a bit of Python so it shouldn’t be too arduous. And I’ll poke around the rest of the space too. Julia. Other ways of interacting with R that don’t involve Shiny.
As always, I’ll report back once I’ve made head or tail of it, which could be a while.