Conference Blogging INFORMS Analytics 2017

Harlan Harris
Apr 10, 2017 · 3 min read

A particularly good way to get a little more out of professional conferences is to blog about your experiences, I think. It makes you focus your thoughts on things like “what’s the big take-away here,” and “what should I be asking people in the hallways?” Rather than just summarizing what you saw, or making snarky Twitter comments (also worth doing!), a great conference blog post is synthesis — combining insights from multiple presentations and conversations into a coherent new whole that helps clarify ideas.

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I recently returned from the INFORMS Analytics 2017 conference. INFORMS is the professional society of Operations Research — if the field is not familiar to you, think about a 1950s-style combination of industrial engineering, business, and theoretical computer science, focused on efficiency in big industrial and government problems. They have a big academic conference, but the Analytics conference is focused on business and practice, not theory. I like a bunch of aspects of OR’s culture, as a neighbor to data science, so I’ve attended a few times. In 2014 and this year, I was an “official” conference blogger, meaning that my posts were on the official conference web site, and my name badge had a fancy “Blogger” ribbon on it. I’m not sure if I managed to synthesize any big new ideas this year, but it was a fun, valuable, and recommended experience.

Here are links and pull quotes from the four posts I wrote. Click through to read them in their entirely, if you’d like!


…the value of OR’s participation in the broader analytics community is, I would argue, to bring decades of maturity to the table, and help focus people and organizations on the bottom line — results that matter.


The Megabucks machine has odds of 1 in 49,836,032, and you could win $10 million. Clearly, the expected value is garbage, but still, you could win enough to ditch this conference and buy a (small) island. So that’s what I recommend you do. If you do win, you’re taking me to dinner at Nobu.


This is a guest post by Michael Zargham, who gave a sadly under-attended but content-rich talk this morning. I thought his framing was spot on around how to set up an analytics group to repeatedly and efficiently explore potential new “well-defined, solvable, impactful” problems, determine what should be built, do the research to actually get the problem solved, and deliver it in the best possible way to get the desired results.


Here’s the situation you don’t want to be in: I tell you to bring an umbrella a couple of days in a row. But it didn’t rain. You start to question your trust in me. You say, “hey, why’d you tell me to bring an umbrella?” I shrug. You lose your trust in me and stop listening to my guidance.

And finally, since the conference was in Las Vegas, here’s a photo of my new socks:

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