Snowstorm Stella impacted both our numbers and our location, but last night a smaller crew braved the cold weather and messy streets to celebrate Pi Day with pizza and Pi Cake at Ribalta.

We naturally ate a lot of round pies and even a rectangular pie to honor Hippocrates’ squaring the lune.

This year’s Pi Cake came from Empire Cakes for the third year in a row.  It was their Brooklyn Blackout cake with Chocolate frosting, a blue Pi symbol on top and blue circles with red radii around the sides.

Some pictures from last night:

IMG_20170314_224825_430 IMG_20170314_225301_523 IMG_1967 IMG_20170314_201119 IMG_20170314_205344

And all the years’ Pi Cakes:

Highlights from the 2016 New York R Conference

Originally posted on


You might be asking yourself, “How was the 2016 New York R Conference?”

Well, if we had to sum it up in one picture, it would look a lot like this (thank you to Drew Conway for the slide & delivering the battle cry for data science in NYC):


Our 2nd annual, sold-out New York R Conference was back this year on April 8th & 9th at Work-Bench. Co-hosted with our friends at Lander Analytics, this year’s conference was bigger and better than ever, with over 250 attendees, and speakers from Airbnb, AT&T, Columbia University, eBay, Etsy, RStudio, Socure, and Tamr. In case you missed the conference or want to relive the excitement, all of the talks and slides are now live on the R Conference website.

With 30 talks, each 20 minutes long and two forty-minute keynotes, the topics of the presentations were just as diverse as the speakers. Vivian Peng gave an emotional talk on data visualization using non-visual senses and “The Feels.” Bryan Lewis measured the shadows of audience members to demonstrate the pros and cons of projection methods, and Daniel Lee talked about life, love, Stan, and March Madness. But, even with 32 presentations from a diverse selection of speakers, two dominant themes emerged: 1) Community and 2) Writing better code.

Given the amazing caliber of speakers and attendees, community was on everyone’s mind from the start. Drew Conway emoted the past, present, and future of data science in NYC, and spoke to the dangers of tearing down the tent we built. Joe Rickert from Microsoft discussed the R Consortium and how to become involved. Wes McKinney talked about community efforts in improving interoperability between data science languages with the new Feather data frame file format under the Apache Arrow project. Elena Grewal discussed how Airbnb’s data science team made changes to the hiring process to increase the number of female hires, and Andrew Gelman even talked about how your political opinions are shaped by those around you in his talk about Social Penumbras.

Writing better code also proved to be a dominant theme throughout the two day conference. Dan Chen of Lander Analytics talked about implementing tests in R. Similarly, Neal Richardson and Mike Malecki of talked about how they learned to stop munging and love tests, and Ben Lerner discussed how to optimize Python code using profilers and Cython. The perfect intersection of themes came from Bas van Schaik of Semmle who discussed how to use data science to write better code by treating code as data. While everyone had some amazing insights, these were our top five highlights:

JJ Allaire Releases a New Preview of RStudio


JJ Allaire, the second speaker of the conference, got the crowd fired up by announcing new features of RStudio and new packages. Particularly exciting was bookdown for authoring large documents, R Notebooks for interactive Markdown files and shared sessions so multiple people can code together from separate computers.

Andrew Gelman Discusses the Political Impact of the Social Penumbra


As always, Dr. Andrew Gelman wowed the crowd with his breakdown of how political opinions are shaped by those around us. He utilized his trademark visualizations and wit to convey the findings of complex models.

Vivian Peng Helps Kick off the Second Day with a Punch to the Gut


On the morning of the second day of the conference, Vivian Peng gave a heartfelt talk on using data visualization and non-visual senses to drive emotional reaction and shape public opinion on everything from the Syrian civil war to drug resistance statistics.

Ivor Cribben Studies Brain Activity with Time Varying Networks


University of Alberta Professor Ivor Cribben demonstrated his techniques for analyzing fMRI data. His use of network graphs, time series and extremograms brought an academic rigor to the conference.

Elena Grewal Talks About Scaling Data Science at Airbnb


After a jam-packed 2 full days, Elena Grewal helped wind down the conference with a thoughtful introspection on how Airbnb has grown their data science team from 5 to 70 people, with a focus on increasing diversity and eliminating bias in the hiring process.

See the full conference videos & presentations below, and sign up for updates for the 2017 New York R Conference on To get your R fix in the meantime, follow @nyhackr, @Work_Bench, and @rstatsnyc on Twitter, and check out the New York Open Programming Statistical Meetup or one of Work-Bench’s upcoming events!

Last night we celebrated Rounded Pi Day by rounding at the 10,000’s digit to get 3.1416 which nicely works with the date 3/14/16.  This was great after Mega Pi Day worked out so perfectly last year.  And this all built upon previous years’ celebrations.

We ate a large quantity of pizza at Lombardi’s. and for the second year in a row we got the Pi Cake from Empire Cakes with peanut butter and chocolate flavors.  The base was inscribed with historic approximations of Pi:  25/8, 256/81, 339/108, 223/71, 377/120, 3927/1250, 355/113, 62832/20000, 22/7.

Some pictures from the fantastic night:

IMG_20160314_193523 IMG_20160314_203411 IMG_20160314_203443

Previous year’s Pi Cakes:

On April 24th and 25th Lander Analytics and Work-Bench coorganized the (sold-out) inaugural New York R Conference. It was an amazing weekend of nerding out over R and data, with a little Python and Julia mixed in for good measure. People from all across the R community gathered to see rockstars discuss their latest and greatest efforts.

Highlights include:

Bryan Lewis wowing the crowd (there were literally gasps) with rthreejs implemented with htmlwidgets.

Hilary Parker receiving spontaneous applause in the middle of her talk about reproducible research at Etsy for her explainr, catsplainr and mansplainr packages.

James Powell speaking flawless Mandarin in a talk tangentially about Python.

Vivian Peng also receiving spontaneous applause for her discussion of storytelling with data.

Wes McKinney showing love for data.frames in all languages and sporting an awesome R t-shirt.

Dan Chen using Shiny to study Ebola data.

Andrew Gelman blowing away everyone with his keynote about Bayesian methods with particular applications in politics.

Videos of the talks are available at with slides being added frequently.

A big thank you to sponsors RStudio, Revolution Analytics, DataKind, Pearson, Brewla Bars and Twillory.

Next year’s conference is already being planned for April. To inquire about sponsoring or speaking please get in touch.

Pi Cake 2015
This year we celebrated Mega Pi Day with the date (3/14/15) covering the first four digits of Pi. And of course, we unveiled the Pi Cake at 9:26 to get the next three digits.  This year the cake came from Empire Cakes and was peanut butter flavored.  We even had the bakery put as many digits as would fit around the cake.

A large group from the NYC Data Mafia came out and Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours ensured we had the perfect assortment and quantity of pizza.


A look at Pi Cakes from previous years:

Fiore Subway Car

The other night I attended a talk about the history of Brooklyn pizza at the Brooklyn Historical Society by Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours. Toward the end, a woman stated she had a theory that pizza slice prices stay in rough lockstep with New York City subway fares. Of course, this is a well known relationship that even has its own Wikipedia entry, so Scott referred her to a New York Times article from 1995 that mentioned the phenomenon.

However, he wondered if the preponderance of dollar slice shops has dropped the price of a slice below that of the subway and playfully joked that he wished there was a statistician in the audience.

Naturally, that night I set off to calculate the current price of a slice in New York City using listings from MenuPages. I used R’s XML package to pull the menus for over 1,800 places tagged as “Pizza” in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens (there was no data for Staten Island or The Bronx) and find the price of a cheese slice.

After cleaning up the data and doing my best to find prices for just cheese/plain/regular slices I found that the mean price was $2.33 with a standard deviation of $0.52 and a median price of $2.45. The base subway fare is $2.50 but is actually $2.38 after the 5% bonus for putting at least $5 on a MetroCard.

So, even with the proliferation of dollar slice joints, the average slice of pizza ($2.33) lines up pretty nicely with the cost of a subway ride ($2.38).

Taking it a step further, I broke down the price of a slice in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. The vertical lines represented the price of a subway ride with and without the bonus.  We see that the price of a slice in Manhattan is perfectly right there with the subway fare.

The average price of a slice in each borough.  The dots are the means and the error bars are the two standard deviation confidence intervals.  The two vertical lines represent the discounted subway fare and the base far, respectively.

MenuPages even broke down Queens Neighborhoods so we can have a more specific plot. The average price of a slice in each Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods.  The dots are the means and the error bars are the two standard deviation confidence intervals.  The two vertical lines represent the discounted subway fare and the base far, respectively.

The code for downloading the menus and the calculations is after the break.

Continue reading

plot of chunk plot-ggplot

For a d3 bar plot visit

I finally compiled the data from all the pizza polling I’ve been doing at the New York R meetups. The data are available as json at

This is easy enough to plot in R using ggplot2.

pizzaJson <- fromJSON(file = "")
pizza <- ldply(pizzaJson,
##   polla_qid      Answer Votes pollq_id                Question
## 1         2   Excellent     0        2  How was Pizza Mercato?
## 2         2        Good     6        2  How was Pizza Mercato?
## 3         2     Average     4        2  How was Pizza Mercato?
## 4         2        Poor     1        2  How was Pizza Mercato?
## 5         2 Never Again     2        2  How was Pizza Mercato?
## 6         3   Excellent     1        3 How was Maffei's Pizza?
##            Place      Time TotalVotes Percent
## 1  Pizza Mercato 1.344e+09         13  0.0000
## 2  Pizza Mercato 1.344e+09         13  0.4615
## 3  Pizza Mercato 1.344e+09         13  0.3077
## 4  Pizza Mercato 1.344e+09         13  0.0769
## 5  Pizza Mercato 1.344e+09         13  0.1538
## 6 Maffei's Pizza 1.348e+09          7  0.1429
ggplot(pizza, aes(x = Place, y = Percent, group = Answer, color = Answer)) + 
    geom_line() + theme(axis.text.x = element_text(angle = 46, hjust = 1), legend.position = "bottom") + 
    labs(x = "Pizza Place", title = "Pizza Poll Results")

plot of chunk plot-ggplot

But given this is live data that will change as more polls are added I thought it best to use a plot that automatically updates and is interactive. So this gave me my first chance to need rCharts by Ramnath Vaidyanathan as seen at October’s meetup.

pizzaPlot <- nPlot(Percent ~ Place, data = pizza, type = "multiBarChart", group = "Answer")
pizzaPlot$xAxis(axisLabel = "Pizza Place", rotateLabels = -45)
pizzaPlot$yAxis(axisLabel = "Percent")
pizzaPlot$chart(reduceXTicks = FALSE)
pizzaPlot$print("chart1", include_assets = TRUE)

Unfortunately I cannot figure out how to insert this in WordPress so please see the chart at Or see the badly sized one below.

There are still a lot of things I am learning, including how to use a categorical x-axis natively on linecharts and inserting chart titles. I found a workaround for the categorical x-axis by using tickFormat but that is not pretty. I also would like to find a way to quickly switch between a line chart and a bar chart. Fitting more labels onto the x-axis or perhaps adding a scroll bar would be nice too.


Attending this week’s Strata conference it was easy to see quite how prolific the NYC Data Mafia is when it comes to writing.  Some of the found books:

And, of course, my book will be out soon to join them.

The wonderful people at Gilt are having me teach an introductory course on R this Friday.

The class starts with the very basics such as variable types, vectors, data.frames and matrices.  After that we explore munging data with aggregate, plyr and reshape2.  Once the data is prepared we will use ggplot2 to visualize it and then fit models using lm, glm and decision trees.

Most of the material comes from my upcoming book R for Everyone.

Participants are encouraged to bring computers so they can code along with the live examples.  They should also have R and RStudio preinstalled.

plot of chunk map-plot

Given the warnings for today’s winter storm, or lack of panic, I thought it would be a good time to plot the NYC evacuation maps using R. Of course these are already available online, provided by the city, but why not build them in R as well?

I obtained the shapefiles from NYC Open Data on February 28th, so it’s possible they are the new shapefiles redrawn after Hurricane Sandy, but I am not certain.

First we need the appropriate packages which are mostly included in maptools, rgeos and ggplot2.

## Loading required package: maptools 
## Loading required package: foreign 
## Loading required package: sp 
## Loading required package: lattice 
## Checking rgeos availability: TRUE 
## Loading required package: rgeos 
## Loading required package: stringr 
## Loading required package: plyr 
## rgeos: (SVN revision 348) GEOS runtime version: 3.3.5-CAPI-1.7.5 Polygon ## checking: TRUE 
## Loading required package: ggplot2 
require(plyr) require(grid) 
## Loading required package: grid 

Then we read in the shape files, fortify them to turn them into a data.frame for easy plotting then join that back into the original data to get zone information.

# read the shape file evac <- readShapeSpatial("../data/Evac_Zones_with_Additions_20121026/Evac_Zones_with_Additions_20121026.shp") # necessary for some of our work gpclibPermit() 
## [1] TRUE 
# create ID variable evac@data$id <- rownames(evac@data) # fortify the shape file evac.points <- fortify(evac, region = "id") # join in info from data evac.df <- join(evac.points, evac@data, by = "id") # modified data head(evac.df) 
## long lat order hole piece group id Neighbrhd CAT1NNE Shape_Leng ## 1 1003293 239790 1 FALSE 1 0.1 0 <NA> A 9121 ## 2 1003313 239782 2 FALSE 1 0.1 0 <NA> A 9121 ## 3 1003312 239797 3 FALSE 1 0.1 0 <NA> A 9121 ## 4 1003301 240165 4 FALSE 1 0.1 0 <NA> A 9121 ## 5 1003337 240528 5 FALSE 1 0.1 0 <NA> A 9121 ## 6 1003340 240550 6 FALSE 1 0.1 0 <NA> A 9121 ## Shape_Area ## 1 2019091 ## 2 2019091 ## 3 2019091 ## 4 2019091 ## 5 2019091 ## 6 2019091 
# as opposed to the original data head(evac@data) 
## Neighbrhd CAT1NNE Shape_Leng Shape_Area id ## 0 <NA> A 9121 2019091 0 ## 1 <NA> A 12250 54770 1 ## 2 <NA> A 10013 1041886 2 ## 3 <NA> B 11985 3462377 3 ## 4 <NA> B 5816 1515518 4 ## 5 <NA> B 5286 986675 5 

Now, I’ve begun working on a package to make this step, and later ones easier, but it’s far from being close to ready for production. For those who want to see it (and contribute) it is available at The idea is to make mapping (including faceting!) doable with one or two lines of code.

Now it is time for the plot.

ggplot(evac.df, aes(x = long, y = lat)) + geom_path(aes(group = group)) + geom_polygon(aes(group = group, fill = CAT1NNE)) + list(theme(panel.grid.major = element_blank(), panel.grid.minor = element_blank(), axis.text.x = element_blank(), axis.text.y = element_blank(), axis.ticks = element_blank(), panel.background = element_blank())) + coord_equal() + labs(x = NULL, y = NULL) + theme(plot.margin = unit(c(1, 1, 1, 1), "mm")) + scale_fill_discrete("Zone") 

plot of chunk map-plot

There are clearly a number of things I would change about this plot including filling in the non-evacuation regions, connecting borders and smaller margins. Perhaps some of this can be accomplished by combining this information with another shapefile of the city, but that is beyond today’s code.