Big Data TechCon – Great How-To Conference

The recent BigData TechCon conference in Boston featured practical, how-to classes and tutorials for IT and Big Data professionals. It is the how-to training conference for professionals implementing and analyzing Big Data.

Guest post by Jeff Olson, Apr 2014

Get Out and Learn Something - The Value of Technical Conferences

It’s good to get out of the office and clear your head once in a while. That may mean a walk in the park at lunch, or it may mean going to a seminar or technical conference. With the latter, the benefits can far outweigh the immediate gratification you feel upon leaving the cubicle or home office behind. Among them:

  • You learn skills that make your job easier
  • You learn skills that lead to new career opportunities
  • You meet people who can help you get ahead in a variety of ways
  • You open doorways into new worlds you didn’t know existed

I just got back from a particularly well-run conference, BZ Media’s Big Data TechCon. It took place in one of my favorite cities, Boston, and covered an area I need to get up to speed on quickly: Big Data in all its aspects. BigData TechCon Boston 2014 A good conference has something for everyone—every day and every hour. This one had, for beginners, a full-day crash course on Hadoop, an introduction to Neo4j, and a class on Cassandra, among others. For those in the middle, there were talks on Hive and Pig, HBase, various introductions to NoSQL databases for SQL pros, and so forth. For advanced developers, there were all manner of entrees: Getting Started with R and Hadoop, Hadoop architectures, H2O and Mahout, topological data analysis and more.

Best were the vetted instructor/presenters, all of whom were under strict orders not to “sell” themselves or products or services. BZ has a talent for picking good people to lead seminars, and for a good reason—they live or die on word of mouth and overall reputation. If someone shells out a couple thousand dollars for leading-edge instruction, it better be good. And worthwhile.

So what did I learn that I can carry forward into my work? How Yarn works in conjunction with MapReduce2, the nature of graph databases, how to vacuum up data from the internet, how to build a big data product, the innards of MongoDB, and data analysis using Hive, among others.

Like the best ones, this was a working conference. Participants were sometimes asked to download special software or VM sandbox versions. People were clearly tired by the end of the day and there were no distractions like cocktail parties sponsored by large vendors. The conference was all business.

Not that there weren’t light or entertaining moments. Data scientist Scott Sokoloff (TE Connectivity) did a nice overview he called “Lessons Learned from Advanced Analytics Projects.” He talked about plopping a pizza restaurant in a corn field miles from any town because analysis told him—correctly—that it would better serve the three towns it stood between and make the company more money. He was right. In encouraging companies to develop their own analytics capabilities he pointed out that SAS’s revenues rise and fall with GDP because not enough do. And he said that the only thing a 4.0 GPA predicts is “that the person will get an A in his next college class.”

It’s well worth the time and effort to get out of the office and learn something. You might think you’re taking a few steps back, but you will find when you get back—assuming you’ve taken the conference seriously—that you’ve made a great leap forward.

Jeff Olson is executive editor for business and IT at Apress Media ( Original: Get Out and Learn Something.

See also other reports on this conference:
Gregory Piatetsky: I also attended Big Data TechCon in Boston, but only briefly in 2014. Here is my report from 2013 Big Data TechCon:

Big Data TechCon Boston: Hadoop is not dead yet