2018 New York R Conference

The 2018 New York R Conference was the biggest and best yet. This is both in terms of the crowd size and content.  The speakers included some of the R community’s best such as Hadley Wickham, David Robinson, Jennifer Hill, Max Kuhn, Andreas Mueller (ok, a little Python), Evelina Gabasova, Sean Taylor and Jeff Ryan. I am proud to say we were almost at gender parity for both attendees and speakers which is amazing for a tech conference. Brooke Watson even excitedly noted that we had a line for the women’s room.

Particularly gratifying for me was seeing so many of my students speak. Eurry Kim, Dan Chen and Alex Boghosian all gave excellent talks.

Some highlights that stuck out to me are:

Emily Robinson Shows There is More to the Tidyverse than Hadley

The Expanded Tidyverse

Emily Robinson, otherwise known as ERob, gave an excellent talk showing how the Tidyverse is so much more than just Hadley and that there are many people inspired by him to contribute in the Tidy way.

Sean Taylor Forecasted the Future with Prophet

Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor, former New Yorker and unrepentant Eagles fan, demonstrate his powerful R and Python, package Prophet, for forecasting time series data. Facebook open sourced his work so we could all benefit.

OG Data Mafia Founder Drew Conway Popped In

Giving away a data mafia shirt

A lucky fan got an autographed NYC Data Mafia t-shirt from Drew Conway.

David Smith Playing Minecraft Through R

Minecraft in R

David Smith played Minecraft through R, including building objects and moving through the world.

Evelina Gabasova Used Social Network Analysis to Break Down Star Wars

It's a Trap

Evelina Gabasova wowed the audience with her fun talk and detailed analysis of character interaction in Star Wars.

Dusty Turner Represented West Point

Dusty Talking Army Sports

Dusty Turner taught us how the United States Military Academy uses R for both student instruction and evaluation.

Hadley Wickham Delved into the Nitty Gritty of R

Hadley shows off objects are stored in memory

Hadley Wickham showed us how to get into the internals of R and figure out how to examine objects from a memory perspective.

Jennifer Hill Demonstrated Awesome Machine Learning Techniques for Causal Inference

Jennifer Hill Explaining Causal Inference

Following her sold-out meetup appearance in March, Jennifer continued to push the boundaries of causal inference.

I Made the Authors of Caret and scitkit-learn Show That R and Python Can Get Along

Caret and Scikit-learn in one place

While both Andreas and Max gave great individual talks, I made them pose for this peace-making photo.

David Robinson Got the Upper Hand in a Sibling Twitter Duel

DRob Teaching

Given only about 30 minutes notice, David put together an entire slideshow on how to livetweet and how to compete with your sibling.

In the End Emily Robinson Beat Her Brother For Best Tweeting

Emily won the prize for best tweeting

Despite David’s headstart Emily was the best tweeter (as calculated by Max Kuhn and Mara Averick) so she won the WASD Code mechanical keyboard with MX Cherry Clear switches.

Silent Auction of Data Paintings

The Robinson Family bought the Pizza Data painting for me

Thomas Levine made paintings of famous datasets that we auctioned off with the proceeds supporting the R Foundation and the Free Software Foundation. The Robinson family very graciously chipped in and bought the painting of the Pizza Poll data for me! I’m still floored by this and in love with the painting.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches

In addition to bagels and eggs sandwiches from Murray’s Bagels, Israeli food from Hummus and Pita Company, avocado toast and coffee from Bluestone Lane Coffee and pizza from Fiore’s, we also had ice creams sandwiches from World’s Best Cookie Dough.

All the Material

To catch up on all the presentations check out Mara Averick’s excellent notes:

Or check out all of Brooke’s drawings, collated by Dan Chen.

Videos and Upcoming Events

The videos will be posted at rstats.nyc in a few weeks for all to enjoy.

There are a number of other events coming up including:

We are already beginning plans for next year’s conference and are working on bringing it to DC as well! Stay tuned for all that and more.

Dan loves his mug

Pi Day 2018

It’s Pi Day, when we celebrate all things round by eating pizza and Pi Cake. This is the ninth year we have celebrated Pi Day and the fourth year in a row we got the Pi Cake from Empire Cakes. This year’s pizza place was Arturo’s on Thompson and Houston. Arturo’s is a great example of old New York pizza with an oven dating to the 1920’s.

In addition to the traditional Pi Symbol atop the cake we added Albert Einstein since today is also his birthday. It seems fitting that we lost one of the world’s other greatest physicists, Stephen Hawking on the same math holiday.

Pi Cake 2018

The crew has grown quite large from the five of us who celebrated our first pie day almost a decade ago.

Some more pictures from this fun night.

And now Pi Cake throughout the years:

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 www.work-bench.com.


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 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


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 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:


Earlier this week, my company, Lander Analytics, organized our first public Bayesian short course, taught by Andrew Gelman, Bob Carpenter and Daniel Lee.  Needless to say the class sold out very quickly and left a long wait list.  So we will schedule another public training (exactly when tbd) and will make the same course available for private training.

This was the first time we utilized three instructors (as opposed to a main instructor and assistants which we often use for large classes) and it led to an amazing dynamic.  Bob laid the theoretical foundation for Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC), explaining both with math and geometry, and discussed the computational considerations of performing simulation draws.  Daniel led the participants through hands-on examples with Stan, covering everything from how to describe a model, to efficient computation to debugging.  Andrew gave his usual, crowd dazzling performance use previous work as case studies of when and how to use Bayesian methods.

It was an intensive three days of training with an incredible amount of information.  Everyone walked away knowing a lot more about Bayes, MCMC and Stan and eager to try out their new skills, and an autographed copy of Andrew’s book, BDA3.

A big help, as always was Daniel Chen who put in so much effort making the class run smoothly from securing the space, physically moving furniture and running all the technology.

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 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:

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.

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