By Liz Matthews – Marketing and Events, UK.
There are over 150 R user groups currently running across the globe. From Chiang Mai to Kansas and Melbourne to Cracow, R enthusiasts meet to discuss, share and promote the usage of R. March 2009 saw the first LondonR meeting – 30 people assembled in a pub to listening to Markus Gesmann, Pat Burns, David Jessop and Rory Winston extol the virtues of R. The early meetings were publicised via word of mouth and with an ambitious quarterly meeting schedule there was an initial reliance on Mango-generated presentations.
By the fourth meeting in February 2010 the group had grown to 50; looking at the attendee names it is heartening to recognise many who still regularly attend today. In 2010 we set up the LondonR Meetup group. Whilst we have our own LondonR mailing list with today over 800 adherents, the Meetup group has grown apace and recently breached the 1,000 member threshold. Significantly, the Meetup site records when people joined the group allowing us to chart (in R of course) the rate at which membership growth has risen over the past 5 years:
LondonR meetings now attract several hundred people. We have a waiting list of R aficionados offering to present and have outgrown 4 venues, moving from pub to larger pub, from larger pub to even larger pub.
Having now exhausted London’s pub options we are most grateful to our good friends at the Consumer Data Research Centre at UCL who have offered the impressive Darwin Lecture Hall for our next meeting in March (worry not, there will be a free bar as usual to ensure that the networking part of the evening remains fully alcohol fuelled…)
In addition to the more than 70 presentations given at LondonR meetings since 2009, the free workshops we now provide ahead of the meetings have grown in popularity. These have covered topics such as Report Generation, Using R with Python and ggvis. Reviews for the meetings have been consistently positive and include: “Excellent group. Very clever people doing very cool stuff with R. Can’t wait for the next meeting”, “Problems, pizza, drink, solutions and R, nothing could be better” and “Really great evening with interesting presentations and good networking opportunities.”
Meetings are still largely male dominated but it is encouraging to see more of the fairer sex coming along. Currently only 18% of the meetup group membership is female but the trend indicates that this ratio should continue to increase over time.
The growing commercial interest in R which became evident from attendance at LondonR meetings reinforced our decision to host the first business R Conference, EARL 2014 in London. The conference itself was so successful that in 2015 there will be two EARL conferences – London (September) and Boston (November).
In spite of the ever increasing bar bill, we are delighted at the growth in popularity of LondonR and look forward to the next meeting on the 30th March.