Sixth Annual “New York” R Conference Brings Together R Community, Even Remotely!
Updated: Aug 25
Written by Jared P. Lander, Lander Analytics Chief Data Scientist. Originally posted on Jared's Blog August 24, 2020.
The sixth annual (and first virtual) “New York” R Conference took place August 5-6 & 12-15. Almost 300 attendees, and 30 speakers, plus a stand-up comedian and a whiskey masterclass leader, gathered remotely to explore, share, and inspire ideas.
We had many awesome speakers, many new and some, returning: Dr. Rob J Hyndman (Monash University), Dr. Adam Obeng (Facebook), Ludmila Janda (Amplify), Emily Robinson (Warby Parker), Daniel Chen (Virginia Tech, Lander Analytics), Dr. Jon Krohn (untapt), Dr. Andrew Gelman (Columbia University), David Smith (Microsoft), Laura Gabrysiak (Visa), Brooke Watson (ACLU), Dr. Sebastian Teran Hidalgo (Vroom), Catherine Zhou (Codecademy), Dr. Jacqueline Nolis (Brightloom), Sonia Ang (Microsoft), Emily Dodwell (AT&T Labs Research), Jonah Gabry (Columbia University, Stan Development Team), Wes McKinney and Dr. Neal Richardson (Ursa Labs), Dr. Thomas Mock (RStudio), Dr. David Robinson, (Heap), Dr. Max Kuhn (RStudio), Dr. Erin LeDell (H2O.ai), Monica Thieu (Columbia University), Camelia Hssaine (Codecademy), and myself and, coming soon, a bonus talk by Heather Nolis (T-Mobile) which will be shared on YouTube as soon as our team is done editing them, along with all the other talks.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the conference:
Andrew Gelman Gave Another 40-Minute Talk (no slides, as always)
Our favorite quotes from Andrew Gelman’s talk, Truly Open Science: From Design and Data Collection to Analysis and Decision Making, which had no slides, as usual:
"Everyone training in statistics becomes a teacher."
"The most important thing you should take away — put multiple graphs on a page."
"Honesty and transparency are not enough."
"Bad science doesn't make someone a bad person."
Laura Gabrysiak Shows Us We Are Driven By Experience, and Not Brand Loyalty...Hope You Folks Had a Good Experience!
Laura’s talk on re-inventing customer engagement with machine learning went through several interesting use cases from her time at Visa. In addition to being a data scientist, she is an active community organizer and the co-founder of R-Ladies Miami.
Adam Obeng Delivered a Talk on Adaptive Experimentation
One of my former students at Columbia University, Adam Obeng, gave a great presentation on adaptive experimentation. We learned that adaptive experimentation is three things: the name of (1) a family of techniques, (2) Adam's team at Facebook, and (3) an open source package produced by said team. He went through the applications, which are hyper-parameter optimization for ML, experimentation with multiple continuous treatments, and physical experiments or manufacturing.
Dr. Jacqueline Nolis Invited Us to Crash Her Viral Website, Tweet Mashup
Jacqueline asked the crowd to crash her viral website, Tweet Mashup, and gave a great talk on her experience building it back in 2016. Her website lets you combine the tweets of two different people. After spending a year making it in .NET, when she launched the site it became an immediate sensation. Years later, she was getting more and more frustrated maintaining the F# code and decided to see if I could recreate it in Shiny. Doing so would require having Shiny integrate with the Twitter API in ways that hadn’t been done by anyone before, and pushing the Twitter API beyond normal use cases.
Attendees Participated in Two Virtual Happy Hours Packed with Fun
At the Friday Happy Hour, we had a mathematical stand-up comedian for the first time in R Conference history. Comic and math major Rachel Lander (no relationship to me!) entertained us with awesome math and stats jokes.
Following the stand up, we had a Whiskey Master Class with our Vibe Sponsor Westland Distillery, and another one on Saturday with Bruichladdich Distillery (hard to pronounce and easy to drink). Attendees and speakers learned and drank together, whether it be their whiskey, matcha, soda or water.
All Proceeds from the A(R)T Auction went to the R Foundation Again
A newer tradition, the A(R)T Auction, took place again! We featured pieces by artists in the R Community, and all proceeds were donated to the R Foundation. The highest-selling piece at auction was Street Cred (2020) by Vivian Peng (Lander Analytics and Los Angeles Mayor's Office, Innovation Team). The second highest was a piece by Jacqueline Nolis (Brightloom, and Build a Career in Data Science co-author), R Conference speaker, Designed by Allison Horst (artist in residence at RStudio).
The R-Ladies Group Photo Happened, Even Remotely!
As per tradition, we took an R-Ladies group photo, but, for the first time, remotely—as a screenshot! We would like to note that many more R-Ladies were present in the chat, but just chose not to share video.
Jon Harmon, Edna Mwenda, and Jessica Streeter win Raspberri Pis, Bluetooth Headphones, and Tenkeyless Keyboards for Most Active Tweeting During the Conference
This year’s Twitter Contest, in Malorie’s words, was a “ruthless but noble war.” You can see the NYR 2020 Dashboard here. A custom started at DCR 2018 by our Twitter scorekeeper Malorie Hughes (@data_all_day) has returned every year by popular demand, and now she’s stuck with it forever! Congratulations to our winners!
50+ Conference Attendees Participated in Pre-Conference Workshops Before
For the first time ever, workshops took place over the course of several days to promote work-life balance, and to give attendees the chance to take more than one course. We ran the following seven workshops:
Machine Learning in R with Max Kuhn
Machine learning in Python with scikit-learn with Andreas Mueller
Data Visualization with Shiny Workshop with Vivian Peng
Geospatial Statistics and Mapping in R with Kaz Sakamoto
Git for Data Science with Daniel Chen
Exploring Data with the Tidyverse with David Robinson
Web Scraping with Selenium with Amanda Dobbyn
Recreating the In-Person Experience
We recreated as much of the in-person experience as possible with attendee networking sessions, speaker walk-on songs and fun facts, abundant prizes and giveaways, the Twitter contest, an art auction, and happy hours. In addition to all of this, we mailed conference programs, hex stickers, and other swag to each attendee (in the U.S.), along with discount codes from our Vibe Sponsors, MatchaBar, Westland Distillery and Bruichladdich Distillery.
Thank you, Lander Analytics Team!
Even though it was virtual, there was a lot of work that went into the conference, and I want to thank my amazing team at Lander Analytics along with our producer, Bill Prickett, for making it all come together.