New York Blog

Data Science Hackathon & Data Science in NYC

On Saturday, I was a judge for the Data Viz Competition at the NYC Data Hackathon, part of the world’s first global data hackathon. Along with my fellow judges Cathy O’Neil and Jake Porway, we gave an award to the team that best found a  nontrivial insight from the data provided for the competition and managed to render that insight visually.

Unlike a hackNY hackathon, where the energy is pretty high and the crowd much younger (hackNY hackathons are for full time students only; this crowd all were out of school — in fact at least one person was a professor), here everyone was really heads down. There was plenty of conversation and smiles but people were working quite hard, even 12 hours into the hackathon.

I noticed two things that were unusual about the participants, both of which I think speak well of the state of `data science’ in NYC:

  • I’ve never been in a room with such a healthy mix of Wall Street quants and startup data scientists. Many of the teams included a mix of people from different sectors working together. The winning team was typical in this way: 1 person from Wall Street; 1 freelancer; and 1 data scientist from an established NYC startup.
  • I met multiple people visiting from the Bay Area contemplating moving to NYC. In 2004-2007 many of my students from Columbia moved out to SF under the historical notion that that was `the place’ where they could work at a small company that would demand their technical mastery and give them sufficient autonomy to see their work come to light under their own direction.

I was glad to meet people from the Bay Area who were sufficiently impressed with NYC’s data scene to consider moving here. Of course I told them it was exactly the right thing to do and I looked forward to seeing them again soon once they’d become naturalized citizens of NYC.

Huge thanks to Shivon Zils and Matt Truck for hosting us in such a nice location, to Jeremy Howard for his suggestion a few weeks ago to throw the event, and to Max Shron for encouraging everyone to include a visualization prize as part of this event.


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