JUST BEFORE 9 am last Thursday, an unusual speed dating scene sprang up in San Francisco. A casually dressed crowd, mostly male, milled around a gilt-edged Beaux Arts ballroom on Nob Hill. Pairs and trios formed quickly, but not in search of romance.
Ice breakers were direct: What’s your favorite programming language? Which data analysis framework are you most expert in? More delicately, conversations drifted toward rankings on Kaggle.com, a site that has turned data science into a kind of sport.
The more than 200 attendees, drawn from the site’s top echelons, formed teams for an eight-and-a-half-hour data-crunching challenge. It was part of an event called Kaggle Days, organized by Warsaw startup LogicAI to give some of the site’s devotees a place to mingle and compete offline. Entrants were given data from an anonymous auto parts maker and asked to predict bad batches in factory output. One team stood out because it openly intended to cheat: a trio of Google researchers testing artificial intelligence software called AutoML, designed to do the work of a data scientist.