O’Reilly Strata Europe 2014 – impressions from a PhD student

Guest post by Vasia Kalavri

I had marked the dates for the Strata + Hadoop World conference since I found out I was coming to Barcelona for an internship, about 5 months ago. Yet, as a PhD student, I knew I had no chance of finding a way to pay such a crazy registration fee… unless, I would constrain my diet to rice and water; a -realistically speaking- impossible goal when living in Barcelona, surrounded by such good food.

Then, last Monday morning, while attending the tutorial sessions at papis.io, I received an e-mail with the following content: “1 FREE 2-day pass to enter the conference on Thursday and Friday! Net value €779,00!!!” and -oh my god- it was not a lie! It was a message from the Belgian Big Data community, offering a free 2-day pass to Strata, to the first member that would send a reply to this e-mail, after 14h00 CET! I immediately looked at my watch: 12h24. I quickly made a draft reply and waited patiently for time to go by. At 13h59, I opened the draft reply, waited for the last minute to pass and pressed the “send” button, hoping that my mobile data connection won’t give up on me. And… bingo! A few minutes later, I was informed that I was indeed the first one to reply. My message had arrived at 14h00s06 :))

In the remaining of this post, I will provide my personal short and biased summary of the event.

General impressions

My first thought when entering the main room on Thursday morning was “wow this is huge”. I’ve been to several -mostly academic- conferences, but this one had both the largest amount of attendees and the most fascinating venue. And, by all means, it looked nothing like an academic conference. At least in the beginning, it was more of a show: fancy lighting, music to introduce the keynote speakers, text-free slides! To be honest, for a moment I thought this would all be a huge marketing campaign and I would waste my time. In the end, I have to admit that I was very happily surprised by the technical level of the talks and by the things I learned. As a systems person, I don’t often get to attend events that focus on use-cases and applications. Getting to hear about real-world use-cases was very inspiring for me!

Favorite Talks

I tried to avoid the business and industry tracks and mostly attended the hadoop, tools and data science tracks. Among the keynotes, I especially enjoyed Geoff McGrath and Camille Fournier on Thursday and Jordan Tigani on Friday. I would definitely suggest watching them: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL055Epbe6d5Y8aARKdXVVtJnEttlhsRyf.

Among the rest of the talks, my favorites were:

  • SAMOA: A Platform for Mining Big Data Streams”, by Gianmarco De Francisci Morales
  • High-Level Abstractions Make Big Data Useful for Real People” (even though the talk content was quite different than what the title suggests), by Melissa Santos
  • How Search Can Save Your Hadoop Investment and More”, by Shay Banon
  • Realtime Data Analysis Patterns”, by Mikio Braun
  • RT-Giraph: Online graph Mining Simplified”, by Georgios Siganos.

Most of the slides are already available here: http://strataconf.com/strataeu2014/public/schedule/proceedings

Misc and +1’s

  • I was really happy to see so many great female speakers! Keep it up organizers!
  • I got a couple of really nice T-shirts, +1 to Cloudera for providing female sizes!
  • +1 for the food and the great sea view of the banquet room.
  • It turns out I was not the only one with a University affiliation. I met a fellow PhD student from ULB there :))

Overall, Strata was a very enjoyable experience for me. Who knows, I might even consider sending a talk next year!
Finally, I’m really grateful to BigData.be for the free pass and, of course, to my mobile operator for delivering my e-mail with such great precision!

Short Bio

Vasia Kalavri is a PhD student at KTH, Sweden and UCL, Belgium. She is currently doing an internship at Telefonica Research and lives in Barcelona, Spain. Vasia is working in the area of distributed data processing, systems optimization and large-scale graph analysis. She is a committer of Apache Flink (flink.incubator.apache.org) and also contributing to Grafos.ml (grafos.ml).

Website: http://web.ict.kth.se/~kalavri/
Twitter: @vkalavri