Informal notes from Strata 2012 conference on Big Data and Data Science

It’s been almost a month since I came back from California, and I just got around to sorting the notes from O’Reilly Strata conference. Spending time in the Valley is always inspiring – lots of interesting people, old friends, new contacts, new start-ups – it is the center of IT universe.

Spending 3 days with people who are working at the bleeding edge of data science was an unforgettable experience. I got my doze of inspiration and got a lot of new ideas how to apply data science in HeiaHeia. It’s difficult to underestimate the importance data analysis will have in the nearest years. Companies that do not get the importance of understanding data and making their decisions based on data analysis instead of gut feeling of board members/operative management will simply fade away.

Unfortunately HeiaHeia was the only company from Finland attending the conference. But I’m really happy to see that recently there are more and more signals that companies in Finland are starting to realize the importance of data, and there are new Finnish start-ups dealing with data analysis. I believe that Finland has an excellent opportunity to have not only a cluster of game development companies, but also big data companies and start-ups. So far it seems that the Valley, London and Australia are leading in this field.

By the way, Trulia (co-founded by Sami Inkinen) had an excellent demo in the halls of the conference venue – check it out in their blog.

Below are my notes from the conference – I added presentation links and videos that I have found, but otherwise those are quite unstructured. There were multiple tracks and it was very difficult to choose between them. Highlights of the conference are talks by Avinash Kaushik, Jeremy Howard, Matt Biddulph, Ben Goldacre, and Alasdair Allan and the Oxford-style debate on the proposition “In data science, domain expertise is more important than machine learning skill.” (see videos below).

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Stop global warming – travel by train

Eurostar An excellent collection of train travel related information on Seat61 web site (thanks to Nick Burch for the link). Virtually all countries and rail companies are described. Timetables, fares, best routes and a lot of travel tips are available.

Just thinking about air travel, tightened security, requests to come to the airport at least 3 hours in advance, and inter-terminal transfer hell in Heathrow or JFK makes me wonder – why don’t all companies update their travel policies to include trains & ferries – London to Helsinki would be a perfect example how an updated policies can be used 😉
It all reminded me of the deluxe tours on a private train from Moscow to Vladivostok organized by GW Travel/The Trans-Siberian Express Company. Takes 2 weeks and can cost up to 10.000€, but what an experience!



11:17 21 October 2006 Natural History Museum in London
11:17 21 October 2006 Natural History Museum in London

07:30 22 October 2006 View from Hilton Metrotown hotel window
07:30 22 October 2006 View from Hilton Metrotown hotel window

Flight there was a bit spoiled by Finnair strike. I had to spend almost a day in Heathrow, waiting for a connecting flight. The delay turned out to be not as bad as I thought – I met with my friends in London and we visited Natural History museum.

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Summer memories…

Finally I had time to go through a pile of our holiday photos.
Ten brightest memories of the holiday trip:

  • Bridge between Sweden and Denmark
  • Nyhavn in Copenhagen
  • Bavarian beer
  • Frauenkirche in Munich
  • Modern Art Museum in Munich
  • Austrian Alps
  • Reichstag
  • New Berlin Hauptbahnhof
  • Gendarmen-markt
  • Drinking beer under Berlin TV tower
  • Berliner Dom

08:50 09 August 2006 Silja Line in the sea
08:50 09 August 2006 Silja Line in the sea
14:09 09 August 2006 Brahehus
14:09 09 August 2006 Brahehus

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A sensible alternative to business travel

Financial Times management columnist Lucy Kellaway described a revolutionary way to change business travel in her insightful and witty article "A sensible alternative to business travel" (if you don’t have FT subscription – read full version here).

After describing all the horrors of business travel in modern times, Ms.Kellaway explains the real reason for business travel – "There is one big thing that keeps business people orbiting the earth – and that is escape. […] Office life has become such a dysfunctional mess of meetings and  interruptions that the best hope of a decent day’s work is to be found in a metal chamber 30,000ft above the world’s surface."

Comments from practically all of my colleagues have totally confirmed the real reason for the business travel. Airplane seems to be the only place to reply to your emails, review documents or do some other productive work.  The only alternative up to this day has been booking a meeting with yourself.

So I won’t be surprised if soon we’ll see the ads of "virtual airlines" 🙂