In 2018, I was hired to help WW build out a data science function. At the time, there was just a single junior data scientist and zero models in production. Today, we have a thriving, talented team of nine data scientists, more than 60 live models,* and various data products in the hands of millions of WW members. When so many data science teams fail to reach their potential, what are some of the factors that led to our success?

*Actually, 83 models, including a set of 26 core models, some of which are separately trained and deployed across 14…


As Looker’s annual JOIN event was being put together for 2019, something was different from years past. Whereas in 2018, open-source LookML software was near non-existent, in the course of a year, a number of open source projects had sprung up, signalling the growth of a nascent open-source community around Looker and LookML development in particular.

With this growth in open-source projects, and little in the way to organize and discover them, we saw a need to put together a comprehensive survey. …


At WW, we leverage Looker as our primary business intelligence tool. This helps us understand our business and enhance our member experience. A core feature of Looker is LookML. This is a flexible markup language that defines the sources of data and how it is transformed and joined while also defining the dimensions (the data filters, such as country or time) and the measures (the aggregates, such as totals and averages) that the user is exposed to.

In this post, we are pleased to announce lookml-tools, a new toolkit that our customer intelligence engineering team is open-sourcing to help the…


Personalization is a major component of many online and offline websites and services. By understanding their users and producing content, services, or experiences that are more contextually relevant (yes, even ads), that are more enjoyable and engaging (such as a social network or watching Netflix) or that increase success (such as learning a language, finding a date, or getting fit), they increase their value to a user.

How a site demonstrates that that they understand their users, and how they help them , or help them to help themselves, will take many forms. Some will be true personalization, others, tailoring…


Consider Netflix. They provide a platform with video content that people watch. What might be their primary KPI for online A/B tests? Engagement, such as minutes watched, # videos watched, or proportion of videos that people watch more than 5 minutes? Well, it turns out that their primary metric for their full consumer science experiments (rather than initial, quality of experience) A/B tests is not engagement but retention: do members retain better after the free trial month ends and in subsequent months. The assumption is that if people are happy enough to renew their subscription, they are probably engaging with…


Confused about whom is working with whom on developing, delivering, and operating self driving cars? So was I. Thus, to catch up, I decided to map out the current key players and partnerships.

(Yes, this is not pretty. I am not a designer and so it is not beautiful but hopefully it is still useful.)

As one can see, it is a complex ecosystem. This diagram is definitely incomplete and almost certainly will be out of date very soon. This is a very dynamic space.

A few things to note:

  • Nvidia has established partnerships or is the system of choice…


A data dictionary is a list of key terms and metrics with definitions, a business glossary. While it is sounds simple, almost trivial, its ability to align the business and remove confusion can be profound. In fact, a data dictionary is possibly one of the most valuable artifacts that a data team can deliver to the business.

Most businesses have at least one concept, term, or metric that is used or interpreted differently among teams. When this happens, confusion reigns. Decision makers may disagree about what the data show and what actions to take. Reports among teams might show different…


A comprehensive guide to the state of self-driving tech

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Unsplash

Autonomous vehicles are currently subject to a lot of hope, hype and hysteria, especially after the recent fatality in Arizona, when a pedestrian was struck and killed by one of Uber’s self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles will likely have as significant an impact on our lives as electricity, computers and the internet all did. However, just like the aforementioned innovations, we cannot predict all the varied impacts and implications, both positive and negative, of self-driving vehicles. Here, we’ll offer a brief overview of what we do know and what’s still up in the air.

What We Know

Autonomous vehicles are coming.

In fact, they’re already here. Autonomous buses…


When will Waze no longer need people? Currently, Waze users tag vehicles stopped on the side of road, debris, slowed traffic, and those pesky hidden police. However, the state of the art in computer vision, powered by deep learning, means that it should not be too long before onboard cameras will enable the vehicle themselves to sense and interpret what is happening on the road around them. (Already, users are asked to confirm what the algorithms suspect might be happening.) …


I’ve been doing data analysis for quite a few years but this week I had an entirely novel experience: data analysis in virtual reality.

I was attending a conference put on by Looker, a BI tool provider. During one of their internal hackdays, one of their engineers had hacked together “LookVR,” a combination of an HTC VIVE headset, some visualization libraries, and the Looker API as a data source.

Donning the headset, you enter a basic 3D world surrounded by oceans and mountains but below you was a wooden stage. Using a pair of hand controllers, you were able to…

Carl Anderson

VP, Data, WW (formerly Weight Watchers), NYC. Author of "Creating a Data-Driven Organization" (2015, O'Reilly). Web: carlanderson.ai

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store