At the Linux Foundation, we have been studying robust, scalable virtual events platforms that we can not only use for our own R Consortium events, but that we could extend as a resource to the R community.
Here is the current state of our evaluation. We’ve covered 86 virtual event platforms, and come up with a list of 4 finalists. Since specific circumstances and goals for events will always vary, we expect that there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution.
The four finalists are:
Best for large events with high budgets requiring a virtual conference experience with few compromises
Best for medium to large events with smaller budgets that want to offer a 3D environment/booth experience
Best for any size event where attendee networking tools are a priority and sponsor ‘booths’ aren’t required
QiQo is best for smaller technical gatherings that don’t need all the bells and whistles of an industry event focus, a great option for developer meetings and hackathons
The good news is that for those events that can no longer safely take place in person, virtual events still offer the opportunity to connect within our communities to share valuable information and collaborate. While not as powerful as a face-to-face gathering, a variety of virtual event platforms available today offer a plethora of features that can get us as close as possible to those invaluable in-person experiences. Thanks to our community members, we’ve received suggestions for platforms and services that the events team has spent the past several weeks evaluating.
After researching a large number of possibilities over the last few weeks, the Linux Foundation has identified four virtual event platforms (and a small-scale developer meeting tool) that could serve the variety of needs within our diverse project communities. Our goal was to determine the best options that capture as much of the real-world experience as we can in a virtual environment for virtual gatherings ranging from large to small.
If you are considering a virtual alternative for your R community meetup or event, please contact us. We may be able to help!
One of the most important qualities of the R Language is its thriving community. The R community has a reputation for being particularly friendly, welcoming and cohesive, which has enhanced its adoption and expansion. R user groups have accordingly flourished, especially in recent years.
The primary motivation for this project was the need to have a consistent, data-driven, automated dashboard that provides a broad overview of global R User Groups and R-Ladies Groups.
The R Consortium and other stakeholders have invested in community expansion and sustenance initiatives like R-Ladies, R User Group Support (RUGS) program, Event Sponsorship, RCDI-WG and SatRdays.These promote the learning and adoption of R in many under-represented regions. They have also significantly enhanced community engagement.
As the R community has progressed, there does not appear to have arisen a way to track its global user groups’ inception and activity. Is there a way to find out which regions require more representation? How do we recognize the efforts of organizers who put in a lot of effort to organize events that sustain user groups? How do we easily locate and recognize the most active groups and perhaps learn from their successes? Could we somehow ascertain the impact of the initiatives set by the R Consortium and others on a global scale? Could there be a unified platform dedicated to exploring the R community in an open-ended curiosity-driven fashion? These were the thoughts that inspired this project.
While this project is in its infancy, we have started seeing some encouraging results after the first coding phase of Google Summer of Code. It is our hope to share with you what we have achieved so far and receive welcomed feedback, if you are so inclined.
Since the R Consortium first funded the R-Ladies initiative, there has been a sporadic diffusion of their chapters and members globally. Perhaps partially as a result of having a consistent leadership compositon and funding, R-Ladies groups are mostly managed on meetup.com, and share a common naming convention. This makes it quite easy to find them on meetup.com and explore their data from the meetup API.
In the first phase of Google Summer of Code, this project explored a way to track R-Ladies Groups globally from the meetup API, using the meetupr package developed by R-Ladies.
This exploration was intended to be completely data-driven, automated but rendered via a static dashboard that would be hosted via GitHub Pages. R-Ladies already have a shiny dashboard, which only runs on a Shiny Server. Inspired by that dashboard, we developed one with some useful differences such as faster loading, additional aesthetic features such as thematic coloring, and additional tabular displays, charts and counts.
What Has Been Achieved
For the R-Ladies dashboard, the following were achieved:
We used the meetupr package to extract R-Ladies Chapters from Meetup.com
Improved the existing find_groups() and get_events() functions in meetupr to meet our requirements
Transformed the data from Meetup to required formats
Persisted the data on GitHub
Developed a static HTML dashboard interface based on open-source Bootstrap template.
Rendered the persisted data via the dashboard interface.
Automated the process
Deployed it via GitHub Pages
The Tools We Used
To accomplish the following, we used a mix of the tools listed below:
R, RStudio and the following packages: meetupr, curl, jsonlite and leafletR
Gentelella Admin Dashboard Bootstrap HTML template
Travis CI to build the project, execute R scripts and bash commands
Bash commands to call R scripts and commit modified files to GitHub
How We Achieved it
We used the meetupr package to retrieve R-Ladies Groups from meetup.com with an R script.
We further analyzed this data and computed several summaries out of it. We used the leafletR package to transform our data frame to GeoJSON. We used this GeoJSON file to create a leaflet map using leaflet.js. In this map, R-Ladies groups are separated into three groups with markers of three color categories: Active (purple), Inactive (dark-purple), and Unbegun (orange). Active groups have had an event in the past 180 days or have an upcoming event in the future. Inactive groups have not had an event in the past 180 days and do not have an upcoming event. Unbegun groups have not had an event in the past and none are planned for the future.
Persisted all data and our summaries in CSV / JSON files. After each Travis build, the data and our summaries gets updated straight from the Meetup API.
We wrote bash commands to run our R scripts, and commit updated CSV / JSON files to GitHub after every Travis build.
We setup Travis Cron Jobs, to build this project daily and update our data.
We then, customized the Gentelella Admin Dashboard Bootstrap HTML template to our requirements.
At the end we have an open-source dynamic dashboard for R-Ladies that is updated daily, but is built to be static and hosted via GitHub Pages. This could be seen as another approach to building information dashboards with R as a back-end technology, maintaining separation of business data-processing from data-presentation.
At the time of writing, there are 165 R-Ladies chapters composed of 50,000 + members, across 47 countries, 162 cities, with more than 1,580past events and many upcoming. 71% of R-Ladies chapters are active, 13% are inactive, and 16% are unbegun. Unbegun groups have members but have not started organizing events yet. Our observation is that members are added to the R-Ladies community daily.
We are just starting this project and are in hopes of expanding its reach far beyond its current state. We would love to hear from you if you have any ideas or find issues. Feel free to Follow / Star the project at its GitHub repo: https://github.com/benubah/r-community-explorer/
We have started working on general R user-groups and plan to report our progress soon with some lessons we have learned.