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Bringing Together People and Projects at ozunconf17

Categories: blag

4 minute read

Note: This is cross-posted from rOpenSci’s blog post

Just last week we organised the 2nd rOpenSci ozunconference, the sibling rOpenSci unconference, held in Australia. Last year it was held in Brisbane, this time around, the ozunconf was hosted in Melbourne, from October 27-27, 2017. We brought together 45 R-software users and developers, scientists, and open data enthusiasts from academia, industry, government, and non-profits.

What we created was a bunch of awesome individuals from 12 different countries. Before the ozunconf we discussed and dreamt up projects to work on for a few days, then met up and brought a few of them into reality.

Upskilling participants

We ran a half day training session on how to develop R packages and share them on GitHub. We had 15 students come along to be instructed by Roger Peng and myself on creating an R package and then putting it up on GitHub. The participants really picked things up quickly, and by the end of the session, everyone could make an R package, push it to Git, and was also introduced to the wonders of RMarkdown. The event then kicked on to the Melbourne R Ladies special one year anniversary talk, which featured a great talk and introduction to Random Forests by Elisabeth Vogel.

Bringing people together

Biscuit decorating at #ozunconf !

— Nikeisha Caruana (@bluebirdi) October 25, 2017

Before the ozunconf, we discussed various ideas for projects in GitHub issues. Things really started to pick up in the last week and we ended up at 41 issues - almost as many issues as participants.

Day one kicked off with some decorating some hex cookies, baked by Di Cook. This uncovered a fun fact that Stefan Milton Bache - creator of the magrittr package, apparently created the first #rstats hex sticker. The venue even seemed to reflect our love of hex stickers, providing a nice hex sticker carpet:

Appropriately shaped carpet pattern for the #ozunconf venue #hex

— Holly Kirk (@HollyKirk) October 26, 2017

We then stuck the various projects that had been discussed throughout the week around the room and participants sticker voted on projects that they were interested in working on. We were really lucky to be in the beautiful Monash City Campus, a place that almost seems to have been designed for an unconf, with some classroom style space, as well as plenty of nooks and cranny’s to sit in, including an outdoor astroturfed garden complete with bean bags and native flora.

The Oz colour palette gang soakin it up outside #ozunconf

— Miles McBain (@MilesMcBain) October 26, 2017

We had some great sponsors for this event, including of course rOpenSci, RStudio The RConsortium, The Ingham Institute, and Monash Business School.

We wrapped up at the end of day 2, giving each projects group three minutes to debrief on their projects, using the unconf style - only the (mostly!). You can check out all the ozunconf projects here, thanks to a template from Sean Kross, soon we’ll publish a series of short posts covering all of these great fun projects.

Here’s a quick taster:

We’ll share a quick summary of all of the projects over the coming weeks.

Introducing people to the community.

rOpenSci has had a profound impact on me and my work. At the end of 2015 I got in touch with them to discuss arranging an unconference in Australia, and they welcomed me and my friends. Today, I am proud to be welcoming those from the ozunconf to this big, kind, wonderful community, and say, as Shannon Ellis summed up: “Hey! You there! You are welcome here”. It was also really great to have a diverse group of participants at the ozunconf, and in particular, that we had 40% of participants from women or other underrepresented genders.

It’s not over till it’s over

One thing that I’ve realised in my involvement with organising and attending these events is that when the unconf ends, it feels a bit sad, sure, to say goodbye to the environment, the community, the friends, and the projects. At the last unconf in LA, we were sending out a stream of tweets, “it’s not over until it’s over. But, in reflection, standing back, taking it all in, the unconference doesn’t really end - it just begins. It begins many new things - projects, ideas, collaborations, and friendships.

The ozunconf comes to an end. Now, let’s get started.

What’s Your Story?

A few people have already written about their unconf17 experience. Have you? Share the link in the comments below and we’ll add it here.

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