Ian Lyttle is the Most Serious Conference Attendee I’ve Met

Yihui Xie 2018-01-30

I think I got to know Ian Lyttle in early 2014 (about 1.5 years before I left Iowa). Out of nowhere, he started to show up at the weekly ISU graphics working group meetings (led by my PhD advisors Di and Heike) after driving for three boring hours from another city.

Over these years, he has become more and more active in the R community, and started to write more R packages and attend more conferences. One special thing I have noticed about him is that he actually brings a pen and a notebook with him when attending conferences. In the notebook, he has prepared questions in advance for people whom he plans to catch at the conferences. This is rare in two aspects in my eyes:

  1. I don’t often see people handwrite with a pen in a notebook these days. Most people, including me, have been ruined by electronic devices :)

  2. It is rarer to see conference attendees prepare questions in advance. I think that is the most effective way to attend a conference. You have to seriously and actively think about what you want to get from the conference, otherwise it is easy to get lost in the huge amount of new information (and chaos).

Because I was so impressed, I still clearly remember the question he asked me (about MathJax and Markdown) at the lunch table last year at the RStudio conference. I’m going to tell him a perfect answer to that question a few days later at rstudio::conf 2018 in San Diego, if he still cares about it.