A Conversation with Joe Cheng at useR! 2014

Joe Cheng is a software engineer. Unfortunately the term gets thrown around pretty lightly, so I’d like to make sure that I convey the appropriate amount of gravitas when I refer to him as such. Joe Cheng is a *great* Software Engineer. He has worked for some of the largest technology companies on the planet, building cutting edge tools which empowered the web browser as a full blown platform instead of a historical curiosity. Joe is one of those software engineers who saw a future with the web as a platform for modern software, then worked hard to make it a reality. When the time came to build the next generation of data science IDEs, an IDE targeting the web as a platform, RStudio called Joe.

Joe and I share a traditional computer science background, which made this one of my favorite conversations of useR! 2014. We discussed our view of R, not as professional statisticians or data scientists, but as programmers. R is a fantastic and purpose-built language and environment, but it is unlike most programming environments that either Joe or I have ever encountered. If you’ve ever been curious to learn what shocks traditional computer programmers when they first learn R, you can watch that part of our discussion here.

Joe is currently focused on RStudio’s web application framework, Shiny. Data science as communication is a hot topic, and so much of modern communication can benefit from these web-based, truly interactive presentations. Inspired by the cutting-edge Meteor framework, Shiny leverages reactive principles to weave together rich applications with minimal code. It’s not a general purpose framework, you wouldn’t use it to build a storefront, but it doesn’t claim to be such. We talk about the development of the Shiny framework, the choices that were made, and how Shiny is accessible to novice and expert R users alike by design here.

As a bit of an aside, there’s one amazing tidbit from this video which should not be missed. Joe Cheng nearly had his love of computer programming bored out of him by the worst summer camp *ever*! I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

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