Members Over Time

Ten years ago Josh Reich held the first ever New York Open Statistical Programming Meetup at Union Square Ventures. Back then it was called the New York R Meetup and 21 people RSVP’d. I discovered the Meetup three months later thanks to Andrew Gelman’s blog and by then the RSVP count had doubled and Drew Conway became a co-organizer. The experience was so much fun and I learned a lot of good stuff. I remember learning about the head() and tail() functions, wishing I learned them in grad school.

Early Meetup
The crowd at an early meetup fit in a small room at Columbia with room to spare.

I started attending regularly and pretty soon Drew decided to serve pizza which later led to years of pizza data. He also designed a logo for the NYC Data Mafia, which made for a great t-shirt that we still sell. One time, a number of us were talking and realized we were all answering each other’s questions on StackOverflow. Our community was growing both in person and online. I fell in love with the group because it was a great place to learn and hang out with smart, welcoming people.

During the first two years our hosts included NYU, Columbia, AOL and a handful of others. At this time there were about 1,800 members with Drew as the sole organizer who was ready to focus on other parts of his life, so he asked Wes McKinney and me to take over as organizers. This was after Drew renamed the group the Open Statistical Programming Meetup as to include other open source languages like Python, Julia, Go and SQL. I was incredibly thrilled to organize this group which meant so much to me.

Over the next eight years our numbers swelled to almost 11,000 with members and speakers coming from all over the world. We have held the Meetup at places such as eBay, AT&T, iHeartRadio, Work-Bench, Knewton, Twitter, New York Presbyterian, Rise New York and Google. The most popular event welcomed nearly 400 people when Hadley Wickham spoke in September of 2015, the only time the Meetup met on a Friday.

Hadley, Becky and Jared
The Meetup’s most popular night featured Hadley Wickham and coincided with my fifth date with Rebecca Martin, my future wife.

That night was also my fifth date with Rebecca Martin. We originally met during Michael Kane’s talk about PubMed then reconnected about a year later. We went on to get married and have a kid together. The New York Times used the nerdiest closing line ever for our wedding announcement: “The couple met in New York in May 2014 at a meet-up about statistical programming organized by the groom.”

Baby Hex Stickers
Rebecca and I recently added a new R programmer to our family and celebrated with baby-themed hex sticker shirts.

The Meetup has grown not only in numbers but in reach as well. There’s a website hosting all of the presentations, we livestream the Meetups and people from all over the world chat in our Slack team. Our live events include an ongoing workshop series and conferences in New York and Washington DC, which just hit their fifth anniversary, all for building and supporting the community and open source software.

NY R Conference
The crowd at the New York R Conference.

These past ten years have been a collection of amazing experiences for me where I got to learn from some of the world’s best experts and develop lasting relationships with great people. This community means so much to me and I very much look forward to its continued growth over the next decade.

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Jared Lander is the Chief Data Scientist of Lander Analytics a New York data science firm, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, Organizer of the New York Open Statistical Programming meetup and the New York and Washington DC R Conferences and author of R for Everyone.

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