Presented By O’Reilly and Cloudera
Make Data Work
March 5–6, 2018: Training
March 6–8, 2018: Tutorials & Conference
San Jose, CA

Who has better taste, machines or humans?

Violeta Hennessey (Warner Bros.), Aneesh Karve (Quilt), David Boyle (Audience Strategies), Pete Skomoroch (Workday)
12:00pm12:30pm Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Location: LL20 B
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 1 rating)

Algorithms decide what we see, what we listen to, what news we consume, and myriad other decisions each day. But while they can make many things more efficient, can they outperform humans in areas where the “right” outcome can’t be clearly defined?

Media companies rely on math to choose what to play next, what songs someone will like, and what shows will engage them. At the same time, breakout stars can come from anywhere, a serendipitous uncertainty fueled by a market seeking something new. Is taste simply finding lookalikes, or is it identifying something entirely new? And who does that better: an algorithm that can scan millions of titles instantly or a human meandering, not lost, but finding?

In this Oxford-style debate, two teams will face off, hoping to convince the audience they’re right. Violeta Hennessey of Warner Bros. and Aneesh Karve of Quilt Data defend the position that machines have better taste than humans; David Boyle of MasterClass and Pete Skomoroch of Workday argue that they don’t. Which team’s arguments will sway you? Find out in this debate on media, math, and tastemaking.

Photo of Violeta Hennessey

Violeta Hennessey

Warner Bros.

Violeta Hennessey is a senior manager of sales forecasting at Warner Bros. where she has developed various statistical predictive models to address the dynamic and rapidly changing entertainment sector. She is co-author of several publications in Bayesian methodology. As a senior manager at Warner Bros, she strives to make data science vital in identifying the ideal market mix for home video entertainment in order to maximize revenue.

Photo of Aneesh Karve

Aneesh Karve


Aneesh Karve is the CTO of Quilt Data, a Y Combinator company advancing an open source standard for versioned data. Previously, Aneesh was a product manager, lead designer, and software engineer at companies including Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Matterport and the general manager and founding member of AdJitsu, the first real-time 3D advertising platform for iOS (acquired by Amobee in 2012). He holds degrees in chemistry, mathematics, and computer science. Aneesh’s research background spans proteomics, machine learning, and algebraic number theory.

Photo of David Boyle

David Boyle

Audience Strategies

David Boyle is passionate about helping businesses to build analytics-driven decision making to help them make quicker, smarter, and bolder decisions. Previously, he built global analytics and insight capabilities for a number of leading global entertainment businesses covering television (the BBC), book publishing (HarperCollins Publishers), and the music industry (EMI Music), helping to drive each organization’s decision making at all levels. He builds on experiences working to build analytics for global retailers as well as political campaigns in the US and UK, in philanthropy, and in strategy consulting.

Photo of Pete Skomoroch

Pete Skomoroch


Pete Skomoroch is the former head of data products at Workday and LinkedIn. He’s a senior executive with extensive experience building and running teams that develop products powered by data and machine learning. Previously, he was cofounder and CEO of venture-backed deep learning startup SkipFlag (acquired by Workday in 2018) and a principal data scientist at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, with over 500 million members worldwide. As an early member of the data team, he led data science teams focused on reputation, search, inferred identity, and building data products. He was also the creator of LinkedIn Skills and LinkedIn Endorsements, one of the fastest-growing new product features in LinkedIn’s history.