How a UseR! 2014 Experience Led to the Development of a 1,700-member R Community in Budapest

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Dr. Gergely Daróczi is an active member of the R community, founder of the Budapest Users of R Network Group and organizer of the satRday and eRum conferences. Gergely shares about his path which led him to become an enthusiastic developer, promoter, and supporter of the R language. He is committed to proving the benefits of the language to the community in Budapest and worldwide. 

Gergely has a Ph.D. in Sociology from Cornivus University. Gergely became a data engineer and R programmer, founding his own company dedicated to web-based reporting and R consulting. As a result of his extensive experience, Gergely wrote the book “Mastering Data Analysis with R.” He worked for Fintech and adtech startups in California, and is currently the co-founder and tech lead of a precision medicine platform at Rx Studio.

Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work? What do you do when you’re not programming? 

My interest in R started when I was at university, in an Economics class back in 2004. I really remember that class well because it was about the chaotic dynamics of the potato market in Hungary – a rather abstract and complex theory for a sophomore. We had done a simulation in R, and I was fascinated to see how useful the language was. Since that moment, I have been interested in learning R, and up to now, I am still using it.

Regarding my work, the R language has been a game changer, from the time I was working for market and public opinion research companies, where I had to do survey analysis with R, until I founded my own web-based reporting and R consulting company. Then I moved to Los Angeles to work as a lead R Developer and Research Data Scientist, and R has been the main programming language in my whole professional career. 

When I am not programming, I spend time with my family: I have three kids, and I really enjoy being with them. 

What is the R community like in Budapest? What was most surprising to you about the community? 

Everything started in 2014 in Spain, when I had the pleasure of meeting many people from GitHub and other communities at the annual useR! conference. It was great to meet everyone in person, especially Szilard Pafka, who urged me to start the R User Group in Hungary. I liked the idea, so I started looking for other interested colleagues and we had our first meetup, gathering 10 people. Fortunately, the community has grown and we are now 1,700 members in Budapest, an amazing number considering our small country. On the other hand, the number of active community members is much lower: before COVID, we used to have 50-100 people showing up, but after COVID on average 25 people or even less.

For me, the most surprising thing about the community is to see people with different backgrounds, such as medical sciences, social sciences, natural sciences, and more, who in the end share the same goal: learn and promote the use of the R language. 

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in Budapest? 

The people who attend these meetups are very diverse, you find people from all backgrounds like professors, students, programmers, and more. All of them are looking to learn R or to meet others using R.

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members? Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future? 

Unfortunately, we had no events during the pandemic. In fact, the R User Group in Budapest just came back in June this year. The reason why we did not have online events during COVID is because I definitely believe that meetups are much better when done in a face-to-face way, like being able to talk after the talks, having lunch together, having a drink… Activities that are hardly possible in online events.

What trends do you see in R language over the next year? 

The trend that I particularly see over the next years is the increasing integration of programming languages, such as the introduction of C++ in R, or using Java or Python through R for the past years, and integrating packages from other languages (such as Rust) in R rather than writing everything in R. 

What is your favorite R event that you have attended? From a small meetup to a big conference! 

Among the big conferences, I liked the Use R! Conference because I had the opportunity to interact with people from different countries, especially with those I knew through GitHub but had not had the chance to meet in person. It is great to have so many people gathered in one place using the same language. Regarding the smaller conferences, I am obviously biased, as we had both SatRdays and ERUM conferences in Budapest, amazing events as well. 

Of the Funded Projects by the R Consortium, do you have a favorite project? Why is it your favorite? 

There are many good projects, so it is difficult to make a decision, but if I had to choose one, my favorite is SatRdays. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to help bring the first event live in Hungary in 2016, and I also attended others in the next few years, which were amazing. 

Of the Active Working Groups, which is your favorite? Why is it your favorite? 

My favorite is the R Validation Hub. I think it is great having a lot of open-source contributors in this critical group making sure things in the R ecosystem are implemented and distributed correctly. 

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details! 

Our last event of the year was the annual “Data Christmas” in mid-December. This is something we started doing before COVID: most of the Budapest data groups got together and organized a joint event, e.g. highlighting the new trends in R, Python, Big Data etc, as well as other important conferences and community events. This is also a good opportunity to spend a couple of hours networking with other folks interested in data science. 

But clearly, things have changed a lot with COVID. For the coming years, I am not sure we will be as active as a group as we used to be, and I honestly think that we might become a smaller group, but I am still optimistic and see a scenario where we can connect and create opportunities. I also wanted to mention that the local chapter of R Ladies was very active before COVID, and I really liked their purpose of teaching and not just giving talks … I am not sure if that will continue, but I want to believe it will.

How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!

The post How a UseR! 2014 Experience Led to the Development of a 1,700-member R Community in Budapest appeared first on R Consortium.

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