satRdays: final push

I talked back in November about the idea of an RSaturday, which were free community-driven conferences on R. Since then, we created a GitHub repository and started hammering out the details for satRdays. The current proposal consists of:

  1. A name: satRday
  2. A proposition: Free/cheap (<£30) conferences organised by user groups around the world. Attendees get more access to training in R, with a much lower cost-barrier. We develop more speakers on R. Organisers have less work to do and get to develop their R community.
  3. A platform: Using the Drupal COD system, we can use an open source solution and contribute back to it
  4. A proposal for the R consortium: A request for hosting plus support for the first three trial conferences

We’ll be submitting the proposal before the deadline (Jan 10th) but we need people to register their interest in being involved, whether that’s simply attending or going as far as organising one.

So folks, please register your interest and get others to do it too!

Anchor Modelling: Sixth Normal Form databases

A bit belated, but on December 5th in Southampton I finally got to present on a database topic this year 😀 I presented on Anchor Modelling, a fantastic methodology and suite of open source tools for building a highly flexible, evolving database.

You can check out the slides on Sway.
Continue reading Anchor Modelling: Sixth Normal Form databases

Auto-deploying documentation: Rtraining

In my last post on using GitHub, Travis-CI, and rmarkdown/knitr for automatically building and deploying documentation, I covered how I was able to do it with a containerised approach so things were faster. I also said my Rtraining repository was still too brittle to blog about. This has changed – WOO HOO!

The main thanks for that goes out to the new package ezknitr from Dean Attali. ezknitr takes the pain out of working directories, making my hierarchies much more resilient. I made a very simple reproduction of my scenarios in a repo called ezknitrTest – you can peruse it online or take a copy to play, but it essentially shows how you can use ezknitr::ezknit instead of rmarkdown::render and knitr::knit. It’s really handy!

So I went through and converted everything in my Rtraining to this and realised it messed up my slide decks – it’s been so long since I had built a pure knitr solution that I forgot that rmarkdown::render != knitr::knit. For my slidedecks, if I wanted the ioslides_presentation format, I needed to use rmarkdown::render. The problem with that has been the relative references to the CSS and the logo.

To solve this I read about the custom render formats capability and created a function that produces an ioslides_presentation but with my CSS preloaded by default. This now means that I can produce slides with better file referencing.

All in all, Rtraining is the culmination of my learnings over the past year of developing an analytical document pipeline that fits into my DataOps category. A summary of the features it uses are:

  • dynamic file identification
  • dynamic index page
  • custom render formats
  • custom CSS
  • ezknitr’d files
  • continuous integration
  • continuous deployment
  • containerised builds

It can now be browsed on stephlocke/

PS If you’re looking to do a more book-like project, Hadley provides bookdown for your publication needs.

Should presenters have to pay to attend?

I recently did something for the first time: I declined to speak somewhere. It was never stated on the submission page, and was raised only after my session was accepted – they wanted me to buy a ticket to attend and I refused to do that.

As a speaker

I love donating my time and I really don’t mind paying my own Travel and Expenses (T&E) but to have to pay to get in the door of the place I’m speaking at feels wrong.

I’m potentially very skewed here relative to the majority of speakers in technology. In the SQL Server world, they tend to give full conference passes to speakers and only a few contribute beyond that towards T&E. We donate our time freely and happily, and in return we get an awesome learning experience as a thank you. I’m not sure whether we’re anomalous.

As an organiser

What get’s people into your conference? It’s not the sponsors, it’s not the parties, it’s not the swag, it’s the speakers. The sessions are your product, everything else is great and makes thing more desirable but a conference without talks is no conference at all.

You want to attract the best speakers you can relative to your budget. Giving access to the conference is a great way to “pay” speakers as it only costs you their food bill for the day. And hey, at least they show up it’s not like there’s any wastage in allocating food to them!

As an attendee

Another good reason to give speakers tickets is to entice them to be there for the whole thing. Not only does this help your speakers become more knowledgeable making them better speakers for next year, but as an attendee it gives me more opportunities to interact with speakers. the speaker who jets in for their session, and then vanishes is one I get only limited value out of. Having them their for the whole event gives me a lot more value for money.

What do you think?

For me, the least that should be offered is free attendance on the day you’re presenting. I’m really interested in your stance on this point though – should speakers have to pay to attend a conference they’re speaking at?

Auto-deploying documentation: FASTER!

Over the past few years I’ve been delving deeper into automatically building and deploying documentation and reporting in R (with rmarkdown, LaTeX etc). This post covers another step forward on that journey towards awesomeness.

Continue reading Auto-deploying documentation: FASTER!

Boris’ presentation agency – 356labs

Boris Hristrov, Data Platform MVP, design whizz, and all-round great guy, recently launched 356labs. Boris wrote a great Presentation Design course for PluralSight, you can sign up for a trial of PluralSight and watch the course if you’d like to find out more.

Being an avid reader of design stuff I did find I knew some of the things on the course, but the context and application were very helpful. Off the back of his course, I went on to produce my most visually impressive presentation slide deck to date – Agile BI.

I took a look over his site and asked a few questions since I was really curious. Here are the responses!
Continue reading Boris’ presentation agency – 356labs

SQLSaturdays but for R?

UPDATE: Proposal now being developed after fantastic community support. Check out satRdays on GitHub and contribute your opinions!

I had a contact from a very nice chap in Dallas a month ago about whether in the R world we do anything like SQLSaturdays.

The great thing about the SQLSaturdays he said was not that they’re free (well it helps!) but that they’re on his time. Developing his skills was something he couldn’t get signed off by his boss so he wanted to be able to do it by himself.

In answer to the question of whether there are local(ish) weekend conferences happening regularly for R, my answer was “not really” and it’s a shame because the R community is fantastic. I started thinking about why we don’t have them and what would be needed to change that.

Free / cheap regional small-medium conferences are a must for growing user knowledge and speakers in R.

Continue reading SQLSaturdays but for R?

Some recent posts over on the Mango blog

Since August, I’ve had the pleasure to work at Mango Solutions, a data science consultancy, as a Principal Consultant.

In that time, I’ve been to EARL London, SQL Relay, and SQL in the City, so conference season has been in full swing with more to come in the form EARL Boston next week. Surprisingly, I’ve also found some time to help some customers out and write some blog posts over on the Mango site.

I thought I’d share them for the folks who might have missed out on them.

There’s more to come with one coming out early next week and you can subscribe via the RSS feed, or if you’d like to get even more R goodness, subscribe to R-bloggers. Over the next couple of months, I’m looking to get started on some new open source projects. One idea raised is to give @MangoTheCat its own LOLCODE to R interpreter so if you want to lend a hand in making such a thing, let me know!