The latest worldwide R user conference has just wrapped up in Aalborg, Denmark and useR! 2015 was the best yet. A hearty round of applause to the organizers for a smoothly run, informative and fun event. To the organizers of next year's event in the Stanford, California: the bar has been raised.
As I was chatting to various participants, the same refrain came out again and again regarding the conference: R has gone mainstream — and that's a good thing. It wasn't just by the size of the conference (more than 650 R users from 49 nations were in attendance): the strong representation from industry (half of the participants were using R in the commercial sector) and the participation of many vendors working with R and their partnership in the R Consortium that gave the conference more of a "big software" feel. And yet, the conference still maintained a strong sense of community, a cutting-edge academic/research track, and a great sense of fun (especially the trip to the Robber's Den in Rold Forest, featuring axe-throwing, log-sawing and much merriment). If you weren't there in person, you can catch up on some of the presentations and escapades at the #user2015 hashtag on Twitter.
For me, I think the theme that stood out the most was the diverse and impactful real-world applications of R. In the space of just a couple of days, I saw how:
- R and Hadoop is used to make the Tribal Wars game engaging for 150M players
- Blind statisticians interact with data and visualizations with speech and Braille from R
- R is used to teach high schoolers to code, as their first programming language
- R is used to help veterinarians identify lameness in horses using 3-d accelerometers
- R used to predict natural gas consumption in the Czech Republic
- R used to estimate biomass of Norwegian forests from tree measurements and airborne laser scans
- R is used to generate more green energy from wind turbines
... and much, much more in the parallel tracks that I wasn't able to attend. One thing this conference demonstrated is that R is much more than software: it's also the extensions that come from its vast developer community, and the applications its put to by its even larger user community. In this morning's keynote, there was a quote that said it perfectly:
"R is a free software community for statistical computing and graphics" — Thomas Lumley.
Indeed. I'm proud to be part of such an amazing community which made useR! 2015 so special. Thanks to all who attended, and again: a very special thanks to the organizers for such a wonderful event.