Highlights from the 2016 New York R Conference

Originally posted on www.work-bench.com.

image

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):

image

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 Crunch.io 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

image

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

image

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

image

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

image

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

image

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 www.rstats.nyc. 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:


I R NY
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:


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


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


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


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


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


DanChen
Dan Chen using Shiny to study Ebola data.


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

Videos of the talks are available at http://www.rstats.nyc/#speakers 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:

IMG_1209

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.

A new study, reported in the New York Times, tracked population movements in post-earthquake Haiti using cell phone data.  The article grabbed my attention because one of the authors, Richard Garfield (whom I have done numerous projects with and who has his own Wikipedia entry!), had told me about this very study just a few months ago.

Over dinner in New York’s Little India he explained how the largest cell phone company in Haiti provided him with anonymized cell tower records.  As many people are aware, cell phones–even those without GPS–report their locations back to cell towers at regular intervals.  By tracking the daily position of the phones before and after the earthquake they were able to determine that 20% of Port-Au-Prince’s population had left the capitol within 19 days of the disaster.

They used plenty of solid math in the analysis and amazingly did it all without resorting to spatial statistics.  They have some nice map-based visualizations but I’ve been meaning to get the data from Dr. Garfield so I can attempt something similar to the amazing work done by the NYC Data Mafia on the WikiLeaks Afghanistan data.  Though I don’t promise anything nearly as good.

It is also worth noting that they did this at a fraction of the cost and time of an extensive UN survey.  That survey only had about 2,500 respondents whereas the cell phone project incorporated around 1.9 million people without them spending valuable time with an interviewer.

Pi Day Celebrants

As mentioned earlier, yesterday was Pi Day so a bunch of statisticians and other such nerds celebrated at the new(ish) Artichoke Basille near the High Line.  We had three pies:  the signature Artichoke, the Margherita and the Anchovy, which was delicious but only some of us ate.  And of course we had our custom cake from Chrissie Cook.

The photos were taken by John.

Pi Cake 2011
NYC Data Mafia

NYC Data Mafia

Pi CakeHappy Pi Day everybody!  I’ll be out celebrating with the rest of the NYC Data Mafia eating pizza and devouring the above Pi Cake, custom baked by Chrissie Cook.

Today is also Albert Einstein’s birthday so there are plenty of reasons to have fun.

The cake below was my first ever Pi Cake in what is sure to become an annual tradition.

Pi Cake 2009

Update: Drew Conway does far more justice to our fair, irrational, transcendental number.

Update 2:  Engadget posted this awesome video of “What Pi Sounds Like.