SF Data Science — 10K Members, Gratitude, Highlights & The New Year

The day before Thanksgiving, the SF Data Science Meetup cracked the 10K mark at 10,006 members. As I write this post, we’re at 10,164. New people are joining our community every day.

This blog post is NOT about lessons learned or best practices in building a technical community (stay tuned friends, these posts are on the way)… this post is about gratitude to the data community, a glimpse at 2017 and reflection/highlights from the past year.

In this post, I will:

  • Thank DS members and contributors
  • Introduce a new volunteer organizer, go over our community values, give a glimpse into 2017 and provide ways for you to get involved in the new year
  • Recap Meetup highlights from 2016 
    (there are some some great videos of past talks below…)
*Note: if you’re a member of the SF Data Science Meetup, please shoot me a message or Tweet with feedback to help the volunteer organizers iterate and improve the Meetup — as always, your feedback matters.

Thank You

Over the past 18 months, I’ve received hundreds of personal “thank you” emails and direct messages (DMs) from Meetup members and from third party organizations. They usually look something like this:

  • “Thanks for organizing {nameOfMeetup}, I learned a ton.”
  • “Thanks again, I met some really smart people.”
  • “I can’t believe I got to meet {speakerName}! Thank youuuuu!!”
  • “Thanks for including us veterans.”
  • “Thanks for the the perks and discount codes. I wouldn’t have known about {conferenceName} or {bookName} if it wasn’t for your newsletter.”
  • “Thanks for working to foster diversity/inclusion and for sharing your content with us.”
  • “Thanks for the free food :P”

Friends, you have it backwards. The thanks is owed to YOU.

Our community is growing fast (and will keep growing) because of YOU. Without your active participation… our community would lack meaning and would not be the special data community it is today. We’ve built this community TOGETHER. So many people from the community have pitched in to help.

I’ve met many incredible people in the data community; I’m grateful for the new friendships and for all that we have learned together.

Thank you SF Data Science Meetup Members, thank you fellow organizers, thank you speakers/instructors, thank you data community — We’re all very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn and grow together. #gratitude

*Note: If you’re reading this post in NYC, Austin, or somewhere else… chances are good that there’s a data community in your backyard; go to Learning Data Science to find a data community near you.

Updates, Values, & How to Get Involved in 2017

Hello Andrew :)

Meet the newest member of the SF Data Science volunteer organizing team — Andrew Fitch! Please welcome Andrew with a Tweet (let’s blow up his inbox).

Recently, Andrew organized the hit half-day workshop, “An Intro to ML (using Scikit-learn),” with the CrowdFlower team.

Andrew, myself and the other volunteer organizers are planning DS Meetups for 2017 and we need your feedback — please send us a message or Tweet about what you want to learn in 2017.

Recapping Our Community Values:

  • Content … it’s still King  Brian Clark (Founder of Copyblogger) and Jay Baer have different communication styles, but they share a core philosophy; both believe content should be useful or entertaining (ideally both). SF Data Science Meetup content ranges in complexity (beginner to advanced, we always post pre-reqs) but the organizing team always strives for quality content that is both useful (i.e. educational) and entertaining.
  • Collaboration— the SF DS Meetup works with and celebrates other organizers/Meetups, non-profits, companies, etc. in the the data community. Our community is stronger together.
  • Communicating with Compassion — if you’re brilliant, RESPECT — maybe you should give a talk ;) Remember, the members of our data community have different backgrounds, varying levels of knowledge and unique specializations. Please treat each other with respect, kindness and foster an inclusive community.
  • Helping Others — during Meetup labs and hands on exercises, we recommend the practice of pair programming or of helping others if you finish an exercise early. By helping others, you are helping our community learn faster and level up together. In the words of DJ Patil: “data science is a team sport.”
  • Participation (your voice matters)— I’ll say it again, this community is great because of you. Your thoughts matter. Help improve the data science Meetup; shoot us a message or Tweet with your feedback.

SF Data Science in 2017 — Get Involved

“To Infinity and Beyond!” — Buzz Lightyear (Space Ranger, Data Scientist)

For 2017, we’re planning excellent data science content (educational and entertaining). We aim to do between 1 and 3 educational data science Meetups each month.
Are you excited? I sure am :)

We need your help in 2017. Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Speak at the Meetup
  • Grow our community — invite friends to join, share on social media.
  • Sponsor (food and beverage, video recording, video editing, etc.)
  • Volunteer as a co-organizer.

To get involved in 2017, shoot us a message or a Tweet with ways you’d like to help the data community in the new year.

Meetup Highlights:

We’ve had so many amazing Meetups over the past couple of years…157 to be exact ;) It would be a little crazy to list them all; the Meetups below are top of mind highlights from the past year. #nostalgia

*Note: SF Data Science Members, share your favorite Meetup in the comments!

Hackathon to Prevent Veteran Suicide with DJ Patil

From left to right: Vikas Erraballi, Jared Polivka, DJ Patil, Michael Seiler, Ryan Nadeau. Meeting DJ (Chief Data Scientist at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) was an honor — brilliant and down to earth, DJ is the man :)

In partnership with The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veteran Affairs, Bayes Impact and Booz Allen Hamilton, this hackathon was a cross country collaborative effort involving data communities in D.C. Boston, Chicago, NYC and SF. SF Data Science was honored to be participate in this initiative.

An Evening with Martin Odersky

Let’s tip our hats to Chris Fregly for bringing in Martin Odersky (the father of Scala) and Jakob Odersky (from the IBM Spark Technology Center) for an epic data science Meetup. Working with Fregly is always a fun adventure :)

Advanced Spark Meetup + SF Data Science — An Evening with Martin Odersky

Data Science at Twitter: 2 Talks — “How Data Transformed My Life” & “You Should Be Using Automatic Differentiation”

Jeff Ma… he inspired the book Brining Down the House and the movie 21.” After hoodwinking Vegas and being banned from casinos forevermore, Ma went on to become a serial entrepreneur; he sold his recent company to Twitter.

Ryan Adams gives an overview of automatic differentiation at SF Data Science, with a particular focus on Autograd.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Ma; he sat me down in the TenXer office in December 2012 and gave me the following advice: “At this point, it seems like you should shut down your lifestyle business or “startup” or whatever. You are a product, growth and community guy. Go build things and grow things for a few years — for others or yourself, I don’t care. Then, build another startup.”

I’m grateful to Ma for his advice and for speaking at our Meetup. If you missed Ma’s talk in person, you can watch it here.

Ryan Adams is a machine learning researcher at Twitter and a professor of computer science at Harvard. He co-founded Whetlab, a machine learning startup that was acquired by Twitter in 2015. He co-hosts the Talking Machines podcast. If you missed Adams’ talk in person, you can watch it here.

*Aside: Special thanks to Pete Soderling (founder of DataEngConf and Hakka Labs) and the Hakka Labs team for recording these awesome talks by Jeff Ma and Ryan Adams.

Data Science at Pinterest — The First 100 Petabytes

Oooh, a blurry Panoramic iPhone pic of the Pinterest Talk… fancy ;)

Mohammad Shahangian shared the evolution of data science problems at Pinterest as they scaled their data corpus from 0 to 100PB.

*Note: The video recording of Mohammad’s talk will be ready soon. Stay tuned.

An Introduction to Machine Learning (Using Scikit-learn)

Lukas Biewald and Nick Gaylord teaching at the SF Data Science Meetup on Saturday

Lukas Biewald and Nick Gaylord taught a Scikit-learn workshop from 9 am to 1 pm on a Saturday… AND 100+ people showed up! #MindBlown 
For a recap of what was covered in the workshop, see the Meetup here.

How AR and VR Will Affect Data Visualization

At this Meetup, we had two great talks:

  • John Voorhees gave a demo of Primitive — a code visualization engine that turns code into 3D structures.
  • Tim Christie walked us through the approaches for visualizing data sets with AR at Meta and gave us an insight into the future.

Thanks to Leap Motion for donating Leap controls to the audience.

Cool Uses of ML at Google

Christine Robson talks about ML at Google

Google is pushing the forefront of Machine Learning techniques and pursuing some really cool applications. In this talk, Christine Robson walked us through some of the fun things Google is doing with Machine Learning and gave us a look behind the curtain at how Google actually does the fun things in practice.

*Note: Read about Google’s “Machine Learning Ninja Training” here.

Mastering Your Message: Data Science Storytelling

Greg Kamradt gives a primer on Data Science Storytelling

This Meetup is a personal favorite of mine… I became friends with Greg Kamradt while he was a student in the three month Galvanize Data Science Immersive program. After graduating, Greg became a data scientist at Salesforce; he has been an amazing volunteer organizer and guest speaker during his time working for Salesforce. Thanks Greg! :)

When describing data science as practiced in industry, Greg says: 
“You aren’t being paid to construct a huge neural net; they are paying you to provide value towards a business question. In this talk, I’ll help you get your data science message to the next level and ultimately get buy-in from your stakeholders.”

*Note: The video recording of Greg’s talk will be ready soon. Stay tuned.

Gratitude — A Toast To You All

There are so many amazing people to thank. The people are the volunteer Meetup organizers and data friends that are top of mind. If I forgot to mention you, DM / email me a digital slap and I’ll add you to the list ;)

“I don’t always make toasts, but when I do… it’s from an MLconf mug” — JP’s alter ego, Jaroslav the Wise… On a serious note, a toast to all of you. To the amazing people who passionately contribute to the Bay Area data community — from my heart, thank you.