#rstatsnyc 2019

The fifth annual (and second for me) Rstats NYC conference happened on May 10th and 11th. You can see all the action on Twitter under the #rstatsnyc tag. Here are my key takeaways.

Data Science Education at Amplify

Ludmila Janda, a member of my team, presented on the work she is doing on a new series of computer science lessons. Alongside a team of curriculum developers, designers, engineers, and project managers, she has been the consulting subject matter expert for a unit about data analysis. They have been adapting the Scratch block programming system to handle data manipulating and graphing. She presented the design process she has gone through with the team to bring the tidy data and grammar of graphics approaches into the Scratch system. I think we’ve taken David Robinson’s “teach the tidyverse first” advice to the extreme! If the project survives the piloting phase, it has the potential to introduce these concepts to millions of students.

Crossing the Valley of Heartbreak

The image below is a slide from Noam Ross’s debut rollout of the redoc package. Noam was describing the effort of working in two worlds at once: program outputs that are edited by hand. Ideally our programs would generate awesome editable docs, and those edits could flow back to our programs. The fact that this doesn’t happen leads to much heartbreak.

I think this image could serve as the banner for all my favorite talks at the conference. Our team of data scientists at Amplify is fairly small and scrappy, and I’d say we’re all at our best when we’re generalists—working across all areas of the company within each person’s product group. Every stakeholder brings their own challenges and limitations. Business and product can’t program, engineering doesn’t understand our data analysis stack, data engineering doesn’t have all the business context. Each of these forays into a different functional team is a crossing of the valley of heartbreak.

At the conference there were a few talks that were, in a way, about building bridges across this valley of heartbreak.

RLadies representation

The majority of speakers were women, and the #rladiesnyc group played a large role in helping that happen. This is yet another example of the way that R users are leading the charge on diversity and inclusion in the tech world. I couldn’t be happier to support and be a part of such a community.

Lightning round of other random thoughts: Jared Lander is an excellent host; the food was delicious and very New York; the venue was too small but here’s hoping they’re able to secure an bigger venue next year without increasing the registration fee; I really really enjoyed the single-track format. What an excellent conference.

— Samuel