Moving from RPubs to Github documents

If you still follow my Twitter feed – I pity you, as it’s been rather boring of late. Consisting largely of Github commit messages, many including the words “knit to github document”.

Here’s why. RPubs, an early offering from RStudio, has been a great platform for easy and free publishing of HTML documents generated from RMarkdown and written in RStudio. That said, it’s always been very basic (e.g. no way to organise documents by content, tags). There’s been no real development of the platform for several years and of late, I’ve noticed it’s become less reliable. Bugs, for example, such as one document overwriting another when published from RStudio.

I think it’s unlikely that issues will be addressed, given that RStudio are now focused on RStudio Connect. So I’ve removed as many documents as I can and rewritten them as Github documents. These render as HTML when pushed to Github, generating attractive reports. Here’s an example.

I’ve done my best to update all blog posts here with links to the new reports. If you do come across old broken links to RPubs reports, just remember that the content is probably now at Github.

I’ve left a small number of reports at RPubs for now – those ones are interactive and use Javascript-based libraries such as Highcharter or Leaflet.

PMRetract: PubMed retraction reporting rewritten as an interactive RMarkdown document

Back in 2010, I wrote a web application called PMRetract to monitor retraction notices in the PubMed database. It was written primarily as a way for me to explore some technologies: the Ruby web framework Sinatra, MongoDB (hosted at MongoHQ, now Compose) and Heroku, where the app was hosted.

I automated the update process using Rake and the whole thing ran pretty smoothly, in a “set and forget” kind of way for four years or so. However, the first era of PMRetract is over. Heroku have shut down git pushes to their “Bamboo Stack” – which runs applications using Ruby version 1.8.7 – and will shut down the stack on June 16 2015. Currently, I don’t have the time either to update my code for a newer Ruby version or to figure out the (frankly, near-unintelligible) instructions for migration to the newer Cedar stack.

So I figured now was a good time to learn some new skills, deal with a few issues and relaunch PMRetract as something easier to maintain and more portable. Here it is. As all the code is “out there” for viewing, I’ll just add few notes here regarding this latest incarnation.
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