New Python project-sharing platforms help data scientists collaborate

Jesse Casman
Python

© Shutterstock / Janos Timea

Today, commercial platforms for Python developers are similar to the platforms for JavaScript developers. In this article, Jesse Casman explains why companies like IBM are bringing Python collaboration tools into the enterprise.

I love Python. It’s the number one language used to teach introductory programming courses in college. In 2014, it was used in eight of the top CS departments and 27 of the top 39 CS0 and CS1 introductory courses.

Despite the enormous popularity of Python and near ubiquity in math and data projects, Python has traditionally trailed JavaScript for collaboration.

As tribal, social creatures, humans love to work together. This is extremely apparent in teenagers and young adults, who spend enormous amounts of time sharing information and pictures with their friends.

Let them share

Python developers share finished projects with pip. It’s similar to npm in JavaScript and both are a great way for developers to easily use the modules or libraries written by the “coding tribe”.  But what about editing a finished project in real-time? JavaScript developers can often copy and paste an entire working website or code snippet. In addition, JavaScript has a wide range of amazing collaboration tools like Glitch, a project developed by one of the founders of Stack Overflow.

Fortunately, Python developers can use hosted tools similar to the collaboration tools that JavaScript developers use. Let’s take a look at a well-known system from IBM based on the super-popular and useful Jupyter Notebook. Old-timers from the Python community may remember that the Python Jupyter Notebook used to be called iPython. Well, the technology has really evolved since the iPython days.

Comparing commercial code collaboration platforms for Python and JavaScript

To understand the potential for a Python-sharing platform based on the Jupyter Notebook, let’s compare the IBM Data Science Experience Platform based on Jupyter Python Notebooks with Glitch for sharing JavaScript.

Glitch is social coding for the masses. It is a completely different approach to GitHub and is all about sharing working JavaScript web projects in real-time.

Glitch approach to JavaScript social coding

Tools like Glitch allow you to immediately copy and edit someone’s working project.

Fortunately, commercial tools for Python are also being developed. For example, the IBM Data Science Experience presents a similar view to Python coders.

The IBM Data Science Experience makes it easy to work with community code.

New projects are created and shared through a nice web interface.

The interface that IBM offers Python developers is cleaner than the interface on Glitch for JavaScript (shown below).

Using the IBM Data Science Experience, you can also create a brand new notebook through a web interface.

Seeing and experiencing projects

The magic of JavaScript for developers has always been that you can surf the web, stumble upon an amazing project, then immediately open up developer tools in a browser and see the code. In a few seconds, you could see the project, see the code, then see your change.

The Jupyter Notebook offers the same sense of discovery and flexibility in editing another person’s project interactively.

Conclusion

New commercial platforms for Python bring fun, discovery, and collaboration to Python. Historically, JavaScript developers have enjoyed more collaboration platforms. Today, commercial platforms for Python developers are similar to the platforms for JavaScript developers. Due to the wide popularity of Python among data science developers, companies like IBM are bringing Python collaboration tools into the enterprise with strong offerings like the IBM Data Science Experience.

Of course, the best way to find the right tool for you is to try it out. Both Glitch and IBM Data Science Experience have free trials. Create an account online and see for yourself how easy it is to collaborate.

Author

Jesse Casman

Jesse Casman is President of developer relations firm Oppkey, based in San Francisco, building online developer communities. Open source loving, ice hockey playing, New Mexican, Japanophile. 


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