Summary of My First Trip to Strata #strataconf

In this post I am goIing to summarize some of the things that I learned at Strata Santa Clara 2013. For now, I will only discuss the conference sessions as I have a much longer post about the tutorial sessions that I am still working on and will post at a later date. I will add to this post as the conference winds down.

The slides for most talks will be available here but not all speakers will share their slides.

This is/was my first trip to Strata so I was eagerly awaiting participating as an attendant. In the past, I had been put off by the cost and was also concerned that the conference would be an endless advertisement for the conference sponsors and Big Data platforms. I am happy to say that for the most part I was proven wrong. For easier reading, I am summarizing talks by topic rather than giving a laundry list schedule for a long day and also skip sessions that I did not find all that illuminating. I also do not claim 100% accuracy of this text as the days are very long and my ears and mind can only process so much data when I am context [...]

Parsing Wikipedia Articles: Wikipedia Extractor and Cloud9

Lately I have doing a lot of work with the Wikipedia XML dump as a corpus. Wikipedia provides a wealth information to researchers in easy to access formats including XML, SQL and HTML dumps for all language properties. Some of the data freely available from the Wikimedia Foundation include

article content and template pages
article content with revision history (huge files)
article content including user pages and talk pages
redirect graph
page-to-page link lists: redirects, categories, image links, page links, interwiki etc.
image metadata
site statistics

The above resources are available not only for Wikipedia, but for other Wikimedia Foundation projects such as Wiktionary, Wikibooks and Wikiquotes.

As Wikipedia readers will notice, the articles are very well formatted and this formatting is generated by a somewhat unusual markup format defined by the MediaWiki project. As Dirk Riehl stated:

There was no grammar, no defined processing rules, and no defined output like a DOM tree based on a well defined document object model. This is to say, the content of Wikipedia is stored in a format that is not an open standard. The format is defined by 5000 lines of php code (the parse function of MediaWiki). That code may be open source, but it is incomprehensible to most. That’s why [...]

LexisNexis Open-Sources its Hadoop Alternative

A month ago, I wrote about alternatives to the Hadoop MapReduce platform and HPCC was included in that article. For more information, see here.

LexisNexis has open-sourced its alternative to Hadoop, called High Performance Computing Cluster. The code is available on GitHub. For years the code was restricted to LexisNexis Risk Solutions. The system contains two major components:

Thor (Thor Data Refinery Cluster) is the data processing framework. It “crunches, analyzes and indexes huge amounts of data a la Hadoop.”
Roxie (Roxy Radid Data Delivery Cluster) is more like a data warehouse and is designed with quick querying in mind for frontends.

The protocol that drives the whole process is the Enterprise Control Language which is said to be faster and more efficient than Hadoop’s version of MapReduce. A picture is a much better way to show how the system works. Below is a diagram from the Gigaom article from which most of this information originates.

To me, Roxie seems much more exciting because it seems to complement (or replace) several technologies currently in the space. I do not know all the details, but it seems to potentially encapsulate technologies such as HBase, Hive, RabbitMQ and MemcacheDB, technologies that are common used to query and [...]

SIGKDD 2011 Conference -- Days 2/3/4 Summary

<< My review of Day 1.

I am summarizing all of the days together since each talk was short, and I was too exhausted to write a post after each day. Due to the broken-up schedule of the KDD sessions, I group everything together instead of switching back and forth among a dozen different topics. By far the most enjoyable and interesting aspects of the conference were the breakout sessions.

Keynotes

KDD 2011 featured several keynote speeches that were spread out among three days and throughout the day. This year’s conference had a few big names.

Steven Boyd, Convex Optimization: From Embedded Real-Time to Large-Scale Distributed. The first keynote, by Steven Boyd, discussed convex optimization. The goal of convex optimization is to minimize some objective function given linear constraints. The caveat is that the objective function and all of the constraints must be convex (“non-negative curvature” as Boyd said). The goal of convex optimization is to turn the problem into a linear programming problem. We should care about convex optimization because it comes from some beautiful and complete theory like duality and optimality conditions. I must say, that whenever I am chastising statisticians, I often say that all they care about is “beautiful theory” [...]

SIGKDD 2011 Conference -- Day 1 (Graph Mining and David Blei/Topic Models)

I have been waiting for the KDD conference to come to California, and I was ecstatic to see it held in San Diego this year. AdMeld did an awesome job displaying KDD ads on the sites that I visit, sometimes multiple times per page. That’s good targeting!

Mining and Learning on Graphs Workshop 2011

I had originally planned to attend the 2-day workshop Mining and Learning with Graphs (MLG2011) but I forgot that it started on Saturday and I arrived on Sunday. I attended part of MLG2011 but it was difficult to pay attention considering it was my first time waking up at 7am in a long time. The first talk I arrived for was Networks Spill the Beans by Lada Adamic from the University of Michigan. Adamic’s presented work involved inferring properties of content (the “what”) using network structure alone (using only the “who”: who shares with whom). One example she presented involved questions and answers on a Java programming language forum. The research problem was to determine things such as who is most likely to answer a Java beginner’s question: a guru, or a slightly more experienced user? Another research question asked what dynamic interactions tell us about information flow. [...]

Hadoop Fatigue -- Alternatives to Hadoop

It’s been a while since I have posted… in the midst of trying to plow through this dissertation while working on papers for submission to some conferences.

Hadoop has become the de facto standard in the research and industry uses of small and large-scale MapReduce. Since its inception, an entire ecosystem has been built around it including conferences (Hadoop World, Hadoop Summit), books, training, and commercial distributions (Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR) with support. Several projects that integrate with Hadoop have been released from the Apache incubator and are designed for certain use cases:

Pig, developed at Yahoo, is a high-level scripting language for working with big data and Hive is a SQL-like query language for big data in a warehouse configuration.
HBase, developed at Facebook, is a column-oriented database often used as a datastore on which MapReduce jobs can be executed.
ZooKeeper and Chukwa
Mahout is a library for scalable machine learning, part of which can use Hadoop.
Cascading (Chris Wensel), Oozie (Yahoo) and Azkaban (LinkedIn) provide MapReduce job workflows and scheduling.

Hadoop is meant to be modeled after Google MapReduce. To store and process huge amounts of data, we typically need several machines in some cluster configuration. A distributed filesystem (HDFS for Hadoop) uses space across [...]

My Review of Hadoop Summit 2011 #hadoopsummit

I woke up early and cheery Wednesday morning to attend the 2011 Hadoop Summit in Santa Clara, after a long drive from Los Angeles and the Big Data Camp that lasted until 10pm the night before. Having been to Hadoop Summit 2010, I was interested to see how much of the content in the conference had changed.

This year, there were approximately 1,600 participants and the summit was moved a few feet away to the Convention Center rather than the Hyatt. Still, space and seating was pretty cramped. That just goes to show how much the Hadoop field has grown in just one year.

Keynotes

We first heard a series of keynote speeches which I will summarize. The first keynote was from Jay Rossiter, SVP of the Cloud Platform Group at Yahoo. He introduced how Hadoop is used at Yahoo, which is fitting since they organized the event. The content of his presentation was very similar to last year’s. One interesting application of Hadoop at Yahoo was for “retiling” the map of the United States. I imagine this refers to the change in aerial imagery over time. When performed by hand, retiling took 6 weeks; with Hadoop, it took 5 days. Yahoo also [...]

Big Data Camp 2011 #BigDataCamp

It has been a while since I have been to Silicon Valley, but Hadoop Summit gave me the opportunity to go. To make the most of the long trip, I also decided to check out BigDataCamp held the night before from 5:30 to 10pm. Although the weather was as predicted, I was not prepared for the deluge of pouring rain in the end of June. The weather is one of the things that is preventing me from moving up to Silicon Valley.

The food/drinks/networking event must have been amazing because it was very difficult to get everyone to come to the main room to start the event! We started with a series of lightning talks from some familiar names and some unfamiliar ones.

Chris Wensel, the developer of Cascading, is also the founder of Concurrent, Inc. Cascading is an alternate API for Map-Reduce written in Java. With Cascading, developers can chain multiple map-reduce jobs to form an ad hoc workflow. Cascading adds a built-in planner to manage jobs. Cascading usually infers Hadoop, but Cascading can run on other platforms including EMC Greenplum and the new MapR project. RazorFish and BestBuy use Cascading for behavioral targeting. Flightcaster uses a domain specific language (DSL) [...]

Review of 2011 Data Scientist Summit

Some time over the past 6 weeks I randomly saw a tweet announcing the “Data Scientist Summit” and shortly below it I saw that it would be held in Las Vegas at the Venetian. Being a Data Scientist myself is reason enough to not pass up this opportunity, but Vegas definitely sweetens the deal! On Wednesday I woke up at 6am to partake on the 5.5 hour voyage to Las Vegas.

The Pre-Party

The Venetian and all close hotels were booked, so I ended up at the Aria; a new experience. The hotel is beautiful and very ritzy. I had heard that the rooms were very technologically advanced but I wasn’t prepared for the recorded welcome message, music and automatic shades opening upon entry to the room. The Aria is a geek’s paradise. Everything is computerized. Key cards are “waved” rather than swiped, lights are turned on/off and dimmed by use case (“sleep”, “read” etc.), rather than manually. There are no paper “Do Not Disturb” signs; rather, a switch on the wall (or via TV) toggles an indicator light outside the door. And the best part… Internet is FREE!

The rhododendrons hydrangeas are real!
Work [...]

Some Lessons in Production Development (Hadoop) - Part 1

Wow. I can’t believe it has been a month since I have posted. On December 1, I started a new chapter in my life, working full time as a Data Scientist at the Rubicon Project. Needless to say, that has been keeping me occupied, as well as thinking about working on my dissertation. For the time, I am getting settled in here.

When I accepted this position, one of my hopes/expectations would be to become professionally competent and confident in C, Java, Python, Hadoop, and the software development process rather than relying on hobby and academic knowledge. That is something a degree cannot help with. It has been a great experience, although very frustrating, but that is expected when jumping into development professionally.
    

I am writing this post to chronicle what I have learned about using Hadoop in production and how it majorly differs from its use in my research and personal analysis.
To start, I was asked to check out a huge stack of code from a Subversion repository. But then what?

But you’re a Computer Scientist! This should be easy!

The first part is true, but there is a stark difference between a garden variety computer scientist and one that converts from [...]