2 min read

Github for Clinical/Statistical Programmers

PhUSE-FDA Working Group 5 (Development of Standard Scripts for Analysis and Programming) just adopted Google Code as collaborative programming platform. Google Code is one of the most popular and respected open source software hosting sites in the world and it is definitely a good choice for PhUSE-FDA WG5.

But after viewing one of WG5’s working reports, Sharing Standard Statistical Scripts and getting to know why they finally chose Google Code (rather than Github which was also tested by WG5 members), I think it’s necessary to clarify some misunderstanding against Github where I’m also an occasional user.

As stated in Slide 11 in the report mentioned before, Github,

Too complicated an interface
Too much overhead for simple development
Too much training and education needed

designed for classic programming languages like C and Java (not for things like R and SAS)

For the first point regarding interface, it seems only Git command line tested, and it may be too complicated to “classic statistical programming users”. Actually, Github offers a great GUI tool, for example, GitHub for Windows to help users visually clone repositories, commit changes and other management tasks without typing Git commands:


It’s also worthy to mention that with GitHub for Windows, users don’t need to install any separated version control software like Git, CVS or SVN. GitHub for Windows already includes a fully functional version of msysGit. It just makes users’ life much simpler. To use Google Code, you must install and configure something like TortoiseSVN.

The second, is Github suitable for “things like R and SAS”? It’s true that all hosts including Github are dominated by “classic programming languages like C and Java”. For SAS, SAS programmers as a whole are just not active in  any social coding activities, but for R, actually it is one of the mostly used languages in Github.

Google Code is good and a “Google Code vs Github” question is just mostly subjective. It seems to me the pickup of Google Code by WG5 rather than Github was based on incomplete information. I personally prefer Github and there are also some good reasons:

  • Use the GUI tool, GitHub for Windows to maintain a minimum Git/SVN/CVS setup.
  • Github supplies much richer statistics reports, including charts.
  • Github is more social oriented which makes it cool in this Web2.0 world.