After 3 months or so in incubation, last Weds finally saw the inaugural meeting of the London Text Analytics group. A dozen or so of us convened at Fizzback‘s offices in Leicester Square, for a talk entitled “Making Natural Language Processing Work in Practical Applications” by Udo Kruschwitz of Essex University. Udo was most generous with his time (he packed about 3 hours of material into less than a third of that), and the meeting continued in a local pub aftewards.
It was encouraging to see so many familiar faces there (they know who they are!) plus a few whom I hadn’t met before. More please! As I posted last week, the potential audience for a group such as this could be significant, and it would be great to have a forum for text analytics / NLP folks to get together. Virtual groups have their place of course, but they’re no substitute for physical gatherings. This is especially so for a community like NLP, where the meeting calendar is so dominated by events aimed at researchers (as opposed to practitioners). Hopefully this is changing (albeit gradually) – over the last few years there’s been a significant shift in the composition of the NLP community, with increasingly greater representation from the practitioner community. But we still have a long way to go. And in that respect, the London TA group is just one tiny step.