Why Shiny? Insights from a Shiny developer

Blogs home Featured Image

EARL 2021 will start with a week of afternoon workshops, hosted by our expert Mango Solutions Data Scientists.

This morning I (Laura Swales, Community and Events Manager) caught up with Alejandro Rico who is hosting the ‘Introduction to Shiny’ workshop to find out more about him and what people can learn from his workshop.

Hi Alejandro! Could you tell us some background information about yourself and what you do at Ascent?

I started with maths and statistics and trying to use that knowledge somewhere in business. More often than not, the decisions I made for businesses were automated – normally when you are a Data Scientist you just process a lot of information and interpret this in some way. But often those decisions are quite simple – for example, if X number is higher than X threshold, then green light. You then normally end up automating all of that, once you automate that information then you end up probably building a nice looking UI – so the product team can already check those numbers and say: ‘ok, we’ve got the green light from the maths shenanigans!’ – so I specialised doing that, not so much on the statistics part of things, but on the automation and nice-looking UI part. This eventually became Shiny development, so I joined Ascent (Mango Solutions) exclusively as a Shiny developer.

During my time at Mango, I’ve been developing Shiny – for different companies and different Shiny applications, but all Shiny! This is still a broad term because sometimes you spend a lot of time on the UI part – like designing the UX flow and how the user should interact with the tool, and on some other occasions, you spend time on the data processing part – which is closer to what a pure Data Scientist would do, but it’s part of the job still. I also deliver training on Shiny as well.

You’re hosting the Introduction to Shiny workshop at EARL online this year – what can attendees expect to learn?

I want to explain some basics with this workshops – getting people up and started on Shiny. I also want to sell Shiny! By that I mean, showcasing what you can do with Shiny and what the applications can be used for. I hope that once people are convinced of the advantages of Shiny, then the chapter on how to build your first Shiny app will be even more exciting. So there are two parts – selling Shiny and getting started with simple applications using Shiny.

Why do you think people should use Shiny over other tools?

The main reasons are when you look at what tools or framework you want for developing stuff you usually have to choose between something that’s easy to use or something that is powerful. I believe Shiny is an interesting framework as it’s extremely simple and easy to use for those who might not know about web app development. You only need a basic knowledge of R to use it and to get started pretty quickly. For anyone who wants to get started on web application development, Shiny works because you can start quickly but know that you can invest more and build more complex apps over time.

What is your favourite thing about Shiny?

Really what I said before – it’s flexibility! You can just use R and not ever realise behind the scenes it is using HTML and CSS, but if you really want to (and I do) you can be specific and flex your javascript knowledge. Shiny can have lots of small widgets where you can embed your javascript code – and I think that’s really cool. It has helped me to do unique things in the web app development world.

Thank you Alejandro!

To find out more about Alejandro’s Introduction to Shiny workshop – please view here. The workshop will take place on Monday 6th September from 2 pm-5 pm UK time and will be £90. Profits from EARL online will be donated to DataKind UK.