Field Report: KDD 2019

The Exhibition Hall Academic poster reception hall The Exhibition Hall (which doubled as the lunch venue) was well-represented with industry vendors like Microsoft, IBM Research AI, Yahoo Research, Neo4j, TigerGraph, KenSci, Gurobi, HexagonML, and many others.

I love kicking around conference exhibition halls because I always learn about companies not currently in the massive insideBIGDATA industry database.

At KDD2019 I learned about two hardware companies: Lambda Labs (I’m now wearing their cool t-shirt to the gym) with their deep learning machines, and also Inspur AI, both providing systems for AI workloads.

Surprisingly for a conference like KDD, I also saw a number of companies that “use” data science and machine learning such as Pinterest, Lyft, Etsy, Snap, Capital One, Home Depot and Target.

These companies were there presumably to recruit new members for their data science teams, and there were plenty of quality candidates present.

I think it was a good move for such companies to show off how leading-edge they are with respect to all that’s data.

I was pleased that book vendors showed up in force: MIT Press, Cambridge University Press, Springer Nature, and CRC Press.

Being in one place, I was able to review many new titles for potential book reviews, as well as my own professional use.

I was told by one publisher that they don’t like to schlep the heavy books back home so they try to leave them with local universities, but there were no takers in Anchorage.

I wonder if that had anything to do with the enormous funding cuts the University of Alaska is grappling with?.Chance Encounters Wearing my journalist hat, I typically run into many fascinating people at industry conferences.

At lunch on Tuesday, I was able to kibitz with a number of attendees at my table including some who came from great distances.

One data scientist I met came from Brazil, involving a 25 hour trek.

That’s commitment!.At lunch on Wednesday, I had a nice chat with “David” from Pinterest.

He intimated how his company blurs the lines between data scientists and data engineers, and that he frequently has to switch-hit on projects.

I would have thought a newly public company would have worked to have more defined roles, but I understand how the unicorn mystique is hard to break, especially with high-flying tech companies.

Tuesday morning, I had a nice breakfast in the lobby restaurant at the Hilton.

I was quite pleased to find “reindeer sausage” on the menu!.My waitress was a 20-something woman with an unfamiliar accent.

I found out she was only a month in Anchorage, part of a cultural exchange program from Serbia.

I asked what she was studying at her university, and was delighted to hear “computer science.

” She was unaware that KDD was in town, and became excited to learn that several thousand computer scientists were in town.

At the second Poster Reception on Tuesday evening, I ran into a friend, Jon Morra, who is the organizer for the LA Machine Learning meetup group.

We chatted about all the cool research being presented at the show, and he mentioned BERT as being quite hot.

I enjoy chance meeting like this to point me in new directions.

Back in my hotel room that night I downloaded and started reading a paper about BERT.

Check out this seminal paper “BERT: Pre-training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding,” from Google AI Language which started the ball rolling.

The Road Home On my flight back to LA on Wednesday evening, I spent the long trip going through a recent MIT Press title “Introduction to Deep Learning,” by Eugene Charniak that I’m reviewing for insideBIGDATA which includes a lot of math.

It was a great way to wind down and relax after an exhilarating few days at KDD where I learned so much.

The very next day upon returning to my data science practice, I ordered a case of Alaska Glacier water (source is the Eklutna Glacier located high in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains).

I bought a bottle at the Anchorage airport just before my flight home, and it was delicious.

Glaciers are becoming a thing of the past due to anthropogenic climate change so I thought I’d load up and use it as a reminder of my great time at KDD.

I would highly recommend this event to anyone in the field, or desiring to enter it.

I believe I’ll have to add KDD to my list of annual conferences for sure!.Contributed by Daniel D.

Gutierrez, Managing Editor and Resident Data Scientist for insideBIGDATA.

In addition to being a tech journalist, Daniel also is a consultant in data scientist, author, educator and sits on a number of advisory boards for various start-up companies.

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