Community is a critical part of building connections, knowledge, and opportunities around technology. This is especially true in the machine learning/deep learning space where a mix of developers, scientists, hackers, and enthusiasts connect. At our recent Deep Learning conference, we hosted a panel conference where the machine learning community panellists shared their experiences about the ML and DL communities.
The panel was chaired by our Conference Moderator Matteo Testi, who is the CEO and Founder of Deep Learning Italia. We’ll detail some of the discuss here, but watch the presentation below to enjoy the full discussion and the Q&A session with conference participants.
The other participants:
Simone Scardapane, co-founder, Italian Association for Machine Learning:
Simone is a community organiser on machine learning and started one of the first machine learning meetups in Italy. They’ve been focused on a range of different activities to promote machine learning both within the university and externally.
Jo-fai Chow, Senior Data Science Evangelis at H2O.ai :
Jo-fai (or Joe) has multiple roles (data scientist / evangelist / community manager) at . H2O.ai. He’s co-organiser of H2O’s EMEA meetup groups including London Artificial Intelligence & Deep Learning – one of the biggest data science communities in the world with more than 11,000 members. There are over 90 H20.ai meetup groups across the world.
Who accesses and have it the impact of ML communities
Joe: ” Communities should be open to everyone. So that could be a mix of data science, professional students, or business people from different backgrounds. As a community manager, we have to be more sensitive to the topics that we choose to talk about. So we we can’t just keep on talking about financial engineering, we have to be more human and not exclude human topics like the impact of COVID-19, which is a subject close to many people, At meetup organisers, we try to make a trade-off between non-technical side and the issue that we have right now in the world. So we try to make a balance between two different worlds.”
Simone – “Our meetup is a central point and a hub for everyone. Meetups are like a one-stop-shop where you can go and meet nice people and see nice things and maybe find something that you’ve never heard about, for example, legal problems or legal applications of this kind of technology. So they’re sort of a nexus where everyone can meet each other.”
How is deep learning and machine learning communities responding to the pandemic?
Simone notes that communities are a great asset at the moment, especially for people who have free time or have lost their jobs. In regard to those in machine learning as a science:
“If you talk about what we should do for the emergency, to be honest, I’m sceptical because I think that machine learning applied to healthcare is a very, very difficult problem. It requires too many skills, too much domain expertise. So I think that to be honest, a lot of communities have lots of noise, I don’t think we can actually do that much during this emergency. We can play with the datasets. Yes, we can learn. For example, we invited some basic immunologists to our events for example, which was nice, but I don’t think communities can give that much help in solving COVID-19.”
Joe agreed and noted the need for balance:
“When we try to organise COVID-19 related webinars or other meetups, we try to invite real healthcare professionals with our data science team together to talk because we don’t want to just use a data science point of view to address this problem. We want to bring in a wider community to look at the problem from different angles, and also during this time, we know that many people are facing a very difficult time, they may have lost their job, they may have lost loved ones. So we have to be, again be human again to each other. So we have to respect each other.
There are other ways you can help like help each other find jobs and I think together we’ll bounce back stronger.
How have meetups changed since COVID-19?
Joe notes that “We have been more active in the digital events since March with a weekly event in US or Asia. We don’t want to give a weekly webinar on the same thing, but we try to put you in different time zone and try to give them some space to have some time to digest the information.
Did you change meetup topics and what is the way forward for your community?
According to Joe ” Since there was so much interest, and we took the occasion to invite a couple of epidemiologists to participate. It was great because they were people that typically are not used to meet up and digital communities. They’re not used to this kind of sharing. So it was quite a nice experience that we did for these events, but now we’re back to the standard events.”
Both Simone and Joe spoke about the change forward and their plans to put on hybrid events that are digital-first, and particularly welcome by those who are already accustomed to the mode but also offer physical events for those in the machine learning community that prefer face to face.
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