Happy 100th Birthday, Madiba!

I am an African. Inextricably linked to her people, culture and natural beauty. This is my home. I will never leave. I believe in building the future that Nelson Mandela, and many others, described and committed their lives to.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

I will bear the unbearable burden of knowing that I will never be able to do enough to realise their dreams. I must listen more. I must do more.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”- Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Mini emnandi kuwe, Tata!

Who better to give the 16th Nelson Mandela Lecture and tribute to Mandela’s 100th birthday than President Obama. A fantastic tribute to Madiba and commentary on our times:

Johnny Clegg and Mandela were both incredible bridge builders, connecting strands across diverse cultures:


Reflections From Spark + AI Summit 2018

Data for Breakfast

This month a few members of the Data team attended Spark + AI Summit 2018 in San Francisco. In addition to speakers from Databricks, the keynotes featured speakers from a wide variety of industries, including software, car manufacturing, genomics, and even construction. There were over 200 sessions that were organized into tracks, such as developer, data scientist, AI, technical deep dives, and advanced analytics. We’d like to share our favorite sessions with you!

Carly Stambaugh

I was really intrigued by Luis Leal’s talk about Differential Neural Computers. This model, recently developed by Deep Mind, combines the learning capabilities of a neural network with an external memory store. This one ups recurrent neural nets, by dramatically increasing the scale of memory the network can retain. What’s really fascinating about this though, is that the neural net learns how to manage memory storage and retrieval on its own, in a similar manner…

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Six staff killed by militia at Virunga NP


In 2009 I had the priveledge to walk through Virunga NP tracking Gorillas and spent and incredible day with the Rangers and few hours with our magnificent cousins. It is absolutely tragic to hear about another vicious attack on the hero rangers who put their lives on the line to protect the Virunga wilderness, and in particular the precious Mountain Gorillas it is home to. Our thoughts go out to the rangers, victims, and their families.

“Established in 1925, Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is best-known for hosting the critically endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). But it has also been beset by the long-running conflict in the eastern DRC, with armed rebels, militias and poachers encroaching deep into the park. The latest ambush was the deadliest yet in a long list of attacks that have claimed the lives of…

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Niassa Wilderness


Niassa National Reserve is one of the last true epic wild areas left in the world. It’s a vast and diverse wilderness, located in the Northern most part of Mozambique against the Rovuma River. Niassa is the perfect example of a true African wilderness that is under increasing threat of losing it’s lion and elephant populations to poaching, and urgently needs interventions, in the form of community based projects, to turn the tide on poaching. Our mission at Custodians is to ensure that high biodiversity areas, such as Niassa, are preserved. Niassa Wilderness is a private nonprofit trust, focussed on fighting illegal poaching to ensure the sustained preservation of the Niassa Reserve.

“Our mission is to help save the biodiversity of the Niassa Reserve, a sacred and prehistoric African wilderness. The third largest protected area in Africa, located in northern Mozambique. The Niassa Reserve holds the largest and most viable…

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Engineering Data Science at Automattic

Data for Breakfast

Most data scientists have to write code to analyze data or build products. While coding, data scientists act as software engineers. Adopting best practices from software engineering is key to ensuring the correctness, reproducibility, and maintainability of data science projects. This post describes some of our efforts in the area.

Data scientist Venn diagram example One of many data science Venn diagrams. Source: Data Science Stack Exchange

Different data scientists, different backgrounds

Data science is often defined as the intersection of many fields, including software engineering and statistics. However, as demonstrated by the above Venn diagram, viewing it as an intersection tends to be too exclusive – in reality, it’s a union of many fields. Hence, data scientists tend to come from various backgrounds, and it is common to encounter data scientists with no formal training in computer science or software engineering. According to Michael Hochster, data scientists can be classified into two types

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Five Misconceptions About Data Science

Track 2 Analytics


Getting Your Head Around Data Science

Data science has made its way into practically all facets of society – from retail and marketing, to travel and hospitality, to finance and insurance, to sports and entertainment, to defense, homeland security, cyber, and beyond. It is clear that data science has successfully sold its claim of “actionable insights from data,” and truth be told, it often delivers on that claim, adding value that would otherwise go untapped. As a result, data science is often looked to as a panacea, a Swiss army knife, a silver bullet, a must-have, [insert your own cliché here]. This has implications for both data scientists and the organizations they work with. On one hand, data scientists are now beginning to face a new set of challenging problems, problems that even the most advanced machine learning algorithms have yet to solve: managing expectations. And on the other…

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Watch Wildlife Rangers Nab Poachers With Thermal Imaging


As Custodians strives towards our mission of preserving Africa’s wilderness and biodiversity, it is unsurprising that the topic of illegal poaching will feature regularly. Whether it is highly organised crime syndicates involved in smuggling and trading ivory or subsistence meat poaching, we need to find solutions that ensure communities understand the value of preserving the populations of Africa’s unique fauna and flora.

FLIR is working with World Wildlife Fund’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project to put an end to illegal poaching in Africa.

It’s a crime that’s difficult to track and even harder to stop. By combining thermal imaging technology with cutting-edge software, FLIR and the Wildlife Crime Technology Project hope to reduce this rampant poaching problem.

Further reading:

Read more about the project on FLIR’s (infrared camera manufacturer) site.

Read and listen to the NPR coverage of the project.

Read more about the WWF’s involvement in the project (and here).


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