Welcome!

Related Topics: @BigDataExpo, @CloudExpo

@BigDataExpo: Blog Post

Big Innovation for Thomson Reuters By @Dana_Gardner | @BigDataExpo [#BigData]

Hackathon model plus big data equals big innovation for Thomson Reuters

The next BriefingsDirect innovation interview explores the use of a hackathon approach to unlock creativity in the search for better use of big data for analytics. We will hear how Thomson Reuters in London sought to foster innovation and derive more value from its vast trove of business and market information.

The result: A worldwide virtual hackathon that brought together developers and data scientists to uncover new applications, visualizations, and services to make all data actionable and impactful.

To learn more about getting developers on board the big-data analysis train, BriefingsDirect sat down with Chris Blatchford, Director of Platform Technology in the IT organization at Thomson Reuters in London. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Blatchford: Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information. We provide data across the finance, legal, news, IP, and science, tax, and accounting industries through product and service offerings, combining industry expertise with innovative technology.

Gardner: It’s hard to think of an organization where data and analysis is more important. It’s so core to your very mission.

Blatchford

Blatchford: Absolutely. We take data from a variety of sources. We have our own original data, third-party sources, open-data sources, and augmented information, as well as all of the original content we generate on a daily basis. For example, our journalists in the field provide original news content to us directly from all over the globe. We also have third-party licensed data that we further enrich and distribute to our clients through a variety of tools and services.

Gardner: And therein lies the next trick, what to do with the data once you have it. About this hackathon, how did you come up upon that as an idea to foster innovation?

Big, Open, Linked Data

Blatchford: One of our big projects or programs of work currently is, as everyone else is doing, big data. We have an initiative called BOLD, which is Big, Open, Linked Data, headed up by Dan Bennett. The idea behind the project is to take all of the data that we ingest and host within Thomson Reuters, all of those various sources that I just explained, stream all of that into a central repository, cleanse the data, centralize it, extract meaningful information, and subsequently expose it to the rest of the businesses for use in their specific industry applications.

As well as creating a central data lake of content, we also needed to provide the tools and services that allow businesses to access the content; here we have both developed our own software and licensed existing tools.

So, we could demonstrate that we could build big-data tools using our internal expertise, and we could demonstrate that we could plug in third-party specific applications that could perform analysis on that data. What we hadn’t proved was that we could plug in third-party technology enterprise platforms in order to leverage our data and to innovate across that data, and that’s where HP came in.

HP was already engaged with us in a number of areas, and I got to speaking with their Big Data Group around their big data solutions. IDOL OnDemand came up. This is now part of the Haven OnDemand platform. We saw some synergies there between what we were doing with the big-data platform and what they could offer us in terms of their IDOL OnDemand API’s. That’s where the good stuff started.

Gardner: Software developers, from the very beginning, have had a challenge of knowing their craft, but not knowing necessarily what their end users want them to do with that craft. So the challenge -- whether it’s in a data environment, a transactional environment or interface, or gaming -- has often been how to get the requirements of what you're up to into the minds of the developers in a way that they can work with. How did the hackathon contribute to solving that?

As well as creating a central data lake of content, we also need to provide the tools and services that allow businesses to access the content.

Blatchford: That’s a really good question. That’s actually one of the biggest challenges big data has in general. We approach big data in one of two ways. You have very specific use cases, for example, consider a lawyer working on a particular case for a client, it would be useful for them to analyze prior cases with similar elements. If they are able to extract entities and relevant attributes, they may be able to understand the case final decision, or perhaps glean information that is relevant to their current case.

Then you have the other approach, which is much more about exploration, discovering new insights, trends, and patterns. That’s similar to the the approach we wanted to take with the hackathon -- provide the data and the tools to our developers for them just to go and play with the data.

We didn’t necessarily want to give them any requirements around specific products or services. It was just, "Look, here is a cool platform with some really cool APIs and some capabilities. Here is some nice juicy data. Tell us what we should be doing? What can we come up with from your perspective on the world?"

A lot of the time, these engineers are overlooked. They're not necessarily the most extroverted of people by the nature of what they do and so they miss chances, they miss opportunities, and that’s something we really wanted to change.

Gardner: It’s fascinating the way to get developers to do what you want them to do is to give them no requirements.

Interesting end products

Blatchford: Indeed. That can result in some interesting end-products. But, by and large, our engineers are more commercially savvy than most, hence we can generally rely on them to produce something that will be compelling to the business. Many of our developers have side projects and personal development projects they work on outside of the realms of their job requirement. We should be encouraging this sort of behavior.

Gardner: So what did you get when you gave them no requirements? What happened?

Blatchford: We had 25 teams that submitted their ideas. We boiled that down to 7 finalists based upon a set of preliminary criteria, and out of those 7, we decided upon our first-, second-, and third-place winners. Those three end results were actually taken, or are currently going through a product review, to potentially be implemented into our product lines.

The overall winner was an innovative UI design for mobile devices, allowing users to better navigate our content on tablets and phones. There was a sentiment analysis tool, that allowed users to paste in news stories or any news content source on the web and extract sentiment from that news story.

And the other was more of an internally focused, administrative exploration tool, that  allowed us to more intuitively navigate our own data, which perhaps doesn’t initially seem as exciting as the other two, but is actually a hugely useful application for us.

Gardner: Now, how does IDOL OnDemand come to play in this? IDOL is the ability to take any kind of information, for the most part, apply a variety of different services to it, and then create analysis as a service. How did that play into the hackathon? How did the developers use that?

Blatchford: Initially the developers looked at the original 50-plus APIs that IDOL OnDemand provides, and you have everything in there from facial recognition, to OCR, to text analytics, to indexing, all sorts of cool stuff. Those, in themselves, provided sufficient capabilities to produce some compelling applications, but our developers also utilized Thomson Reuters API’s and resources to further augment the IDOL platform.

This was very important, as it demonstrated that not only could we plug in an Enterprise analytics tool into our data, but also that it would fit well with our own capabilities.

Gardner: And HP Big Data also had a role in this. How did that provide value?

Five-day effort

Blatchford: The expertise. We should remember we stood this hackathon up from inception to completion in a little over one month, and that’s I think pretty impressive by any measure.

The actual hackathon lasted for five days. We gave the participants a week to get familiar with the APIs, but they really didn’t need that long because the documentation behind the APIs on IDOL OnDemand and the kind of "try it now" functionality it has was amazing. This is what the engineers and the developers were telling me. That’s not my own words.

The Big Data Group was able to stand this whole thing up within a month, a huge amount of effort on HP’s side that we never really saw. That ultimately resulted in a hugely successful virtual global hackathon. This wasn’t a physical hackathon. This was a purely virtual hackathon the world over.

Gardner: HP has been very close to developers for many years, with many tools, leading tools in the market for developers. They're familiar with the hackathon approach. It sounds like HP might have a business in hackathons as a service. You're proving the point here.

For the benefit of our listeners, if someone else out there was interested in applying the same approach, a hackathon as a way of creating innovation, of sparking new thoughts, light bulbs going off in people's heads, or bringing together cultures that perhaps hadn't meshed well in the past, what would you advise them?

First and foremost, the reason we were successful is because we had a motivated, willing partner in HP.

Blatchford: That’s a big one. First and foremost, the reason we were successful is because we had a motivated, willing partner in HP. They were able to put the full might of their resources and technology capabilities behind this event, and that along side our own efforts ultimately resulted in the events success.

That aside, you absolutely need to get the buy-in of the senior executives within an organization, get them to invest into the idea of something as open as a hackathon. A lot of hackathons are quite focused on a specific requirement. We took the opposite approach. We said, "Look, developers, engineers, go out there and do whatever you want. Try to be as innovative in your approach as possible."

Typically, that approach is not seen as cost effective, businesses like to have defined use cases, but sometimes that can strangle innovation. Sometimes we need to loosen the reins a little.

There are also a lot of logistical checks that can help. Ensure you have clear criteria around hackathon team size and members, event objectives, rules, time frames and so on. Having these defined up front makes the whole event run much smoother.

We ran the organization of the event a little like an Agile project, with regular stand-ups and check-ins. We also stood up a dedicated internal intranet site with all the information above. Finally, we set-up user accounts on the IDOL platform early on, so the participants could familiarize themselves with the technology.

Winning combination

Gardner: Yeah, it really sounds like a winning combination: the hackathon model, big data as the resource to innovate on, and then IDOL OnDemand with 50 tools to apply to that. It’s a very rich combination.

Blatchford: That’s exactly right. The richness in the data was definitely a big part of this. You don’t need millions of rows of data. We provided 60,000 records of legal documents and we had about the same in patents and news content. You don’t need vast amounts of data, but you need quality data.

Then you also need a quality platform as well. In this case IDOL OnDemand.The third piece is what’s in their heads. That really was the successful formula.

Gardner: I have to ask. Of course, the pride in doing a good job goes a long way, but were there any other incentives; a new car, for example, for the winning hackathon application of the day?

Blatchford: Yeah, we offered a 1960s Mini Cooper to the winners. No, we didn't. We did offer other incentives. There were three main incentives. The first one, and the most important one in my view, and I think in everyone’s view, was exposure to senior executives within the organization. Not just face time, but promotion of the individual within the organization. We wanted this to be about personal growth as much as it was about producing new applications.

Going back to trying to leverage your resources and give them opportunities to shine, that’s really important. That’s one of the things the hackathon really fostered -- exposing our talented engineers and product managers, ensuring they are appreciated for the work they do.

We also provided an Amazon voucher incentive, and HP offered some of their tablets to the winners. So it was quite a strong winning set.

You may also be interested in:

More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

Latest Stories
As popularity of the smart home is growing and continues to go mainstream, technological factors play a greater role. The IoT protocol houses the interoperability battery consumption, security, and configuration of a smart home device, and it can be difficult for companies to choose the right kind for their product. For both DIY and professionally installed smart homes, developers need to consider each of these elements for their product to be successful in the market and current smart homes.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, will go over the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, applicatio...
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Michael Burley, a Senior Business Development Executive in IT Services at NetApp, will describe how NetApp designed a three-year program of work to migrate 25PB of a major telco's enterprise data to a new STaaS platform, and then secured a long-term contract to manage and operate the platform. This significant program blended the best of NetApp’s solutions and services capabilities to enable this telco’s successful adoption of private cloud storage and launchi...
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.