What We Learned at Wrangle 2015 (Data Science is About People)

Categories: Community Data Science Events

The Wrangle conference was a huge hit. Look for it to return in 2016!

Wrangle, the conference for and by data science practitioners from startup to enterprise, made a noticeable splash in San Francisco last week. As the conference host and organizer, we (Cloudera) couldn’t be happier about its attendees’ happiness.

Wrangle Conference 2015

With presenter/panelist representation from the data science teams at Uber, Facebook, Airbnb, Pinterest, Cloudera, Salesforce, Capital One, Stripe, LinkedIn, and others, as well as a room packed with other community members in attendance, I made the observation that had a bomb gone off at Wrangle, data science would have been set back 100 years.

So, what did we learn? From the (non-mathematical) perspective of data science practice, quite a lot:

  • Context is an important, and often under-appreciated,  variable. As Shubha Nabar of Salesforce explained, “Left unchecked, all optimization leads to gambling and porn.” Similarly, Sameera Poduri of Jawbone reminded us that interpreting sensor-derived data is almost impossible without it.
  • Ambiguity can be more interesting than precision. Diyang Tang of Stellar told us that data scientists have to resist the urge to strive for 100% precision (“don’t shake the baby,” she warned the audience), and Michael Conover of LinkedIn (the man with the “best haircut in data science”) stressed that focusing on ambiguous variables can lead to valuable insights.
  • Maybe most important, we were all reminded that data science is about, and for, people. (Technology analyst Tony Baer of Ovum, who was kind enough to attend Wrangle, explores this point in this blog post explaining his own learnings. ) Indeed, Clare Corthell’s brilliant presentation about the unintentional encoding of human bias in inference technology was perhaps the highlight of the day (“Remember, there are human beings at the other end of your algorithms”).

We will share presentation video, soon.

Finally, we learned that with the right program committee, the right agenda, the right event team, and the right venue, an enduring community brand can be built in a single day:

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For more attendee views of what went down at Wrangle, read this (Derek Steer) and this (Daniel Tunkelang).

Thanks to all attendees and presenters for your participation and contributions. Wrangle will be back in 2016!

Justin Kestelyn is Cloudera’s community outreach director, and one of the organizers of Wrangle.

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