December 5, 2021

MLOps – 2021 Year in review

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This post is inspired by community member Eugene Yan’s 2021 year in review.

I thought it would be nice to review what we have accomplished over the year and see how far we’ve come. Unlike Eugene’s blog, we never had any formal goals. As the saying goes “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will lead you there”. Luckily for us, the road has been pretty scenic thus far.

Major Milestones

Over the course of a year we have been able to accomplish a ton. We have also been able to start and never finish lots! Lets look at some of the highlights and lowlights of 2021 in the MLOps Community.

The website revamp

Oh my God. This was a great undertaking and it’s not even half way finished. We did manage to ship something though, and for that I celebrate! If you haven’t seen it, we Created a page that compares different tools in the ML development lifecycle. So far we have tooling comparison pages for feature stores, and monitoring solutions and metadata management.

I can’t tell you how many times I went through and wrote and re-wrote the different frameworks for the feature store compare page. How deep do we go and at what level of granularity should we try to pitch this? Gartner, please, I am tired of doing your job for you. Get over here and help me out!

87 meetups and 65 podcasts

We averaged one meetup and one coffee session for just about every week this year. It’s so surprising to me how some of the episodes do extremely well and others are average. Some of the conversations felt like wow that was an incredibly insightful talk. They never seemed to find traction. Others that I felt were ok seemed to take off. I guess I gotta get better at naming these. Something to help the CTR. Maybe a goal for next year.

I can’t talk about the meetups or podcast without mentioning interviewing a few legends in the space like Jeremy Howard and D Sculley. I guess that only leaves Andrew Ng and Chip on the list to interview next year. Anyone got me an intro?

Merch

I have been threatening to do it all year. We finally got an MLOps Merch shop up. I don’t know why this gets me so stoked, but I love the idea that someone can say something in a meetup and then we can put it on a shirt with a cool design.

You can buy a hoodie or a shirt and wear it out. Maybe, just maybe, some random person at the supermarket will understand when they see the words that say “bad things happen to good data”. In that moment you may start up a conversation. You might exchange head nods. You will know, they get it.

New members on the team

Morris as our blog lead. Carlos as the new newsletter lead. André as the reading group lead, Joselito who helps with logistics behind the scene. Ivan as an Engineering Labs Lead and David doing the system design reviews in partnership with Harry and the AICore.

Let me also take a moment and throw out some huge kudos to Vishnu for helping us create the community structure. Without him, I think I would be running around like a chicken with my head cut off. He helps keep us focused on what matters. He creates processes for the initiatives we are doing on a regular basis. He is a sounding board that brings me back down to earth when I have crazy ideas. I can’t stress enough how helpful he has been for the health of this community.

Sponsors

2021 was pretty huge as far as sponsors go. we went from not having any sponsors in 2020 to convincing Arize AI, Fiddler, Tecton, Algorithmia (DataRobot), Flyte, and Superwise to show their support and put their money where their mouth is!

I cannot express my gratitude enough for these companies. They have taken a leap of faith on the community. By supporting our efforts they are basically saying yes to what we are doing.

Where does the money go you ask? Cocaine and Lambos. 🤑

Growth

On average the community has seen significant growth across all channels. Here are some cool stats to ground it in data.

Slack grew from 2k members to 7k. Total messages sent is now at a whopping 211,660 … Wow

Youtube subs went from 1k to 4.5k. Hit over 10k hours listened for the channel. Average video now gets between 400-1k views ← this still needs work, maybe our thumbnail game is off. Goal for next year, make better thumbnails.

Podcasts listens jumped from 6k total downloads in 2020 to 52k downloads in 2021.

Weekly newsletter subs grew from 800 to 2.5k. Monthly mega-ops newsletter subs grew from nothing aka 0 to 6.5k.

Linkedin and Twitter grew too but tbh engagement there is low so maybe that can be another goal for 2022, step up our twitter game…. Or better yet, start creating TikTok videos. 😱

Community Spotlight

Some special pieces came from our community members over the past year. Whenever I see something that was created by a member of the community it makes me smile. We really have an awesome bunch of thought leaders in here which is evident by the list below.

Feel free to comment with your own favorites below.

Larysa aka the queen of MLOps – ml-ops.org

Laszlo Sragner – The problem with MLOps

Jacobo – You don’t need a bigger boat

Skylar Payne – Data is wicked

Who could forget the memes

Vesi – What I learned talking to 100+ data scientists

Neal Lathia – Embedding stores

Todd Underwood and Naill Murphy – Reliable machine learning (book)

Alex Serban – The Software Engineering Best Practices in Machine Learning

Ben Wilson – Machine Learning in Action (book)

Eugene Yan – Applying ML

James Lee – Basically everything on his website

Alexey Grigorv and Data Talks Club released an amazing zoomcamp on ML in Production

Stefan – Aggressively help platform teams

Adam – Why so many data scientists quit good jobs

College Try

Of course, it wouldn’t be right to only talk about what went well. Below is a list of things we did that didn’t really pan out this year. But you know what, we gave it the good ol college try!

Now we know for next time. These initiatives need some iterating or maybe just need to be scrapped altogether.

Narrative style podcast

This is a huge undertaking of creative juices and exciting new frontiers. Fabiana Clemente and I interviewed more than 20 people to gather tape for a narrative-style podcast much like that of Radiolab or Serial.

Our podcast was going to be a series explaining the challenges of the ML data layer. After hours spent writing and rewriting scripts, reading books about podcasting, and listening to podcasts about how to make narrative podcasts, we had to table it.

Neither of us has any idea what we are doing. Yep I said it. Although we have some special interviews, plus great storylines, we haven’t been able to settle on anything we liked…yet.

Hopefully, this will pick back up in 2022. I love pushing my creative boundaries. For now, we’ll call a spade a spade. 2021 fail. Furthermore from this moment forth all those interviews shall be referred to as the lost tapes.

Office hours

Another miss. It started off hot though. I thought it was a cool initiative for a few of us to talk about things “off the record”. A place to get to know others in an intimate setting and ask questions about stuff you’re working on.

After about 2 months it lost steam. We ultimately decided to scrap it and focus energy elsewhere. Not sure if we are going to pick this one back up in 2022. I still think the idea is cool. I would love to see it thrive under the right guidance. For now, we’ll call it like it is, 2021 fail.

Engineering labs

Not a total fail. The first installment went really well. Two teams finished and shocked us with what they were able to create.

The second installment started with more participants and structure. Ultimately no team was able to get across the finish line. These are defiantly coming back in 2022. I know Ivan is working on them now. We will make sure to learn from our mistakes and be back better than ever!

Friday fails

The Irony is not lost on me here. This was a failed initiative we tried to make a thing for a few months.

Context: share a failure story of yours so we could all learn from it.

Well, I hope you learned from our failure story, people don’t actually engage that much in talking about their fails. We iterated on the cadence of this one, even tried polls but nothing seemed to stick. Initiative Fail.

Women of MLOps

How I wish this was more of a thing. The idea is great and it kinda has some energy behind it. But not enough to truly get it off the ground. We need someone to take charge of this one. I fear I am not the right person for the job.

Serendipitous Moments

There were a few really cool moments for me over the year that go beyond stats of the community and bring it back to the human level.

Meeting in person

We started this whole thing at the beginning of lockdowns in march 2020. In fact, I would reach out to random people and ask if they wanted to join the community, saying something along the lines of:

“I’ve spent the past 45 days inside and have decided to do something useful with my life. Wanna join the MLOps Community?”

Last month I was in San Francisco and thought I would try and organize a happy hour get-together. Surprisingly enough, people came!

It’s really hard to put into words what it was like seeing people in real life after making connections with them through a screen for over a year. There was an energy about and it really felt like some insightful conversations were happening. The future of the MLOps field was being forged right there in some random SF brewery. Huge shoutout to everyone that joined us and helped organize. I especially want to call out Simba and the Feature Form team for picking up the tab.

We are such a global community and I hope to do these informal meetings regularly in the future, but more on that below.

Getting Jobs through the community

One of my favorite parts about this community is watching people grow. This community is the catalyst for so many of us to build new relationships. I try to capture these stories as much as possible.

Whenever I hear about members getting a job through interactions that happen in the community it helps me on those days when I am feeling blue. I can go back and think of all the strong connections that have been made in here, and that just about brings a tear to my eye.

Community Members Stepping Up

There were a few times when it looked like I had overextended myself. I got a bit too excited overbooking things. I was continually surprised by how many people stepped up and took ownership in the community.

Guest Co-hosts, help organizing the tooling compare page, random intros, it all felt like the safety net of the community was in full effect. As many times as I slipped, it was there to catch my fall.

Speaking of stepping up, I want to call out the incredible members who continuously drop gems in the production code channel. They have no agenda other than helping each other out.

Specific kudos to @Ben Wilson@Laszlo Sragner@Mike Moran@Alex Ioannides@Skylar Payne@raybuhr@Paulo Maia@Burkay Gur@Han Lee, and @Richard Puckett. The amount of wisdom you all have shared in that channel has helped many lost souls on their MLOps journeys, myself included.

What’s Next?

2022 is right around the corner. what can we expect?

In the next year maybe I will actually form some community goals. At least if Vishnu gets his way.😆

To be honest I don’t like holding myself to goals or OKRs. I feel more like a leaf in the wind and frankly, I like it that way. I blow where the wind goes. There are so many surprises we have had over the past year, I never would have been able to plan for any of them.

So maybe that’s my 2022 goal, continue to be surprised by the community. Continue to be open to growing with this thing in all its iterations and even in its failures.

Luckily we are in a good place. We are not creating a start-up, we don’t have to find product-market fit. This is a community with people at the center. The bonds and stories we share are the moral fiber that keeps this whole thing going.

With each new member of the community I get to meet, I am excited cause I know they are going to bring their own style. They may end up being someone who stays relatively less engaged or they may start new initiatives I haven’t ever thought about. That is incredible to me, that gets me up in the morning.

My vision is still to have this little corner of the internet be a place where you can find allies, others who are in the trenches day in and day out, doing this MLOps stuff. A place where you can forge bonds that are meaningful, insightful and thought-provoking.

The community is so much more to me than a slack workspace and a few podcasts. Anytime people come together (IRL or virtual) and hash out shadow deployment ideas or best ways to maintain reproducibility, even discuss the newest shiny toy on the market, that’s all the MLOps community to me.

You might be a member already and not even know it.

This field is so new that we all gotta lend a helping hand wherever we can. I realize now we are building the foundation of something great.

I try to remind myself we are actively creating the culture that will set the tone in this space for the foreseeable future. Lets keep the good vibes rolling.

Oh yah and logistically speaking in 2022 some novelties could be:

  • A virtual tooling summit
  • More local gatherings
  • An MLOps review of all the slack convos and questions (maybe a report?)
  • Deep dive workshops
  • NFT’s ← Kinda joking on this one, but kinda not….
  • And… things I don’t even know about yet.