Big Data Spain is an annual conference about disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain and many others.
The 2017 edition was a very exciting event. We are still getting lots of feedback and, admittedly, some praise. We are sharing here what learned and what the future of the event looks like.
- 1200 attendees from all over the world
- 63 speakers
- 73 sessions: 71 talks and 2 roundtables
- 32 exhibiting sponsors scheduling innumerable meetings and demos at the showroom
- 6 half-day long training courses and 9 training instructors
We shortened the duration of talks from 40 minutes in previous editions to 30 minutes in 2017 and of breaks from 10-15 minutes to 5-10. Me managed to fit 73 sessions in just 1,5 days. The four simultaneous tracks inevitably left many attendees without the opportunity to listen to a few talks and many sponsors programmed their open meetings and in-booth activities competing with each other.
This frantic intensity was intended; we believe that a conference should be about getting quick but relevant insights from the rainmakers of the industry. A congress is ideal to get a grasp of the innovations, the trends and the outlook of the future.
It’s all about the experience!
We have always wondered why our attendees physically come to Big Data Spain instead of just waiting for the videos of the talks to be made available for free. Attendees clear three days of their working schedule and they or their companies pay for their flights, hotels and tickets… only to miss too some talks in simultaneous tracks… It does not look like a great deal… except that the experience is irreplaceable.
“A really inspiring atmosphere overflew Kinépolis Congress Centre in Madrid, with lots of networking and sharing enriching experiences from our work and challenges”.
Jordi Giner and Vicente ‘Tito’ Lacuesta.
Sitting in your office listening to a talk, no matter how useful or interesting it is, cannot match the energy of a crowd of 1000+ fellow attendees, the best speakers in the business, the sponsors trying to and succeeding in impressing us all and the staging of a quality event.
Two parallel levels of reality
There are two levels of reality in a technology event: what the organizers manage and what the attendees perceive. The obsession of every event organizer is preventing both worlds from connecting; if ever they do, something went wrong.
The production of Big Data Spain included awesome experiences like the intro video and an epic fail: the clickers of the presentations failed too often. A gadget with a price tag of 15 € and a simple radio frequency technology can test the patience of too many a speaker and ruin the experience for the audience.
Our technicians claimed that the mobile phones of the audience interfered with the 2.4G radio frequency of the wireless clickers. The technicians placed the antenna closer to the stage and we asked the audience to set their phone in airplane mode… to no effect. We apologise for the inconvenience. We learned how to prevent this from happening again.
The solution to this issue is not technical but of design of the experience: an open conference should allow speakers to retain the control of the projection with their laptops, their videos and their own sliders. Point taken for 2018!
Big Data Spain is growing in global reach. We are particularly proud of offering an incredibly value proposition for attendees from faraway countries like and Mexico. There is definitely an opportunity for events organised by insiders of the industry with a focus in quality and relevance.
Business or technical?
The official program of the conference covers many approaches to data, from management and governance to actual lines of code. The profile of the attendees remains essentially technical according to 56% of them.
The surveys indicate that some attendees want more business talks and others more technical ones. A solid 18% of the sessions were business talks so perhaps the solution consists in presenting a clearer division between both types of audience. This is definitely a to-do of the 2018 edition.
Large corporations and start-ups too
Up to 92% of the attendees get their companies to pay, at least partially, the registration fees and the travel and accommodation costs or both.
Training at Big Data Spain
In-depth content and hands-on of software technology is more suited for training and workshops. That is why we offered training courses. Despite being the first edition offering this format, we sold out three of the following courses:
- Distributed Spark ML + Tensorflow AI + GPU Workshop, by Chris Fregly.
- Get Started with Natural Language Processing in Python, by Paco Nathan and Daniel Vila.
- Artificial Intelligence on Data Centric Platform, by Fernando Velasco.
- Deep Learning in the Cloud for Image Classification and Object Recognition with Convolutional Neural Networks using MATLAB, by Lucas García.
- Building Intelligent Applications from Scratch with Apache Spark and OpenShift, by William Benton and Michael McCune.
- Making the most of Scala through functional programming, by Juan Manuel Serrano and Javier Fuentes.
Attendees demand these workshops, and instructors love it, so it is a no-brainer that hands-on training will grow in future editions of Big Data Spain.
Blockchain and Bitcoins
We celebrated the 9th anniversary of the announcement by the mythical Satoshi Nakamoto of his paper A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. We enabled payments with cryptocurrencies for that occasion by offering a discount. The tickets were -10% cheaper in BTC both for the conference and for the training courses.
“Let the code speak for itself.”
Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott’s Blockchain Revolution
The official program included three talks about Blockchain:
- More people, less banking: Blockchain, by Salvador Casquero Algarra.
- Trading at market speed with the latest Kafka features, by Iñigo González.
- Scaling a backend for a big data and blockchain environment, by Rafael Ríos Moya.
Exchange rates have doubled since we started selling tickets in Bitcoins. The bubble of Bitcoin is yet to bust at the time of writing this.
Beyond the titillation of speculating with Bitcoins, we learned that attendees are happy to pay with cryptocurrencies.
We think that we are the first and only large conference of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence that accepts Bitcoins. If you know of another one that does, please ping their name to email@example.com.
The data behind the Paradise Papers
The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published the investigation known as the Paradise Papers in November. A few days later at Big DataSpain, Mar Cabra’s at revealed the data and the analysis behind this and other major leaks. Mar is head of the Data & Research Unit at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a Washington D.C.-based newsroom whose investigation of the Panama Papers was awarded a Pulitzer Prize earlier this year.
Data journalism is increasingly dependent on software and analytics skills. If the raw data of the Luxembourg Leaks fit in an old USB flash drive in 2014, the 13.4 million documents of the Panama Papers required 2.6 TB and technologies like graph databases.
ICIJ transformed 11.5 million documents of the Panama Papers into a SQL database, which was then processed using Talend’s technologies (sponsor at Big Data Spain) into a graph database, Neo4j whose Chief Scientist, Jim Webber was also a speaker at Big Data Spain.
Networking with fellow attendees
The registration at Big Data Spain included a free access to a mobile app to network other attendees. The attendees with a confirmed registration, i.e. ticket-holders, could find other professionals also registered at the conference by name, job title and company name and send invitations to connect via the app.
Almost one thousand users downloaded the app from Apple Store and Google Play and they used it 7818 times. Our ratio of sessions of the mobile app and users is one of the highest among large events, which probably means that the mobile app is here to stay.
Big Data Spain 2018
Big Data Spain works as a vendor-neutral event: the selection of candidates from the Call for Proposals is independent of the commercial activity of the sponsorships. The interest and merit of the official program are critical to the continued success of Big Data Spain. Despite its name, this event is not just about Big Data analytics anymore but about disruptive technologies.
Big Data Spain will keep attracting business and technical profiles and an ever-increasing percentage of attendees from abroad. We are working very hard already in the 2018 edition of the event. Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and enquiries.