Strata: liberal arts meets data science, and things get important

I applied for a speaking slot at Strata’s first London event so that I could get a comp to the conference – and much to my delight, I got one. Alongside singing for my supper and trying to attend 3 tracks simultaneously, I kept myself entertained by trying to work out the culture of the event.

The audience was mostly guys – and when I say ‘mostly’ I really mean all-except-for-a-handful. But there wasn’t a frat house or trading floor or rubgy locker room kind of vibe. I would say the atmosphere was quiet and scholarly. Rather like the tea room at the British Library, but with fewer eccentric hats. In fact I only saw one. (It was a good one, though.)

There was a huge aura of earnestness and seriousness and importance-ness to the keynote agenda. I do expect a data conference to be serious. It’s only proper.  But there was a particular flavour of seriousness in this conference that was new to me.

All the keynotes (agenda here) were strong, and some were marvellous. What they had in common was not so much a concern with data, but a concern with historical, political, and social perspectives, and transformative uses. So much so that I suspect that many (perhaps too many) of the speakers had been set the same essay question.

Everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet. Everyone was doing it well, and there were some truly astounding soloists. It all added up to a stirring performance in which I felt a twinge of reflected purpose, or glory, or somesuch.

I think this is what happens when you mix liberal arts with data science, and put some heat under the mashup. If you are looking for some inspiration – or you are wondering what on earth I’m talking about –  I’d say go ahead and check out any of the keynotes, which are all online on YouTube. 

If you were to check out only one, I’d suggest:  Ben Goldacre, on his quest to out the Dark Data from ‘missing’ clinical trials, using social media.  Unsuprisingly, his details show that he is available for after-dinner speaking and also may be booked through his agent.

I also really liked  Mark Madsen on Information overloadGeorge Dyson, on The first 5 kilobytes are the hardestJake Porway,  on Good data, good values, Jeni Tenison, on Open data: dreams to reality,  and Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino on The quiet comfort of the internet of things.   But I don’t think you can go seriously amiss by checking out any of the tallks.   Enjoy.