Hosting Data Apps: 6 Months and 40 Posts Later

Peter Solymos
Peter Solymos
Hosting Data Apps: 6 Months and 40 Posts Later
Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST / Unsplash
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

The Hosting Data Apps website was launched 6 months ago. Let's see how posts were received and what to expect next.

A consulting engagement in early 2021 made me realize that there is a demand for Shiny hosting-related technical content. People are eager to dip their toes into self-hosting, but finding information is not easy.

Resources are narrowly focused, listing only a fraction of the available options. The rest of the information is scattered over the Internet. This situation does not make it easy for Shiny app developers to make an informed choice about their hosting options.

Six months ago I set out to change this by posting tutorials and reviews about how to host data apps. Since then, the website has grown in every respect. Now there are 40 articles about various Shiny hosting topics.

In this post, I review what has happened over the last half-year, what kind of response I have received from the wider R/Shiny community, and where the website is heading next.

Where it all began

These are from the first two pages of a notebook I started in March 2020. I wrote down a list of posts and started to sketch out their content:

I wanted the posts to form a coherent whole by building on each other but not necessarily in a linear fashion. The sketch from the second page later grew into two reviews:

Hosting Patterns for Shiny Apps
There are four types of hosting patterns for Shiny apps: local, dockerized, Shiny Server, and Shiny Server inside Docker. Here is what you need to know if you want to self-host Shiny apps.
The Taxonomy of Shiny Hosting Options
Combine the 4 hosting patterns with 3 deployment modes and there you have the 8 options to host Shiny apps.

The notes eventually culminated into this infographic which captured the kinds of topics that were published. Clicking on the Archive or the Tags link in the top navigation will give you an idea of what the 40 posts were about:

This image shows how the different Shiny hosting options can be organized based on hosting patterns and deployment modes. You can probably see a theme emerging here.

Focus on Docker

Yes, you guessed it right. Half of the options include Docker. I put an emphasis on Docker for a reason. Docker is becoming a household name, its ubiquity transcends different domains, and it levels the playing field when it comes to app deployment.

Once you learn how to "dockerize" a Shiny app, you can deploy the same app image to virtual machines and various hosted platforms (PaaS) without too much trouble. This freedom in my view worth the time investment of learning more about Docker. For this effect, 25 out of the 40 posts are tagged with Docker.

This focus on Docker seemed to resonate with readers. Over the past 6 months, the website had roughly 8,400 visitors and 14,600 views. Readers spent on average 2 minutes on the site and 25% stayed to read multiple articles. Looking at the top-visited pages, you can see that almost all the titles are related to Docker:

These numbers are based on data collected by Fathom Analytics, the privacy-focused website analytics service that I use on the pages of the website. The site had visitors from 133 countries. Most visitors were located in the US, Germany, UK, France, Canada, Brazil, Poland, Spain, Australia, Switzerland.

The number of members who signed up for the weekly updates and the members-only content has increased steadily with a really high email open rate. This level of interest is truly humbling and it is the ultimate motivation for me to keep going. Thank you 🙏!

What is coming next

I have big plans that you will see unfolding in the coming months. With this many posts, it is getting harder to find what you are looking for. There are some ways how this can be helped. For example, with reviews that provide an entry point for various groups of users.

I also have a list of smaller tutorial-style articles planned. If you have suggestions for topics or have any burning needs, please share those in the form below:

In the meantime, if you don't know which hosting option is best for you, start with the reviews. If you have already decided and are looking for a how-to article for a particular hosting option, just use the search or find the right tag, and you are off to the races.

Thank you for your continued interest and support! Please consider signing up if you are not yet a member, and share the website with your friends if you think the content can benefit them.

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