Reflecting on Future Data:
What Worked and Where We Go From Here

By Peter Bailis - September 17, 2020

Last week’s inaugural Future Data conference brought together over 700 data enthusiasts and researchers for two days of no holds barred discussion and debate about the future of data analytics.

The magnitude of this response was a surprise to me. As a first-time conference, we were hoping for one to two hundred attendees. We held the event just 40 days after announcing it. And, given our goal of creating a vendor-independent venue, just like any good basement punk show, we didn’t do any paid sponsorships. And yet, hundreds of experts from across the data spectrum showed up and engaged for two days.

In retrospect, there were a few things that worked in our favor:

First, we had a kick-ass line-up of speakers, spanning academia and startups all the way to big tech companies. These speakers took the mandate of creating content worth discussing seriously and left the sales pitches for another time. Moreover, the speakers represented the entire analytics stack. As layers like data pipelines, ETL, databases, BI, and applications begin to blur, this is more important than ever.

Second, there’s not a comparable venue in analytics. My personal impetus for starting Future Data is that I’m starved for high-signal talks about analytics and where we’re heading. It turns out, I’m not alone. The idea of a vendor-independent conference struck a chord, and it’s a standard we want to stick to for all future events.

Third, remote reduces the friction of attending a multi-day event, even if I missed the hallway track and all the free, hot coffee from in-person events. However, going remote meant it was easier to pop-in and out for sessions, and for people from across the globe to join us, ask questions, and engage with the community on Slack.

But, building on this, there are definitely things we’re looking to do better, both over the next few months, and as we ramp up towards Future Data 2021:

  • Get wider representation across the data stack. We want to feature practitioners and mavericks from different industries — from healthcare and pharma to construction, from entertainment to the public sector.
  • Add more ways for speakers and community members to interact. Slack was a great start, but looking for ways to amplify that “we’re doing it live” feel you get from an in-person event.
  • Get contributions from the community. We’ll be opening up a call for papers, topics, and deep-dives open to every one of you.

Looking forward to next year, I’d love to see increased community involvement. The jury’s out on whether we’ll be in person, but I expect more contributed talks and panels, and discussion. I’m also thinking hard about things we can do as a community in the interim and would love feedback on that.

Until then, join the Future Data Slack community, watch the videos from the conference now available on-demand, and keep an eye out as we’re adding all sessions to YouTube over the next few days. There’s quite a bit to watch — but you have a year.

See you in the Future!

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