Recap of the 2020 TDWI Conference

I gave a short talk at the 2020 TDWI Conference. The event ran from February 9-14 and was in Las Vegas. I estimate there were about 500 attendees, speakers, and exhibitors at the conference. Like most technical conferences, there were standard speaking sessions, workshops and training classes, and an exhibit hall. See

There are actually two co-located events that make up the TDWI conference. The larger event ran all week long and was mostly half-day and full-day technical and semi-technical training sessions. Examples included “Hands-on: Data Analysis with Python” and “Effectively Visualizing and Communicating Data”.

When I talk, sometimes my hands go crazy.

The smaller event was called the Strategy Summit and ran two days. The Summit event was mostly traditional lecture-type talks. Examples included “Trends in Analytics” and “Tools, Technologies, and Platforms for Analytics”.

My talk was a very short “Four Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing”. I described how word embeddings revolutionized NLP starting in 2015. Then I explained the successes of sequence-to-value problems (sentiment analysis, topic extraction, etc.) using LSTM recurrent networks. Then I talked about challenges of sequence-to-sequence problems (language translation, etc.) and recent advances with the BERT architecture. I concluded with a couple of forward-looking ideas: neuromorphic computing and neurosymbolic computing.

I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of the Expo. Here are a few that I took at last year’s event.

Most of the attendees I talked to were data scientists or business analysts at medium and large companies, such as banks, insurance companies, energy companies, and state and federal government. But there were many attendees from small companies, and from all kinds of backgrounds too.

The event Expo was nice even though it was relatively small. I estimate there were about 20 or 30 companies there. I especially enjoyed talking to the representatives from a company named Metric Insights.

All things considered, the 2020 TDWI Conference was a very good use of my time. I learned a lot, especially from a business perspective. I’m confident I was able to educate attendees about the NLP technical landscape, and I returned to my work with renewed enthusiasm and new ideas.

If you work in data science, TDWI is definitely worth investigating to see if any of their events are suited to you. See

Left: There was an interesting talk at TDWI about how companies are monetizing their data. Right: Whenever I speak at a conference, I always wander around and visit other events that are going on at the same time. During TDWI there was an event for companies that do running events, and one of the exhibitors did AI. The photo here is an example of how image recognition can be used to analyze what brands and types of shoes runners are wearing. Interesting.

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